Emmanuel Frimpong intends to return stronger from a serious knee injury to follow Jack Wilshere and force his way into Arsenal's first team next season. The 19-year-old had featured alongside Wilshere in the club's pre-season matches, and produced impressive displays in the Emirates Cup against the Milan and Celtic.
However, Frimpong then suffered cruciate knee ligament damage in training, so had to sit and watch as Wilshere went on to win full England honours in a breakthrough campaign for club and country. The teenager, however, made a welcome return to action when he came on for the final 22 minutes of Arsenal's 4-2 reserve win over Sunderland at Underhill.
Frimpong, born in Ghana but raised in north London, said yesterday: "It's been hard over the last [eight] months because I was doing well. You want to be out on the pitch and showing what you can do," Frimpong said. "I was going to go on loan [last summer] but then the boss said he wanted me to stay and be part of the team. It was just unfortunate that I got injured. I think being injured for so long can only make me stronger."
There is an outside chance the combative England youth international, who may yet decide to go on to represent Ghana, could yet be back in first-team contention by the end of the campaign. For now, though, Frimpong will take things one step at a time. "It felt a bit strange being on the pitch, but hopefully the more games I can play the more I am going to feel OK," he said. "It hadn't been planned for me to play, but I told [reserves manager] Neil [Banfield] that I felt fine."
The veteran goalkeeper Jens Lehmann got another 90 minutes under his belt for Arsenal's reserves as he looks to build up match sharpness.
After the frustrating goalless draw against Blackburn last weekend, the destiny of the Premier League is now out of Arsenal's hands, as they trail the leaders Manchester United by seven points, albeit having played a match less ahead of their meeting at Emirates Stadium on 1 May.
Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, again looks set to bring in young talent, with a £1m deal for Charlton's 19-year-old right-back Carl Jenkinson believed to be close.