What better way to prepare for the upcoming Premier League season than talking about players who won’t be playing in it?
As the preseason comes to an end, we’re taking a quick look at Arsenal’s standout youth players. We’ll consider their individual performances, rating them on a 1-10 scale based on what we think their chances are of breaking into the first team this year.
Krystian Bielik, Number 37, Age 19
Can I give this kid two ratings?
On one hand, Bielik was a stud on defense. A smart, aggressive, physical enforcer with a powerful forehead. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch but—once he settled in—he proved to be a strong tackler and disrupted opposing attacks again and again. The Pole rarely found himself out of position and he seemed to communicate well with the rest of Arsenal’s defensive unit.
On the other hand, he looked scary (and a little scared) when he had the ball at his feet. He has a big leg, but his passing out of the back remains a weakness. He turned the ball over carelessly—almost gave us a goal against Sydney FC—and was slow to advance the ball into open space out of the back.
He did, however, connect with two offensive corners—one of which nearly found its way into the back of the net.
Bielik was trained as a defensive midfielder, so I expect his passing to improve. For the time being, it looks like Wenger may have successful converted him into a central defender.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see Bielik in the first team any time soon—given our depth at the back. Plus, it’s increasing likely that he’ll go out on loan this year.
Considering the shortage of top class center-backs, Bielik could be a valuable asset in the future.
I have taken the liberty of nicknaming this defensive dreamboat the “Polish Punisher”. Bielik has a phenomenal physical presence and never once seemed that he was out of his league during the preseason. Bielik’s tackling, size, and intelligence on the defensive side will set him a step above the other academy products. In a 3-4-3 formation Bielik could really be something special as it will provide him a way to have more of an attacking role. His least appreciated trait in my opinion is the beautifully weighted long ball that we saw more than a few times throughout July. This is an important trait, as it stretches the opponent and creates a large threat coming out of the Arsenal third.
That being said, I don’t believe that any of the Arsenal first team members will lose their spot based on his performances. Mertesacker, Koscielny, Mustafi, Holding, Chambers, and Gabriel will likely see Bielik maintain his role as an academy player for the short time being. Pending an injury or a transfer of the names previously listed, we will likely see very few first team games. His tendency to move forward alludes to his issues with discipline, and exposing an Arsenal side that may not be defensively balanced. A loan move for more first team action on another club could see him move into the first team in the seasons to come as experience seems to be the only obstacle to him becoming another great product of Wenger’s academy.