Making the breakthrough into the first-team at Arsenal is certainly a very difficult task but for Julio Pleguezuelo matters have been made even more difficult by injuries.
The centre-back, who is very comfortable on the ball as you would expect from a graduate of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, has produced some excellent performances for Arsenal at youth level since joining the club in 2013 but now aged 20 he has yet to make a competitive appearance for the first-team.
Pleguezuelo gained some experience of senior football in the Spanish second tier with Mallorca last season and ended the campaign strongly having previously gone several months without being a regular in the side.
Upon returning to Arsenal Pleguezuelo was eager to challenge for a place in Arsenal’s matchday squad in cup competitions but he has so far been unable to achieve that objective, largely owing to an injury he suffered while playing for the U23s.
Now back fully fit, Pleguezuelo is determined to make up for lost time but the fact that he was overlooked for inclusion in the squad for the home Europa League game against Red Star Belgrade, with Ben Sheaf (who is younger than him) being selected instead, indicates that the Spaniard faces a battle in attempting to salvage his Arsenal career.
Thankfully for Pleguezuelo the games are coming thick and fast for Arsenal over the next couple of months and he has a good chance of being involved in some capacity in the remaining Europa League group stage fixtures and perhaps the Carabao Cup quarter-final against West Ham United.
Pleguezuelo will, in the meantime, continue to play for Arsenal’s U23 side, whom he frequently captains.
Well suited to playing as part of a three-man defence, the prospect is likely to be involved in Arsenal’s opening Premier League International Cup fixture at home to Porto tomorrow night.
Should he impress in that fixture then Pleguezuelo may well be selected to train with the first-team squad next week, which could potentially lead to him making the bench against Cologne.
Pleguezuelo will, however, be fully aware that time is starting to run out for him to succeed at Arsenal and it may well be the case that he is let go at the end of this season so that he can play regularly elsewhere.
He certainly deserves at least one opportunity, though, to showcase his credentials for the Arsenal first-team.