One such youngster, Thomas Eisfeld, is on the verge of breaking into the first team. The young German was a former protégé of the Borussia Dortmund academy system where he began his career as one of the most promising young stars, alongside the likes of Mario Gotze and Moritz Leitner, all the same age.
The attacking midfielder was considered, alongside his two friends, as the most exciting young players in German football – Gotze and Eisfeld were thought to be on a par, with Leitner trailing just slightly behind them in his development.
However, in 2009, Eisfeld suffered a horrendous injury – damage to his anterior cruciate ligament – throwing his career, both for Dortmund and the German international team, way off track.
The injury was described as ‘career threatening’ by his coaches. Before his setback he was the second-highest scorer in the Dortmund U19 team, having netted 6 goals in just 12 appearances, alongside numerous assists.
But, whilst he was out injured, Borussia Dortmund had to find the means to compensate for his tally and, subsequently, signed Leonardo Bittencourt and Mustafa Amini, both a year younger than Eisfeld.
The competition for places at Dortmund now rendered it almost impossible for the returning Eisfeld to stake his claim over the first team. Not only were there now four young competitors for his position, but also a number of first-team regulars blocking his path.
Enter Arsene Wenger: the Arsenal manager had been in the loop for quite some time – he’d had scouts compile reports on all five of Dortmund’s starlets and, possessing a degree in Economics, the Frenchman saw a surplus of supply and a lack of demand in the Dortmund ranks.
Eisfeld was well aware that his hopes of regular competitive football were limited, if not non-existent, at Dortmund and, sure enough, thanked his lucky stars when Arsenal came knocking.
He transferred to Arsenal on a three-year contract on 31st January 2012 for a pittance – just £420,000 compensation for Borussia Dortmund’s development of the player.
Arsene Wenger said the player had "the attitude and technical ability to be a valuable addition to our squad."
Eisfeld has since proved Wenger to be bang on the money, as it were – he netted two goals in Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia in July – one in the 87th minute against Malaysia XI, the other a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw against Kitchee FC.
Tonight’s Capital One Cup game against Coventry City may just seal the deal – I’d put money on him scoring and, if he does, it might be ‘third time lucky’ for the German who could see himself fast-tracked into the Arsenal first-team.
image: © wonker