The second stop on the 101greatgoals tour of Premier League academies in search of the young, talented and foreign stars of tomorrow is Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has nurtured great full-backs, midfielders and attackers but as yet he has yet to produce a great centre-back. His early success was built on George Grahamsâ€™ back four whilst the second double winning team relied on Martin Keown, another of Grahamsâ€™ protÃ©gÃ©s and Sol Campbell.
It did not take a genius to spot Campbellâ€™s greatness as he was the finished article. There were high hopes for Philippe Senderos but his lack of pace and mental strength meant he was mercilessly exposed when playing against the likes of Didier Drogba and in the big games such as the Champions League semi final against Liverpool. However, it may be that Arsenalâ€™s search for a defensive rock may end with the emergence of Havard Nordtveit.
The 6 ft 2inch defender began his playing career with Haugesund. In his solitary season with FKH, he made 10 appearances and became the clubâ€™s youngest ever player. Both his defensive displays and leadership abilities resulted in Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal chasing his signature.
Nordtveit was already a regular for Norwayâ€™s youth teams, being named skipper of the Under 17s, and featuring for the Under 19â€™s. Following a trial at United the Manchester club followed up their interest with a bid which was rejected by Haugesund. Arsenal then reached a deal with the club for an initial Â£0.5 million which could rise to Â£2 million subject to appearances in the first team.
The Norwegian was appointed reserve team captain but with the English and Norwegian seasons overlapping and with no proper period of recuperation he suffered from an injury which curtailed his season, although the management were suitably impressed with his displays.
Once he had recuperated, Nordtveit felt he was ready to get some first team action and he was loaned to Arsenalâ€™s Spanish feeder club Salamanca but was quickly recalled when he did not receive the playing time that was expected. Next he went on loan to Lillestrom where he became a first team regular.
The Norwegian club wanted to extend his loan but instead he chose to move to the top flight of the Bundesliga with Nurnberg. He has continued to impress although he has been used as a defensive midfielder. After his early season displays he even fielded a call from a highly satisfied Arsene Wenger.
Seasoned observes believe that Nordtveit is one of the best young defenders around. His intelligence and style as well as his attitude mean he has all the attributes needed to progress to the first team. He is blessed with pace and possess the ability to read what is going on in front of him enabling him to make vital interceptions.
Arsenal fans will be delighted to know that behind Nordtveit in the pecking order there lie a number of English centre-backs who are also highly rated by Arsenal and could eventually find their way as well to the Gunners first team.
There is only limited footage of Havard Nordtveit, but what we can bring you is evidence of the defenderâ€™s bravery as his had a tooth knocked out during last season at Lillestrom. (Watch here.)
In addition, an interview from back in 2007 when Nordtveit arrived at Arsenal can be seen here.