Last week Arsenal fans were greeted by the news that midfielder Jack Jebb had signed professional terms with the club, upon turning seventeen. Just a week later, it was the same outcome for industrious forward Austin Lipman, who will look to continue impressing in Pat Holland's U18 side.
For both, this is just a stepping stone in their embryonic careers. However, after Arsene Wenger's recent comments, there is reason to take considerable encouragement.
After being asked if he thought clubs would continue spending big rather than focusing on promoting youngsters from within, Wenger had this to say about our academy:
"When you look at the quality of the players born in 1995/96/97, the number of good players coming out is absolutely massive" (via @ZPAFC)
This is clearly said with Jebb and Lipman in mind, who are both born in '95. Gedion Zelalem is another outstanding prospect. The athletic midfielder was described as the most talented player in the academy by Swedish star Kris Olsson, despite being born in 1997. Alex Iwobi, nephew of Jay Jay Okocha, has also impressed, as has sixteen year old prolific striker Jordan Brown.
Jebb is considered by many to be one of the most promising players coming through the Arsenal system. Despite some underwhelming performances this season, the midfielder is a superb passer of the ball and possesses tremendous technical ability. He made his debut for Arsenal's U18 side two years ago in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham, alongside 16 year old forward Chuba Akpom who has, it must be said, left Jebb behind in terms of progress, having distinguished himself as a fixture in Burton's reserve side.
Jebb, on the other hand, is yet to make an appearance in the second string, which will now be his primary target. He imposed himself in the U18 side last year, performing seven times under Steve Bould's tutelage, scoring a well taken free kick against Leicester City in the process.
Lipman has impressed for both club and country and has showed some real signs of progress, scoring an excellent goal last week for Arsenal's U18s against Norwich. His aim for this season will be to establish himself as a fixture in Pat Holland's side, and then possibly think of featuring in the reserves.
The future looks bright.
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