Considering the confusion and surprise that his move had on many when announced in January two years ago now, it’s clear to see that Krystian Bielik has progressed well under the radar in Arsenal’s youth ranks since his £2.7m move.
The imposing Polish youngster turns 19 today (Wednesday) and he has plenty of ability. He’s performed consistently well when called upon and his versatility has seen a shift in positions, from his favoured role as a defensive-minded midfielder into a ball-playing centreback.
One of the club’s most promising prospects, he has stepped up his development in attempts to learn English thoroughly, which has helped him communicate with teammates on the pitch more effectively.
Making his senior debut during a forgettable 3-0 away defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday in October 2015, he featured for 30 minutes as a defensive midfielder and impressed. He was confident with possession, something that has come as second nature under Steve Gatting with the u23s, and made his presence felt, which could’ve be said for most of the Arsenal players that evening.
He’s only had one three-minute first team cameo since, during the 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest in September, but was on the substitutes’ bench for both of Arsenal’s other EFL Cup matches and it’s evident from his perspective that Arsène Wenger is remaining patient with him in order to avoid pushing him too quickly and increasing his expectations.
During interviews, Bielik comes across as a humble and honest youngster who just wants to impress. This attitude is reiterated by his performances on the pitch, and his leadership qualities meant the captaincy at u23 level was expected but equally earned.
Arsenal’s pre-season tour of the Americas was a prime opportunity for youngsters to assert their credentials, something that Bielik certainly did. Alongside the likes of new acquisition Rob Holding and Calum Chambers, the Polish youth international didn’t look out of place amongst professionals far more experienced than himself.
Having made his UEFA Europa League debut at the tender age of 16, it’s not surprising to understand there is a lot of expectation for Bielik to fulfil his potential. Provided he finds the suitable club for his development, he’ll be expected to join another team on loan for the remainder of the campaign, which could go a long way to judging whether he’s fully ready for the step-up in quality and intensity from youth football to becoming a mainstay in a highly-competitive Arsenal side.