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Brooke Norton-Cuffy perhaps isn’t the most well-known name in the Arsenal academy right now, but he’s proving himself one to watch.
When this season got underway, Arsenal right-back Brooke Norton-Cuffy was still waiting on his u18 debut. He got it in October, and before he knew it, he was starting for the u23s.
The 16-year-old’s rapid rise had an element of fortune to it. With Jordi Osei-Tutu going out on loan, Ryan Alebiosu picking up an injury, and Daniel Oyegoke already out, Norton-Cuffy made his u23 debut against Liverpool due to the lack of a senior alternative.
Once he was in, the teenager didn’t take long to catch the eye. He made a few nice forward runs against Liverpool, before setting up a goal against Blackburn Rovers in the following 6-0 win. He’s now up to five appearances and three starts for the top academy side.
What’s struck me about Norton-Cuffy watching him recently is that he seems to do the simple things in possession consistently well.
He’s positive and forward-thinking, but without taking the kind of risks you get punished for. He’s confident to knock the ball past you and battle for the space using his acceleration and his ability to shield it, and he’s making some good chances.
To be clear, this isn’t going to be the season he breaks through to the first team.
When Oyegoke is back fit, he’ll probably come straight back into the u23 starting lineup, and he’s a similarly talented right-back option. Norton-Cuffy will likely return to the u18s, where he can make regular starts.
Ahead of both of them (and Alebiosu, if Steve Bould uses him at right-back), Arsenal have Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares, not to mention Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The route to Premier League appearances isn’t clear just yet.
But at 16, that’s not a big issue. The picture may well change in the next few years, and if Norton-Cuffy keeps developing as he is at the moment, that will be his chance to start knocking on the door.