Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Difficult times could lead to lowering of expectations for Arsenal’s youngsters

For seven full seasons Steve Bould presided over Arsenal’s U18s, helping to nurture the likes of Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong, winning two Academy League titles and an FA Youth Cup in the process, which included a “double” success in 2008/09.

This season, however, consistency of any sort has been very difficult to find for Arsenal’s youngsters as they have had to endure three managerial changes, suffered several heavy defeats and, tellingly, not produced the level of performances expected by the club in recent weeks.

It all reached a nadir of sorts in the League fixture at home to Aston Villa last weekend. Having gone out of the Youth Cup in disappointing fashion just days earlier, confidence levels were low and Carl Laraman’s side suffered a 6-1 defeat to Villa, having been five goals down with much of the first-half left to play. It is perhaps fair to say that results are not all that important below first-team level, with the premier aim being to develop promising individuals, but what was more worrying against Villa was the apparent lack of determination and effort demonstrated by some players. It is true that they were without the likes of Serge Gnabry, Chuba Akpom and Hector Bellerin, who were part of the U21 side that lost 4-2 to Tottenham, but far more was expected of those who were called upon and there will be an opportunity to make amends when Norwich City visit London Colney tomorrow afternoon.

It was also revealed yesterday that midfielder Conor Henderson is set to depart the club when his contract expires at the end of the season. Henderson, who possesses outstanding passing ability, has only made one senior competitive appearance for Arsenal, largely owing to a succession of injuries which have severely hampered his chances of making the grade at Emirates Stadium. A loan spell at Coventry City earlier this season did not yield much success, and the likelihood is that the 21 year old will find himself playing in either the Championship or League One next season.

Perhaps the two issues discussed above indicate that it is an appropriate time to lower expectations a little with regards to Arsenal’s youngsters. Around the time of the stadium move, there was much excitement that large swathes of the players being developed could develop into shining lights at Arsenal’s new ground, but it has not quite transpired that way. In Szczesny, Gibbs and Wilshere, the club have brought through three members of the current first-choice starting line-up, but no players have been promoted to the squad (other than Kyle Bartley for a very brief period) since Coquelin in 2011, indicating that subsequent age-groups have not developed as much as had been anticipated.

Having watched the likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Henri Lansbury dominate Reserve and youth football only to end up in the Championship, the point was exemplified that only a very select few, if any at all, will make the cut from each age group and even then, once a player is in the senior squad, there is no guarantee that they will carve out a long-term career at the club, as Johan Djourou and Nicklas Bendtner, two further Academy graduates, have discovered.

With some players, such as Gnabry and Akpom, it is impossible to escape the feeling that they are held in high regard by the club’s coaching staff and that further first-team opportunities will beckon in the future. It’s natural to get excited about a home-grown youngster coming through the ranks, but the evidence of the past few years indicates that, even if quality is displayed below first-team level, it is not necessarily the case that further success will follow.


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A lot of our young players go on loan and hardly feature for those clubs.It might be because the players are not that good. But you look at Miyaichi’s case. Two years back when he was 18 he did really well at feyenoord.He did really well there. He did okay at Bolton. But he has hardly got an opportunity at Wigan.I know injuries have affected him but he has hardly featured even when fit. If a player does not get the opportunities we should just call them back. And i really can’t understand why either Miquel or Eisfeld have gone… Read more »


What ive noticed, and i could be wrong here, is that when a promising youngster gets into the first team squad Wenger will give them a run out in the first 11 to see how they play and react to being in the first team. If he sees potential he’ll send them on loan to develop like Wilshere, Frimpong and Ramsey. In the case of Miquel i think we need him in the squad cos well we can get a lot of injuries.


The thing is Miquel is not ready yet.Only way he will improve is by playing regularly. Away at sunderland with Koscielny and Vermalen out he could have played.But Arsene’d didn’t trust him and played the right back Sagna instead.Whats the point in not sending him on loan then?

Judgement day (once more)

I´m glad you mentioned Eisfeld. A promising young German CM from Dortmund (ffs).
If there’s anything I leaned from life (not much tbh) it´s that young German CM from Dortmund is effing amazing. And what I´ve seen from him so far is very impressing.

Why not give him a loan opportunity? Would hate to see him linger too long in the reserves.


I only saw Eisfeld once, when I was at the Malaysia game in Kuala Lumpur game last July. I know it was only a kick-about, and we struggled, and they took the piss a bit, but when he came on his energy was really encouraging. Sometimes you just gotta throw the lad in there and see what he can do over a few games, not just one.


I really hope Miguel stays patient as I think he can do really well for us. CB’s will have to wait longer than most players as there is less rotation in those positions and as a club, we are often involved in pressure games or ones that require experience so Miguel’s opportunities are further limited. Had we been flying high it would be easier to integrate him into the team. I think a lot of Barca’s youth will have the same experience if they were loaned out to lower league teams or the English Leagues. So I think it is… Read more »


Maybe they haven’t been loaned out as the clubs looking for loans are perhaps not at the level where they would probably thrive at. I guess if an Everton or Seville had come knocking they would be on loan maybe.


The bar has been set extremely by foreign players coming into the premiership. I just cant see that changing unless the new english fa youth structure in place works to develop talented technical youth players.

I want my Arsenal back!

In all fairness I think Bould should go back to the youth team and AW should bring in someone that can really add some thing to our set up and something different on the training pitch umm……… maybe DB10. Just a thought.


In all fairness, what exactly do you know about what Bould or the assistant manager does or doesn’t do?

Have you coached at Premier league level? Or any level for that matter? Do you know anyone on the inside? Have you read a book called Assistant Managers: What They Do Every Day?

Then what the fuck?


You’ll always struggle to get players that are good enough for our club from such a limited pool of players. But this leads to the question why for example spanish clubs (especially barca, but also bilbao valencia etc.) seem to have so much better rates of success? I guess spanish children are on a better technical level than english ones when they enter the academies on average but is that the only reason?


Don’t people like Barca just have virtually every Spanish kid in their academy and then filter out the good ones (The ones that we don’t steal first that is, mwhaha)


Barca have to luxury to play their own, because it’s a lot easier to fit in the next Iniesta, Xavi and Messi. There is a reason Chamberlain isn’t excelling – we are a mess right now, it’s more difficult to fit in.

The others gamble, and it’s not like Bilbao was flying nowadays.


When you look at Stoke u can see why english players arent a gifted as europeans


For one thing, they don’t have rules restricting clubs to only taking in under-16s within 90 minutes travel time.

That’s why they could ship Messi all they way from Argentina to Barcelone when he was just 13.


Also their infrastructure is superior, their mentality about what good football is transcends general football education and their leagues is better for devoloping technique and tactics.

Just look at the English national team, other than Jack there are no midfielders like him at all. In Spain however, Arteta can’t even get in the team and Cazorla is on the bench most of the time!

Gibbs Mertcielnyjenks

“Also their infrastructure is superior”

Not at all.


Of course it is superior, how else can you explain why Spain’s youth is better then England’s and the rest of Europes?

Los Polandos

It is not down to infrastructure. Youth training set up is very different there – they are apparently not allowed to keep count of score in Barcelona youth teams. It is all about awareness of your mates positions, looking for options that would help your team and technical flair. Seeds that came to full bloom in 2008-10 barcelona/spain team. In most other countries however it is all about the score. I remember fantastically flamboyant lad denied a chance at at youth academy becuase of his fragile physique (and the fact his dad was 5’6″). He won’t make it, they said.… Read more »


The main issue is that unless you have obvious world class potential like Messi, Fabregas, Wilshere, you will not make it based on your potential as a youngster, but based on how you adapt and improve during your career. Look at Falcao. At 20 y/o, he played 20 league games and scored 3 goals for River Plate. He got to Porto at the age of 23, that’s when he started scoring more than 20 goals in the league. He got to a club of this Arsenal’s level at the age of 25. Now take Afobe. He won’t be granted 20… Read more »

Gibbs Mertcielnyjenks

“Who would have guessed that Falcao would become a 35 goals/season striker when he banged in 3 goals from 20 league games? ”

Anybody who saw him playing at River? If you’re not blind, you see if a player has world class talent, or not. Delivering is another question but you always sees the potential and the guy oozed the class back then.


That’s not the reality though, isn’t it? You don’t know a player would score 35 goals just because he was good at River Plate. I could bring better examples anyways, like Adebayor who probably never looked like scoring 30 goals for Arsenal anytime. Drgoba similar, isn’t he? Players make it so randomly in my opinion, like nobody thought Bojan wouldn’t make it at Barca. At 17-20 y/o, you can only tell the biggest talents, which is 3-4 in a generation. On Falcao – was Matias Fernandez worth it when he moved to Villarreal? I saw videos of him at Colo-Colo,… Read more »


Running a consistenly successful academy is one of the most difficult things to do. Chelsea sunk a fortune into theirs with huge spending on potential but they’ve made a substantial loss with almost nothing to show for it (Mceachran). These things are cyclical, look at the Man Utd team of the 90’s compared to now. The Barca squad now is the pinnacle of youth development but it’s not as if they’ve cracked the formula and will be churning out a Xavi/Iniesta/Messi/Cesc every couple of years. The kids will be back.


Is Eis injured?

Wenger's 'war-chest' might be for real this time!

Sorry to all the Miquel fans, but I don’t think this bloke will EVERY be ready for the Arsenal first-team. Per Mertesacker (as much as we all love him) has proven that a Top-Class Premier-League center-half has to be ‘BUILT-LIKE-A-BULL’ as well as ‘TALL’. Look at Ashley Williams of Swansea, or Raphael Varanne of Real Madrid (the guy who should’ve come to Arsenal in 2011 instead of Mertesacker). They got the frame of a WWF wrestler. Part of defending is skill-tactics-intelligence-pace. But also an important part of defending is INTIMIDATION (which Wenger often calls ‘physical presence’). Miquel should be sold… Read more »

I see what you are trying to say, but I feel that intelligence is the most important asset when defending.

Los Polandos

Intelligence is the most asset when playing wherever on a pitch. If you can make a right decision in a fraction of second, you’re having an advatage that is second to none.

MAldini ended his career in DC despite not being overly physically intimidating and carvalho too is slight compared to other defenders. Physiques just have to be used intelligently by the defenders themselves. Know your strengths and weaknesses and then adapt yourself. Thus, your Miquel rubbish is rubbish.

I disagree, intelligence, teamwork/understanding and communication are the key things that make a great defender. Look at our legendary back 5 and our invincible back 5. They had a mixture of it all and knew their strengths and weaknesses and played them to their advantage. Also by no means was Tony Adams a beefcake, his frame was more Per Mertesacker than an Ashley Williams and I don’t need to mention to you about his abilities.


The biggest issue facing those coming through the academy that wish to get into the first team is opportunity, or lack of it. Firstly the first team squad has a number of over-paid under-performers that we can’t ship out and who Arsene feels he needs to play every so often. These guys take up some of the chances that the youngsters would get to show what they can do. Secondly, Arsene simply does not trust anyone outside his top 15 players. So even if we have a great young player like Eisfeld, Arsene won’t play them. Arsene would rather send… Read more »


That’s a risky strategy though. How do you strike the balance, how many top players make up the core that will have to compensate for the youth? We’ve seen how the team stuggled when RvP was out last year, Cesc before him and Henry before that. We’ve really stuggled with depth recently, I’d rather a squad of decent quality that can learn to play together and find a rythm that won’t be broken with an injury or two. Of course there’s no substitute for quality but I would rather it complemented to the squad. It also avoids the situation where… Read more »

Johnny Jensen's Bender

Well that gets a neg because we are by far the most consistent producers and promoters of young talent in England.

Our first team consists of Gibbs, Scez and Jacky – all acamdemy products. if they’re good enough Wenger will play them, if not they’ll go. Simple as.

Gibbs Mertcielnyjenks

We are very good, yes, but “we are by far the most consistent producers and promoters of young talent in England.”? Of course, not.


Johnny Jensen's Bender

Wrong. Mancs have developed 1 more player that has remained in the ‘elite’…granted but… Thats because the only competition for signing a young english player in Manchester is Citeh, who were struggling until recently. You are only allowed to sign an under 16 English player if they were born within 20 miles of the training ground (or something like that), so to spread the talent around the country. In London there are multiple top tier teams to compete with. I said we are the best producers and promoters of youth football, not who creates the most quality. What about all… Read more »


Gotta love throwing up one table, out of context, to try to prove a point. The whole article is here: http://www.sportingintelligence.com/2012/12/13/revealed-barcelona-no1-for-producing-players-for-clubs-in-europes-elite-leagues-131201/ If you read it, they go to great pains to point out that their data is drawn simply from players currently playing, not over any particular time scale. So Giggs, Scholes, Phil Neville and maybe Beckham count for United even though they went through the academy nearly 20 years ago. They also make it very clear that they only looked at 5 top divisions (French, English, Spanish, Italian and German), so players like JET and Lansbury don’t count. If… Read more »


agreed. Afobe, Joel Campbell, Miyachi, Kyle Bartley etc.. are not getting their chance. Bartley is now starting for Swansea but he could not be the 4th cb for us? Mistake by Arsenal in letting him go.

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actually what happen to Eisfeld…..is he injured or what?

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