It’s been a long road back, but Kido Taylor-Hart finally made his return to Under-23s football in Arsenal’s clash with Manchester United on Friday night. The Hale Ender began the season as a regular in Kevin Betsy’s Under-23s side, scoring a brace in August’s 2-1 victory over Tottenham in North London Derby only for a pubic overload to see him sidelined for four months.
Having been with the club since the age of seven, Taylor-Hart is viewed as one of the most exciting prospects in an academy that has had a track record for producing crucial first team talents like Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah. The 19-year-old signed his first professional contract last summer and was being considered by several Championship and League One clubs for a January loan before his injury in December ended any prospects of a move.
Now though, he has made his return and was part of the Under-23s side who travelled up to Old Trafford for a Premier League 2 clash on Friday night. After such a lengthy layoff it would have been easy to expect him to look a little rusty, but if his display against United is anything to go by, Taylor-Hart looks absolutely raring to go.
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The 19-year-old has spent of most his career as a winger but is capable of playing as a No.8 due to his ability on the ball. This was on full display at Old Trafford as he managed an 88% pass success rate. Taylor-Hart also showed that he is willing to do his defensive work, recovering the ball five times (as per Wyscout). His standout moment was undoubtedly in his assist for Mika Biereth’s goal.
United left back Alvaro Fernandez has grabbed plenty of attention this season, with many even touting him for a potential first team debut due to Luke Shaw’s injury, but up against Taylor-Hart he struggled miserably. The Hale Ender – wearing the No.7 that is sported by Saka in the first team – dribbled him inside out with a stepover before driving a low right-footed shot that United keeper Radek Vitek could only parry into Biereth’s path.
It’s this kind of play that has seen him likened to Leroy Sane by some Arsenal fans. Though it is Sane’s Bayern Munich teammate Serge Gnabry who Taylor-Hart has previously stated that he looks up to. “Serge Gnabry is a player I really look up to,” he said of his predecessor in the right wing position for Arsenal’s Under-23s. “He was always a very talented player here at Arsenal, but he never put up crazy numbers and over time he’s become more direct, aggressive and sharp with his runs and shot selection. I want to add that to my game too.”
That directness is clearly something that has come in to Taylor-Hart’s game recently. He is considered among the top three fastest players in the Gunners academy and with this in mind it appears he has all the attributes to become yet another impressive winger to have come out of Hale End.
Plenty of footballers have had to deal with lengthy injury absences at the early stages of their careers. Emile Smith Rowe, for example, missed three months due to a dislocated shoulder before breaking into Mikel Arteta’s first team during the infamous Boxing Day win over Chelsea in 2020. There are hopes Taylor-Hart could one day follow in the England international’s footsteps, and with his performance at Old Trafford it’s easy to see why.