Top 5 Hale End Graduates currently in Arsenal’s Senior First Team Selection 

From Ashley Cole to Bukayo Saka, Arsenal is not just a Football Club. Arsenal FC is a talent breeding ground that can never be ignored.

Faustina Anyanwu – C. Hub Magazine Editor.

Arsenal’s Hale End Academy has a reputation for generating outstanding talent over the years, and manager Mikel Arteta is presently reaping the rewards of the academy’s hard work over the previous ten years. The club has a history of producing excellent youth players and is known for having one of the greatest academies in England.

Arsenal’s academy has produced superstars such as Tony Adams, David O’Leary, and Ashley Cole.

In the last three seasons, the North London club has spent over 412 million euros on players like Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel, Thomas Partey, Ben White, Martin Odegaard, and Aaron Ramsdale, to name a few, but Arteta’s roster is presently being bolstered by talent cultivated at Hale End.

Arsenal’s current generation of young players also appears to be highly promising, with some of them already having been called up to their respective senior national sides. On that point, these are Arsenal’s five finest academy graduates who are still with the club: 

  1. Folarin Balogun

For years to come, Folarin Balogun appears to remain Arsenal’s main striker. Last season, the 20-year-old appeared to be on his way out of the club, with a plethora of clubs apparently bidding for his services throughout Europe. The striker, on the other hand, has opted to make Arsenal his long-term home and is eager to continue his growth there. Balogun excels in terms of positioning and finishing ability, and he is blessed with tremendous speed and athletic traits. Since breaking into the senior Arsenal first squad last season, the young talented forward has already contributed three goals (two goals and an assist) in nine appearances for the club. In the 2021-22 season opener against Brentford, he was given his first Premier League start. Mikel Arteta has made it clear that Balogun is in his future plans, and the striker is poised to enjoy a successful career at Arsenal. Playing for the U23 team, he put up amazing figures (38 goals and 9 assists in 61 games).

  1. Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Arsenal’s longest-serving academy product, made his first-team debut against Galatasaray in the Champions League during Arsene Wenger’s last season at the club.

However, under any of the club’s following managers, he has never truly been able to cement his place in the starting XI. Maitland-Niles’ biggest asset is his versatility, as he can play anywhere in the midfield and on either flank as a winger or full-back. Maitland-Niles hasn’t seen much action in the midfield until this season, and he’s been outstanding in the positions he’s played under Arteta (against Leeds, Wimbledon, Burnley, Watford, WestBrom, ). This season, his outstanding performance against Watford in the Premier League was a key factor in Arsenal’s victory.

  1. Eddie Nketiah 

Eddie Nketiah made his Arsenal debut in 2017 when he scored a brace in the League Cup against Norwich City after coming on as an 85th-minute replacement. Following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Nketiah has established himself as the club’s backup striker.

Though he was sent out on loan to Leeds for the start of the 2019/20 season, he proved to be a valuable asset for them (Leeds), making positive contributions whenever he was needed. Despite only seeing action from the bench, Nketiah managed to contribute 6 goals (5 goals and 1 assist) for Leeds in 19 appearances. Arteta decided it was time to recall Nketiah from his loan early since he wasn’t receiving enough minutes away from the Emirates to justify his absence.

The Englishman’s mobility and positional awareness have helped him to score 15 goals and an assist for Arsenal across all competitions; he has already scored two goals in three games this season for the North London side. However, Nketiah contract with Arsenal expires in roughly 6 months, and he may be considering a future away from the club to further his development after reportedly rejecting the club’s new contract extension offer in order to seek more playing time elsewhere.

  1. Emile Smith-Rowe

Arsenal fans call Smith-Rowe ‘Croydon De Bruyne’. He made his first appearance for Arsenal in 2018. Since then, he’s established himself as a regular starter for the first team. Earlier this summer, the club gave Emile Smith-Rowe the number 10 shirt. Emile, a really talented and creative midfielder, made significant progress last season and grew in importance as the season progressed.

Emile joined Arsenal at the age of ten as a product of the Hale End academy, and as he advanced through the system, he played ahead of his age group. Early in the 2018/19 season, at the age of 18, he made his first-team debut and scored his first goal just two weeks later. He returned to the side last season after successful loan stints with Red Bull Leipzig in the Bundesliga in 2018/19 and Huddersfield Town in the Championship in 2019/20. 

In May, he scored his first Premier League goal against West Bromwich Albion at home, and a few days later, he scored the game-winning goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Last season, he also earned his England Under-21 debut after winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2017. His outstanding performance has also earned him his first senior England call-up this season.

Smith Rowe, who is arguably one of the Premier League’s most intriguing young players, is now taking his game to new heights. The 21-years-old’s importance to the Gunners is rising by the week; he was essential in the Gunners’ development last season. So far in the Premier League this current campaign, he has four goals and two assists, making him the Arsenal player with the highest combined total.

He has been synonymous with an exciting new chapter alongside Bukayo Saka after signing a new deal with his childhood club in July. Behind the scenes, hard effort and precise attention to detail have hastened his improvement, which has intensified in the current campaign.

  1. Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka

Saka finished third behind Bernd Leno and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the race for Arsenal’s Player of the Season in his first complete Premier League season. In 48 appearances across all competitions, he scored four goals and provided 12 assists. Since making his Arsenal debut in 2018, Bukayo Saka has risen quickly through the ranks.

The Englishman has steadily improved and has established himself as an important member of the squad. Bukayo, who was named Arsenal’s Player of the Season for 2020/21, made significant progress last season, reaffirming his place as one of Europe’s most exciting young talents. Bukayo Saka has now contributed 5 goals (3 goals and 2 assists) for the Gunners in 16 appearances across all competitions this season.

In all competitions last season, he scored seven goals and added nine assists for Arsenal. The 20-year-old exudes the maturity and composure of a seasoned pro. The Englishman is also extremely adaptable, as he can play in midfield and on the flanks as a full-back or a wide attacker, with devastating results because of his quickness and skill.

Bukayo, a product of Hale End Academy, has been with the club since he was eight years old and made his first-team debut in 2018, shortly after turning seventeen. In June, he was called up to the England squad for Euro 2020, scoring his first international goal against Austria in a friendly match.

Saka has established himself as an England international despite just being 20 years old. The midfielder has received high praise for his efforts for both club and country. He was one of England’s standout players in the tournament, winning man-of-the-match against the Czech Republic in the group stage and going on to become the country’s youngest player to participate in a major final.