In today's installment of Kids These Days, we take a look at one Mr. Crowley. No, not that one, the one that plays for Arsenal's youth team.
- Daniel Crowley joined Arsenal in the Summer of 2013 from Aston Villa at the age of 16. I'm sure they were thrilled to have their prize prospect pried away. He started playing for their U16s at the age of 12! At 12, I was quitting band because I got braces.
- Mikel Arteta said very nice things about young Crowley in a match programme! That seems like a good sign!
- Often gets compared to Jack Wilshere. That is because people have trouble comparing players of differing skin colors and nationalities.
- I've often used this video series to find interesting bio points out about these Arsenal prospects. Judging from those 2 minutes of my life I can never get back, Crowley lives a very uninteresting life off the pitch.
- He is short. Jim Parsons has not given me one of those fancy Intel thingys yet, so I cannot be sure, but I'd estimate 5'5.
- Once scored 2 goals and assisted 4 others in one match. It was against Peterborugh United. I'd use their nickname but I am trying to stay on Victoria Beckham's good side.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Crowley is arguably the most promising prospect in Arsenal's youth set-up (along with the other two prospects covered thus far in this series). An attacking midfielder, Crowley has shown the ability to play anywhere in the 3 of a 4-2-3-1. Primarily, he plays out left or centrally. When he's on his game, he's impossible to defend. Aided by his low center of gravity, he wiggles free of defenders with ease. He has outstanding close control and excellent dribbling skills. His play elicits comparisons to Andres Iniesta, but temper your expectations slightly: looking like the Spanish maestro against other kids is a different proposition than doing so against top competition.
There's a decent chance Crowley is already one of the three or four best free kick takers at Arsenal. My youth GIF highlight series is littered with Crowley goals from free kicks. He consistently puts dangerous free kicks on target, something that Arsenal players have not done over the past few seasons.
As for weaknesses, Crowley has already stated he needs to improve defensively. Work rate, positioning, and tackling all stand to improve, particularly if he wants to play in the current Arsenal set-up. To his credit, he has been a much better defensive presence this season. He will need to continue to improve in that area if he wants to break through into the first team.
Crowley also suffers from trying to do too much on his own on the offensive end. To be fair, this is a standard struggle for nearly all youth players, and certainly of all the Arsenal youth players not named Gedion Zelalem. Far too often, Crowley attempts to go it alone or take another couple of dribbles when there is a pass on. That is not to say he should hearken back to Hleb-era Arsenal where attempting to walk it into the net became the stereotypical way to score goals at the club, but he does need to find some balance between the two.
Arsenal's youth teams have stagnated a bit in 2015, failing to score with lineups that include Chuba Akpom, Crowley, Maitland-Niles, Zelalem, Alex Iwobi and other talented attackers. Clearly, something needs to be tweaked. Minor adjustments from a talent like Crowley could go a long way in remedying the attacking problems.
Character Judgment Based on Social Media
He has a twitter account, apparently. It seems to be your standard athlete's account: congratulating friends and teammates and RTing people who tweet at him regarding different causes that their sister's brother's roommate's best friend wants them to pass along. Nothing on his social media account makes me change my view that he's just a normal, average guy.
First Team Chances
Like Maitland-Niles and Zelalem, Crowley has an excellent chance to break through to the first team. He turns 18 in August, and has been a mainstay in the U-21 side for the past two seasons. He has frequently trained with the first team and was named captain for the FA Youth Cup matches. The main thing holding him back at the moment is his size and strength. If he continues to strengthen, he will be given every opportunity to succeed at Arsenal. He should feature in the Capital One Cup as early as next season.
Based on those facts, on a scale measuring the importance of current sporting events to their sport, from the NFL Veterans Combine to NCAA March Madness, Crowley lands as a solid UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals prospect for Arsenal.
Previous Kids These Days columns, on Gedion Zelalem and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, are just clicks away!