Three more Arsenal starlets with an England future
Watch out Wilshere, Gibbs and Walcott here come Afobe, Aneke and Frimpong
When Arsene Wenger became the first Premier League manager to pick a squad that did not contain a single English player in 2005 few would have expected him to become the saviour of the national side.
But he has fostered a new generation of English talent and three of his young starlets played in England's friendly with Hungary last night, and performed rather well.
Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere were earning their first caps, while Theo Walcott was back in the squad after being dropped for the World Cup in South Africa. And last night's performances suggest they could be in the England squad for a long time yet. Walcott and Gibbs were two of the stand-out players in the first and second halves respectively, while Jack Wilshere looked tidy and is understood to be seen by Fabio Capello as the future of the England team.
But why stop at three? There is plenty more where that came from, and bubbling under the surface in Arsenal's reserve and youth squads are more English starlets with huge potential who are waiting to emerge from the cocoon of the club's training base at Colney and flourish on the national and international stage.
Perhaps the player closest to fulfilling his potential is 18-year-old Emmanuel Frimpong who plays in defensive midfield. Arsene Wenger seems to have very little doubt that Frimpong will make it at the top level, and came out just last week to urge the FA to persuade the Ghanaian-born midfielder to play for England.
"Here you have a boy who can choose between England and Ghana. So if I was in your place, I would have no hesitation and invite him to play very quickly for England," he said.
Strong and defensively minded, Frimpong is also a threat when pushing forward as he shoots with accuracy and power and takes a good free kick.
Up front, a 17-year-old striker who goes by the name of Benik Afobe (above) has also been making waves; winning the European Championships with the England under-17s while also being voted Arsenal under-18's player of the season.
A pacy, physical attacker, Afobe had the chance to show off his skills when he and three other Arsenal starlets got the chance to train with the Brazil national team last year. Not only did Afobe keep up with his older Brazilian counterparts, but he left some of them in the dust, putting two past Julio Cesar while playing in a training match.
Next, Chuks Aneke, a powerful box-to-box midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira made his breakthrough into the reserves last season, and impressed Arsene Wenger so much that he was played in Arsenal's pre-season friendly against Barnet two weeks after signing his first senior contract.
The 17-year-old was credited by teammates, Afobe, Luke Freeman and Roarie Deacon, as the man responsible for helping them all score more than 10 goals last season.
An excellent provider, he showed against Portsmouth reserves last season that he can also shoot. Collecting the ball from inside the centre circle, he took only a few steps before unleashing an unstoppable piledriver that beat the Portsmouth keeper from 40 yards.
While England, still reeling after their World Cup humiliation, may be in the doldrums right now, fans have a reason to be hopeful. Come Brazil in four years time, these three wonderkids will be in their 20's and could well be providing the impetus and talent that the national side has been missing. ·