Arsène Wenger is renowned for using the Carling Cup to blood his youngsters but the Frenchman still managed to spring a surprise when he handed Craig Eastmond a first-team debut against Liverpool in October.

As a right back the 19-year-old was one of the outstanding performers as Arsenal Under-18s claimed the League and Cup double in 2009. But when he started against the Reds, the Londoner lined up in midfield.

The central role was always Eastmond’s favoured position and he put in an impressive performance as the young Gunners dumped a more experienced team from Merseyside out of the competition.

And so began Craig's rise. 

He made 17 further appearances in Wenger's squad and earned his Premier League debut as a substitute in December's 4-1 victory at Portsmouth. His first League start came at Bolton three weeks later and he was awarded the Reserve-team captaincy by Neil Banfield in March.

There's no doubt that the 2009/10 campaign was the breakthrough year for Craig Eastmond and, whether he goes out on loan or continues to feature for Arsenal, you're likely to see much more from the young Englishman next season.

Competition Appearances Goals
League 2+2 0
FA Cup 1 0
Carling Cup 2 0
Champions League 0 0
Totals 5+2 0

"I set a target to play in the Carling Cup but I got a taste of that and thought I was ready to get into the squad regularly for the Premier League. The boss gave me a chance and I think I have taken it. I stepped in for Alex Song and I am progressing in that role. I just have to look at his good points and adapt them to my game. I speak to Alex a lot and he gives me a lot of good tips."

With Alex Song on Africa Cup of Nations duty Eastmond was handed a first Premier League start in January's 2-0 win at Bolton. The youngster looked assured in Song's role and almost got himself on the score sheet with a fierce volley in the first half.

Craig Eastmond

Eastmond makes his Premier League debut - Bolton 0-2 Arsenal

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22 Jun 2010