Arsenal Under 21 captain Julio Pleguezuelo has told manager Arsene Wenger he is ready for a shot in the first team ahead of a move on loan to another club in the summer. The former Barcelona academy prospect is a regular in training sessions with the senior squad, but feels he now needs top-flight experience to take the next step in his development.
The 19-year-old defender moved to North London in the summer of 2014 after garnering a reputation as one of the hottest properties in the Barcelona academy, following in the footsteps of fellow La Masia graduates Cesc Fabregas, Fran Merida, Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral.
His development with the Gunners was hampered during his first two seasons due to injuries, but he has now turned that situation around and established himself as captain of the U21 side.
The Spaniard wants to help the U21s win their league and have the chance to impress in the senior squad before the end of the season, but admits that a loan move may be on the cards over the summer as he needs regular top-tier experience.
"We are currently top of the under-21 league and I believe we can go on to win it. I have not yet travelled with the first team and my hope is that I will do so between now and the end of the season and have a good pre-season and hopefully go out on loan next year to gain first-team experience," the former Barcelona starlet said to the club website.
In the meantime, the player is making the most of his training sessions with the first team by learning how to defend against the likes of Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.
"I really benefit from training with the first team because the pace and technical level is so much higher. This year has been a very good year for me after the injuries I have suffered in previous seasons," the ex-Barcelona versatile defender added.
"I have not missed a game or training and so I have been able to develop and improve. I have done a lot of work in the gym and I feel stronger and faster and better prepared to prevent injuries. Because I am playing and training regularly I have improved my technical ability.
"I have trained quite a lot with the first team this year. In training games I have mostly played as a centre-back but as a right-back and as a holding midfielder too. I have had to play against Theo and Olivier and they both present very different challenges and you have to play against them differently."