It is expected that young players will experience both positive and negative moments in their development, but this has been a particularly difficult season so far for Donyell Malen.
Having made a significant impact during his first campaign at the club following his arrival from Ajax, the talented striker has found matters considerably more challenging this campaign, mainly due to the hugely impressive form of fellow forwards Stephy Mavididi and Eddie Nketiah.
While Mavididi and Nketiah have thrived for Arsenal’s U23 side, Malen has barely got a look in that level and, when he has featured, the Dutchman has mainly been used out wide.
Malen has fared a little better for the U18s but he doesn’t appear to be playing with the same confidence that characterised his performances last season.
It is clear, however, that the youngster remains a very talented player. Fast, skilful and capable of finding the net from various angles, Malen is a starlet that Ajax were hugely reluctant to lose.
Malen has got off to a good start in this calendar year as he scored a goal and provided an assist in the U18s’ victory over Leicester City last weekend and he will hope that sets the tone for the remainder of the campaign.
Nketiah’s rapid progress, which continued as he emerged off the bench to score for the U23s against Southampton in midweek, has been very harmful for Malen, but in due course the latter will certainly be provided with further opportunities to showcase his ability in the older age groups.
For now Malen must be content with a starting berth for the U18s and he is expected to lead the line in tomorrow’s eagerly-anticipated encounter against rivals Tottenham Hotspur. A good performance in that game could well help Malen to remind Arsene Wenger and the other coaches at the club of the quality that he possesses.