Photo subject: A precocious, rising star. Showing serious potential at a young age but will take years to fulfill his promise.
Where to find him: Third period pre-calc, Gripping the wheel of a Saturn Ion during his mandatory six hours of professional driving lessons, Eating whatever the hell he wants and not gaining weight at Burger King, Buying Rainbows at PacSun, Stealing a few squirts of Axe body spray from an open canister at Wal-Mart, Announcing “I can’t believe we’re actually juniors!” outside school after turning in his 8-page term paper (plus works cited) about the Teapot Dome Scandal, Sneaking beers in an alley near Emirates Stadium
Team: Arsenal, the only team to finish an English Premier League season undefeated (2003-04). They are also the only team in the EPL that refuses to retain a player after he completes puberty. Players who started or entered as a substitute in Arsenal’s recent season-opening scoreless draw against Newcastle include:
- Midfielders Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong, born in 1992
- Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Midfielder Aaron Ramsey, both born in 1990
- Fullback Kieran Gibbs, born in 1989.
At 22, Grandpa Theo Walcott is in his sixth season with the club. During one solemn team meeting last year, manager Arsene Wenger asked the savvy veteran Walcott to discuss resisting temptation and remaining focused. In his stirring speech, the star striker recalled ascending the Arsenal youth ranks while battling Capri Sun addiction and overcoming a dependence on Tamagotchis, Pogs and Encyclopedia Brown novelas.
American Connection(s): Each summer, Arsenal hosts a four-team tournament called the Emirates Cup. This year’s participants were Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Boca Juniors and the eventual champion New York Red Bulls. Red Bulls forward and former Arsenal Golden Boot-winner Thierry Henry had hoped to play the final five minutes of the Red Bulls/Gunners match for his old club. Although Wenger and the team’s fans loved the idea, the referee would not allow the side-swapping because he decided it would violate the integrity of the promotional, meaningless tournament.
The storied London club is also owned by, gasp, an American! Sports nut Stan Kroenke added Arsenal to his arsenal of teams — the trove includes the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Rams and Colorado Rapids — when he became majority shareholder in Spring 2010.