Like many Arsenal youngsters, Ben Sheaf has endured problems on the injury front this season, with the prospect having missed the start of the campaign with a fractured vertebrae.
Now, however, the former West Ham United player, who underwent the successful transformation from a defensive-midfielder to a centre-back last season, is fully fit and is on the fringes of the first-team squad.
Sheaf made his debut for the senior side in the Europa League game away to Red Star Belgrade last month and has since been named amongst the substitutes for the first-team twice more.
It is clear that Arsene Wenger rates Sheaf highly, with the 19-year-old being selected ahead of Julio Pleguezuelo, who has often captained Arsenal at U23 level and is a year older than the Englishman.
Efficient at breaking up play, Sheaf is calm in possession and is excellent at playing the ball out from the back, making him a perfect option in a three-man defence.
Although he can occasionally make some over-zealous challenges there is much to admire about Sheaf’s game, as there is with his professionalism – he is very dedicated in training, always seeking to improve.
A set-piece specialist who has also previously played at right-back on occasion, Sheaf will hope to get some more minutes for the first-team in the near future and it is possible that he could be involved in the two remaining Europa League group stage fixtures now that Arsenal’s progress to the knockout stages is confirmed.
Sheaf has previously played for England at U18 level and will have designs on getting back into the national team set-up but for now his main focus is on attempting to make the breakthrough at Arsenal.
Krystian Bielik, another player who moved from midfield to defence, is expected to recover from injury next month, which may push Sheaf a little further down the pecking order, but the latter is clearly an excellent prospect.
A loan spell may well be in the offing for Sheaf in the January transfer window but, when looking at the frustrations endured by many of Arsenal’s players on loan this season, it may well be more beneficial for him to remain with the Gunners for now.
It will be intriguing to see how Sheaf develops as he approaches the stage where a long-term decision will have to be made about his Arsenal future. The current signs are certainly very encouraging for him.