One of the most memorable aspects of any football season is watching a young player go from "prospect" to "star". Whether it is a forward boosting his goal output, or a defender shutting down the opposition, the transformation is subtle yet remarkable.
Sometimes we can see it coming. It's a player who just needed that extra year of experience or a bit of confidence. And sometimes it comes out of nowhere from a player few of us expected much from -- or had even written off at some stage.
We asked our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to play the role of prognosticator and tell us who they sense is ready to jump out onto the big stage in 2013/14 as Arsenal's next world-class star.
Question: Which current player do you think is set for a breakout season in 2013/14?
Assuming that by “breakout season” we mean “season-immediately-after-which-every-team-in-Europe-wants-to-buy-you,” my money’s on Carl Jenkinson to fully fulfill his potential and solidify his place at right back by the end of the new campaign.
Although you could argue he’s already had a breakout season in 2011-2012, I do believe there are two factors that will enable him to finally establish himself as a reliable, automatic first pick for the right back position:
1) There have been rumors that his current competitor for the position could make way and leave over the summer.
2) I believe Arsène Wenger will buy an additional right back, but not necessarily the kind of world-beater who will eclipse Jenkinson and keep him on the bench for long stretches at a time.
Next season I think we’ll see a situation similar to what went on at left back this season, where Wenger bought a player who wasn’t meant to necessarily replace Kieran Gibbs so much as provide him with cover and compete with him for a starting spot. I fully expect Wenger to do the same with the right back position so Jenkinson has further opportunities to fulfill the potential he’s shown in fits and starts over the last two campaigns.
If the Englishman improves his distribution and maintains the kind of energy he’s been able to consistently display over his last several appearances, I believe he’ll establish himself as the kind of reliable, world-class quantity that will enable him to cement the starting spot at right back next season. And other clubs will want to buy him. Because only then as an Arsenal player can you say that you’ve had your first true “breakout season.”
If I could name another player, I would like so much to say that Lukas Podolski will experience a breakout season next term, but so far I just haven’t seen him play in a role where he looks comfortable. His finishing ability is unquestioned -- it’s probably the best on the team -- but his goalscoring seems to thrive in roles where he has little else to worry about other than offense. For the majority of his time at Arsenal he’s been placed in a position on the left where he’s had to fulfill dual responsibilities. If Wenger shifts to an offense where there are two out-and-out strikers or if Podolski is somehow given the role as the primary striker, I think he will really establish himself as the kind of game changer that he-who-will-not-be-named grew into at Arsenal.
I honestly can’t think of any other current players who haven’t already experienced a “breakout season” and established themselves as key components to this Arsenal squad. If Wenger can add to this core with two or three more reliable players -- along with the emergence of one or two current players as vital members of the squad -- I think Arsenal will have the depth necessary to compete for major honors next season.
As much as I would love to see Jenkinson have a breakout season in 2013/14 like Joel, I still think it’s early days for the young Englishman. Although he’s made massive strides in his development in the last year, I think it takes a while before defenders can truly blossom.
This, however, I think, can be the season we see Ramsey truly shine. He’s really been terrific in the last half of the 2012-2013 season and I think we are starting to see pre-Stoke Ramsey back. He always seems to be giving a 100 per cent on the pitch regardless of where the manager places him and his efforts were rewarded when he was voted Arsenal’s player of the month for April by fans. I am looking forward to seeing him improve and work in tandem with Cazorla, Wilshere, Walcott and Arteta in the midfield next season.
There's one player on Arsenal who took more shots than ever before in his career, got more on goal, scored more goals, chipped in more assists, completed a career high in dribbles and a career low in turnovers: Theo Walcott.
Remember, he was benched for a large portion of the season this year and I suspect that next year we will see great things from him.
When someone is after your spot, you crank up the intensity, the focus and the drive. When Wojciech Szczesny was sidelined this past season, he remained ready and when he was called back into the side, he only allowed two goals past him, in six matches.
There has been a lot written about the Arsenal goalkeeping situation but when Szczesny arrived between the sticks at Old Trafford after a successful loan spell, many thought Arsenal had their long term answer at the position. However, after a run of poor form, Szczesny lost his No. 1 shirt to Lukasz Fabianski, but was ready when the position came calling and took it back.
Szczesny will have to weather a long off-season of rumors and potentially new and old competition. However, I think the Pole will be focused on earning his spot in the side for the new campaign and will use his time well this summer to get better at his craft. Szczesny will repay the faith the boss has in him, and be one of the breakout stars for the Gunners in 2013-14.
The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Jun 2013