It has been an educational summer for the Club’s rising stars.
The likes of Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom and Gedion Zelalem served notice of their vast potential with a string of superlative displays on the Asia tour that left their team-mates, coaches and the fans abuzz.
Kris Olsson, Thomas Eisfeld and Damian Martinez all gained valuable experience mixing with the first-team group in the Far East, while Isaac Hayden was named on the bench for the pre-season friendly win against Manchester City in Helsinki.
A highly promising group is steadily emerging, although one of the Club’s most exciting talents, Hector Bellerin, was conspicuous by his absence. Instead, the flying right back was on international duty with Spain at the Under-19 European Championship in Lithuania.
"The fact the [national team] made the effort to see you and then select you makes you feel valuable to them. It gives you a boost to keep going"
The call-up came shortly after he signed a new long-term deal at the Club and was further recognition after a string of fine performances last term for both the Arsenal Under-21 and the NextGen Series teams.
Unfortunately, Bellerin’s experience with Spain in Eastern Europe was somewhat different to his peers’ in the Far East. The 18-year-old started the defending champions’ first match of the tournament - against Portugal - and was shown a straight red card in the closing stages.
The subsequent two match-ban ruled him out of the rest of the group stage, and while he was quickly restored for the semi-final, Spain were beaten by France in extra time. But while the tournament may not have gone as he would have hoped, Bellerin remains thankful for the experience.
“It was very good because I played with some of my old team-mates from Barcelona and it's a different way of playing,” he told Arsenal.com. “We went out in the semi-finals but it was still very enjoyable.
“I had played with the under-17s before but it was my first time at this age group. I was playing with some really good players and the experience was different - I learnt a lot from it.
“It’s a good confidence boost to be selected. The fact the [national team] made the effort to see you and then select you makes you feel valuable to them. It gives you a boost to keep going.”
Bellerin will be back in domestic action as the under-21s kick off the new campaign at Stoke on Monday, and he is looking forward to getting back up to speed.
“I haven't stopped throughout summer,” he said. “I've been keeping fit but the boys have done pre-season together so I'm going to be behind. I'm very comfortable here so everything is good now.
"I was really pleased to see the boys get a chance with the first team this summer. They are very good players and they clearly deserve that chance"
“We’re a very young team and we need to learn more and do as well as possible. We need to focus on our performances and stay together.”
And, having seen his team-mates get their chance this summer, what about his hopes of a first-team breakthrough?
“I'm happy here and I want to keep learning with the under-21s and hopefully get a chance soon. I'll keep working and working,” he said.
“I was really pleased to see the boys get a chance with the first team this summer. They are very good players and they clearly deserve that chance.
“I hope that I'm there soon as well. Seeing my team-mates do it gives me confidence that I can get there as well.”
- Follow @ArsenalLive on Twitter for minute-by-minute updates from the under-21s’ match at Stoke from 6.55pm (UK time)
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