Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden had both gained a fleeting taste of what life is like in the Arsenal first-team prior to this season, but their development stepped up another gear in the summer when they were dispatched to Hull City on season long loan deals.
Akpom had previously had loan spells with Brentford, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest, but those were only short stints, while Hayden had never previously gone on a temporary transfer.
The season started well for both players as they were heavily involved in proceedings for Steve Bruce’s side, with Hayden making some impressive interceptions in midfield and Akpom, at long last, scoring his first senior goal.
Since then, however, both players have had to be rather more patient for opportunities as they have often found themselves on the bench in recent weeks.
On some occasions Hayden, who struggled with an injury earlier in the campaign, hasn’t even entered the fray at all, while Akpom, although he has been involved in some capacity, is no longer a regular in the starting line-up.
Akpom’s all round play has been encouraging at times, but he has mustered just three goals in 21 games for Hull this season, and certainly needs to improve his scoring ratio if he is to stand any chance of making the grade at Arsenal.
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Hayden has been restricted to eleven appearances in all competitions and will hope to gain more playing time as the season progresses. Adept at winning the ball back, although occasionally guilty of committing over-zealous challenges, the 20-year-old is entering a pivotal stage of his development where Arsenal will soon have to make a decision regarding whether he is capable of carving out a long-term career at the club.
At present, if he is unable to gain a regular starting berth at a side in England’s second tier, it is difficult to envisage Hayden succeeding at Arsenal, as talented a player as he is. He will almost certainly go on to have a successful career at a high level, but, despite Arsenal’s current problems in the defensive midfield position, he will need to make a significant impact during the remainder of the campaign if he is to convince Arsene Wenger that he is a player worth persisting with.
Regarding Akpom, the striker signed a long-term contract with the club last season and as a consequence has more security over his future. He certainly can’t afford to rest on his laurels, however, and at some point the club will have to assess whether his disappointing goal return in senior football will be a significant stumbling block with regards to his long term prospects.
Akpom and Hayden are both still young and they have both gained experience of senior football so far this season, albeit maybe not quite as much as they would have initially anticipated. Neither of them can afford for their respective loan spells to peter out, however, and it will be up to them to make a significant impact during the second half of the campaign.