Thursday, May 30, 2024

Academy seasons get underway amidst much concern

The Arsenal Academy has come under intense criticism from all quarters over the course of the summer, particularly in the wake of the departure of a whole host of players at the end of last season prior to some disastrous pre-season results.

There will not be a quick and easy solution to the problem, with doubts persisting over the respective capabilities of U21 and U18 coaches Steve Gatting and Carl Laraman, whilst the influx of foreign youngsters into the Academy, and the perceived preferential treatment that they are afforded, has led to suggestions that the club’s English talents are being undermined. The appointment of Liam Brady’s successor, meanwhile, which will hopefully inject some new life into this aspect of the club, is still being deliberated over.

It cannot be denied that there is much wrong with the Academy, and it is certainly not providing a steady stream of  players instantly ready for first-team duty each season, but there are still some positives to take from the current situation. Chuba Akpom and Isaac Hayden, two England youth internationals, find themselves on the cusp of the first-team squad having featured for the senior side during pre-season, whilst three exciting foreign talents, Serge Gnabry, Gedion Zelalem and Hector Bellerin, are expected to feature for Arsene Wenger’s side at some stage during the campaign.

It is also worth remembering that three members of the current first-choice starting line-up, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Wojciech Szczesny, are products of the club’s Academy, even though Gibbs and Szczesny were signed from other clubs at the ages of 14 and 16 respectively.

Matters are far from ideal, however, with a real dearth of options for both Academy sides at present, to the extent that nine members of the U18 side who faced Liverpool in their season opener on Friday were subsequently involved as the U21 campaign began away to Stoke City last night.

Nonetheless, there were positives to take from both encounters, particularly the Liverpool game in which Arsenal prevailed 2-1. After taking the lead through defender Tom Dallison’s first goal for the club, they were pegged back, only for first-year scholar Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a dangerous winger, to score the decisive goal late on.

The game was also notable for the performance of Chris Willock, a schoolboy midfielder who was named player of the tournament at the prestigious Manchester United Premier Cup recently. Stationed on the left wing on this occasion, Willock impressed with his precise passing and should be heavily involved as the campaign progresses.

The U21s had less luck, as they surrendered a two-goal lead to eventually draw 2-2 with Stoke. Both of Arsenal’s goals came courtesy of Thomas Eisfeld, who has a commendable record of a goal every two games for the second string since moving from Borussia Dortmund.

The club also secured the services of promising Swedish youngster Kristopher Da Graca this week. The 15 year old, who was previously with Gothenburg-based side Hisingsbacka, is a commanding centre-back who can also play as a defensive-midfielder.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

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Keep hearing about Chris Willock again and again. Really think he’s going to be a big deal at Arsenal. People who’ve played against him think he’s brilliant.

Brian Covert

Seems like there are some positives to start the season. Some new kids and some of the best up with the first team -doesn’t seem terrible. Sure there might be problems but name another top English club with as many academy kids in the first team or close to it? Can’t be many. Just do not understand why when club is going through some tough times we supporters want to heap it on even more. After the u-21 preseason and the Villa game I took these results as positives for the club and the supporters.

with the left and the right

everything you said. agreed. that is all.

fooled you all

Duh!! The reason so many are in or close to the first team is because of the lack of good mature players. He has shipped out the crap players he bought in the past and hasn’t bought any new ones. QED you have to use unproven youngsters.

Tapscotts Testicles

Echoes of the first team going on here. Whilst the playing staff are doing their jobs, management and a lack of recruitment is piss poor.


Everyone loves a teenage wonder player story along like Owen, Rooney, Fabregas, and Wilshere, but these are one in a million. It is the norm that less than 10% of youngsters make it and even then, most will not be considered first team till their early 20’s. So putting pressure on the youth setup will not help but it is best to have a good setup that will support their potential.


Indeed. I don’t think people sometimes appreciate just how much talent and hard work is needed to get as far as our reserves already have, and its a rare gem that can truly go to the next level that quickly, if at all.

rj gooner

Kristopher Da Graca and Chris willock maybe closer to the first team that they think! I mean why else would we not of signed anyone? Must be because the acadamy is doing so well!

all jokes aside though good look young guns! Go forth and prosper.


Are these youngster close to the first team as they are exceptional world class talents ala Fabregas or because we are so short of talent and numbers?


Second one.


Anyone know why Eisfeld is not getting a chance with the first team? He has some goalscoring record and is 21 now, surely he is worth considering for the bench?


Yeah thought he was very impressive against reading in carling cup last season.


Probably because it is a big step up from U21 to the PL. Isn’t that what everyone has been saying? Kids good enough for U21 are rarely good enough for the PL?


Agree with Tapacotts.
We’re no. 5 in the Deloitte World revenue league, whereas we are absolutely nowhere near no. 5 best team which equates to something is going seriously wrong in the management


And I mean in 1st team squad & u21


Didn’t our U-21’s get to the last 4 of the Next Gen last season and were unluckily beaten on a shit pitch. We are also being outspent by the 6th, 7th, 8th clubs and so on, so it does not take a genius to work out whats going on


Fuck it! I want players and trophies Arsen! Its been 8 years…..its looking like 9 at the moment!


You gonna get destroyed this year in the under 21s, there’s no way around it. 14, 15 ,year olds against the janzugajs and lingaards and kanes of m.u and scum respectively?. no chance.

im just glad the likes of gnabry eisfeld and hayden will be breaking into the first team this season. coz at the other day thats what the under 21 league is about.


Also interested in news on eisfeld. Lots of talk last year, expected somethong this yeat. Is he gone backwards or what?


I’m also slightly concerned that our academy currently seems to be only able to sign up and produce small skillfully, tricky ball playing midfielders, like we are desperately looking for the next Fabregas. So many of the same type of player produced at each age level yet other positions seem to be overlooked. Where is the next generation of defensive midfielders, strikers, goalkeepers and defenders that we desperately need?


need a better manager for the Academy maybe. But ruthless clear out surely a good thing. And we have some good talent in the mix still in Eisfeld, Zelalem, Sanogo, Bellerin. Recruitment has become more challenging as many clubs have wised up to what we have been doing. Plus Home grown ruling has added pressure as some deep pocketed clubs have bought up as much young talent as possible thereby raising prices in this market. That we are still finding them and are an attractive destination for their development is a positive we can take. Too much is made out… Read more »

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