By Charlie Corbett
Krystian Bielik signed for Arsenal in January 2015 for a reported fee of £2.4m from Legia Warsaw and has been tipped to shine as brightly as Tony Adams once did.
The 18-year-old is ever-present in the Arsenal academy under Steve Gatting and was brought in as a holding midfielder but after he regularly demonstrated his key attribute of being able to break up attacks with precise challenges, Gattling has started playing him at centre half as well.
Bielik’s only first team appearance to date was as a substitute in the Capital One cup loss against Sheffield Wednesday but will the man from Poland be getting any opportunities in the near future?
Well, at the moment, no.
With Arsenal hunting down the Barclays Premier League title, Bielik faces great competition to get into the match day squad in either the holding role or centre back positions with the likes of Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Mathieu Flamini, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Calum Chambers all ahead of him – as well as those returning from injury in the coming weeks.
But, if Leicester secure the title with three games to go, which is very possible, and with Arsenal pretty much secured of a top three finish, Arsene Wenger may turn to a few youngsters to give them a run out, namely Bielik.
In Arsenal’s heyday, which would have been in the mid-to-late 90’s and early 2000’s, the Gunners always had world class centre backs including the likes of Sol Campbell, Martin Keown and of course, Tony Adams.
Between the years 1997 and 2004, Arsenal produced and shipped in world class centre backs that would fit the mould perfectly. The position of centre back was always to be filled as a top priority, even back to the days when George Graham was in charge.
Tony Adams is Mr. Arsenal and is probably the most famous captain in the club’s history. He captained the Gunners to two Premier League and FA Cup doubles in 1997-98 and 2001-02. Many say, including Adams himself, that he wasn’t the most talented of players. He would order the defence around him to play to his strengths, to protect him from quick players, he knew how to grind out a 1-0 victory, which is what wins you titles, hence the famous chant sung by the supporters: ‘One-nil, to the Arsenal…’
Famously, Keown and Campbell, the next crop of world class centre-backs, won the league in 2003/04 when they went a whole season undefeated. The first time that feat had ever been achieved in club football around the world. Again, like the days of Adams, these were players that would put their bodies on the line for each other, but most importantly they knew the how and the significance of a clean sheet. This mighty defensive unit was protected by a solid midfield partnership of Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira.
These two great sides had players who would tell you what to do, they would tell you off if you did something wrong, they wouldn’t think twice about throwing their bodies on the line for each other. These great players weren’t only great players, they were leaders on, and off the field.
In the last 12 years since Arsenal's last Premier League triumph, they have moved from buying top class central defenders and as a result have brought in the likes of Sebastian Squillaci, Johan Djourou, Phillipe Senderos and Mikael Silvestre to name but a few. These players just were not as good as their predecessors.
But Wenger may not have to go hunting through Europe looking for another centre back with the quality and leadership to win titles. He can turn to Bielik as the young Pole is showing the signs of a great leader as he captains the under-18’s side and his forcefulness and leadership on the pitch being second to none.