By Joe Brewin
Neil Banfield is in no doubt: 2011 has been a rewarding year for his rising stars.
The likes of Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Ignasi Miquel and Oguzhan Ozyakup have all made inroads into Arsene Wenger’s first-team picture over the last 12 months.
For Banfield, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing one of his youngsters make that all-important breakthrough.
“They've all come through and they've all made their mark,” he told Arsenal.com. “We're trying to get their careers into the Arsenal first team and on that side it's been very pleasing.
“Hopefully we can have a few more with the next group that comes through.
“We're always trying to keep our eye on developing players for the future at the end of the day.”
Chelsea are the visitors to London Colney on Monday as Banfield’s young Gunners end the year in search of their first win in three matches.
The second string suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa almost three weeks ago but Banfield is confident his youthful side can bounce back from a rough week in the FA Youth Cup.
“It's been a bit of a tough week for them but that's football,” he said. “You've always got another game coming and you just can't dwell on what's already happened.
“You just have to move forward to the next game, that's what it's all about. We treat them all the same.
“We know it's going to be a tough game tomorrow with Chelsea, and obviously we want to go in on a high for the Christmas break with the young players.
“With Chelsea it will always be a good competitive, footballing game. They always bring through some technically-sound groups of players and it will be interesting to see the level of quality between the two sides.
“It's always a nice test when they play some senior players and you can judge your own younger players against that kind of standard,” he added. “But even the likes of Romelu Lukaku are still young and learning their trade.”
Despite that rare blip at Villa, the Reserves boss will be pleased with just two defeats in his side’s 10 Reserve League South matches so far this campaign.
Trio Chuks Aneke, Luke Freeman and Sanchez Watt are all enjoying first-team experience in the Football League and Banfield admires their mature outlook.
“It's been a good season so far for their development,” he said. “A few of them have made some good strides, a few have gone out on loan and maybe one or two will head out in the New Year too depending on what the manager decides. Overall it's been pleasing.
“Their application to working and trying to improve has been impressive in most games this season. That's been first class.”
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