Joe Nelson profiles Gunners youngster Dan Crowley, the 17-year-old fast approaching a first-team debut for Arsene Wenger's side...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: August 3, 1997
- Place of birth: Coventry, England
- Position: Midfield
- Club: Arsenal U21s
- International: England U17s
Crowley joined Arsenal from Aston Villa for almost £1 million the day after his 17th birthday, having played for the Midlanders since the age of nine. The midfielder, who was quickly dubbed the 'New Jack Wilshere', instantly settled in the reserve squad, and the player he aims to eventually emulate was soon backing up claims of the youngster's talent on Twitter:
"Everybody follow @danielcrowley24. Trust me when I say this kid is a player! Big future..."
The Coventry youngster has produced a string of consistent performances domestically for Arsenal's under-21s this season, but it's in Europe where he has really hogged the spotlight.
Crowley scored five goals and created five others in eight UEFA Youth League games before the young Gunners crashed out to Atletico Madrid in the last 16 – including a hat-trick in a 4-3 win against Anderlecht.
"We were all very disappointed but we had to move on and learn from it," Crowley tells FFT.
"UEFA's Youth League was great because it’s similar to international football. I think I had a good tournament and scored a few good goals."
Why you need to know him
Crowley has spent much of this season training with Arsenal's first team under the guidance of Arsene Wenger. "He’s the main reason I came, he gives so many young players a chance," the 17-year-old admits.
The teenager first caught the attentions of Gunners fans after dismantling Peterborough in a 6-0 FA Youth Cup win last January, where he assisted four goals and grabbed a brace himself.
"It’s great to be playing every week, but at such a big club you can never really hold your place because there’s so many good players," he says. "You have to perform every week or your place will be taken."
The defensive lock-picker made his Aston Villa Under-16s debut at the tender age of 12, and England calls-ups swiftly followed. Crowley has made 13 appearances for England’s under-17s so far, and the landmark under-18s call is surely just round the corner.
It’s fair to say the teenager has enjoyed his time since moving to north London last season. And with creative talents like Mesut Ozil, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla helping prepare him for first-team football, there’s no reason he can’t excel in the near future. "The best thing about being at Arsenal is playing football every day with the best players. There’s no better job," he beams.
Ingenuity around the box is Crowley’s forte. But whether it’s threading through defence-splitting passes, jinking inside the full-back, or unleashing a drive into the top corner from the edge of the area, Crowley has demonstrated a wide-reaching repertoire so far.
He’s struck up a lethal partnership with Chuba Akpom, who many Arsenal fans hold in high regard and see as a future No.9 for the club. So far the teenager's sharpness has set him apart from the rest of the pack. With two dazzling feet to match his killer instincts, the 17-year-old has all the tools to continue honing his skills along the path towards Wenger's XI.
Crowley’s slight stature is something he must learn to deal with, and the inevitable clatterings he's likely to receive on a regular basis (in which case he'll definitely be the new Wilshere).
But in Santi Cazorla, the teenager has a useful role model to watch daily. "I’ve learnt of Santi that not only do you need to be good technically, you have to work really hard off the ball to play at the top level."
The Spaniard has proved that size doesn’t matter in England’s top division, winning two PFA Fans' Player of the Month awards on the trot this year.
Did you know?
Crowley could yet choose to represent the Republic of Ireland, despite his appearances for England’s Young Lions. "My grandparents are Irish," he says. "I played for Ireland [at U17 level], went for trials with England and got in. I’m still young and I’d never rule anything out. You just don’t know what’s around the corner."
Club captain Mikel Arteta joined Wilshere in his praise for the playmaker in Arsenal’s matchday programme earlier this season. "He has impressed me for two reasons," said the skipper. "The first is of course his talent, but he is also gaining maturity too, and if he keeps doing that then he can be a very good player. He's at the right club with the right people around him."
What happens next?
- Shooting 8
- Heading 5
- Tackling 5
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 8
- Creativity 9
- Work-rate 7
The under-21 season is drawing to a close, and Arsenal have a very realistic chance of winning their league. A winning mentality from a young age is a strong foundation for any great player, something Crowley certainly isn't lacking. "We want to win it. And now we're out of the Champions League and Youth Cup, we want to win it even more," says the 17-year-old.
Next season should see the teenager make his Arsenal debut, at least in a cup, perhaps alongside a loan move for regular first-team football. It's not a necessity for Wenger, as Serge Gnabry's rise to the first team proved, but Arsenal's array of midfield talent means it's a likely option.
"In a few years' time I hope to be playing football for Arsenal and internationally," Crowley says. He’s certainly on the right road.