This season, the Arsenal Academy passed the landmark of 50 internally-produced players having represented the first-team in a competitive fixture. For some of the youngsters who are schooled at the club, however, they are cast aside before they have even been given a sustained chance to shine in the Reserves.
For the group of young players that were part of the scholarship intake in summer 2010, decision time is rapidly approaching on their futures at the club, with Liam Brady and David Court, who overlook the Academy, likely to make their feelings known before Christmas as to which players should be offered an extended stay via the medium of a professional contract and who should be released.
Several members of that group have already signed professional contracts (Zak Ansah, Martin Angah, Kyle Ebecilio, Elton Monteiro and Nigel Neita), whilst three more have departed in the early stages of the season but there remain nine youngsters whose futures currently remain undecided.
Perhaps the most intriguing case is that of Alban Bunjaku. A player possessing sublime technical ability who found the net nine times for the under-18s last season, Bunjaku has seen his development stifled by injury problems and, despite his obvious flair, is regarded by the club’s coaching staff as somebody who dwells on the ball for too long and therefore slows down the overall speed of the team’s play. If Arsenal were to release him then, certainly from those who watch youth football regularly, eyebrows would be raised, but it again shows that it is not just your overall ability that determines your future but whether the team will benefit from it or not.
Others seem more likely to make the cut. Goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook, whose praises were sung in this column last week, seems sure to be offered an extended stay once he is over his current injury problems, whilst midfielders Josh Rees and Jordan Wynter and striker Philip Roberts should join him.
At the other end of the scale, full-backs Ben Glasgow and James Campbell, who both spent much of last season on the sidelines, are among the prime candidates to depart, despite having made steady improvements in the opening stages of this campaign.
The fate of the other two players, Samir Bihmoutine and sprightly winger Jeffrey Monakana, is perhaps the most difficult to call, but, whatever decisions are made, the cull is a necessary and frequent part of youth development as room needs to be cleared for the new batch of youngsters, including the four foreign recruits acquired in the summer, to come through.