Monday, May 20, 2024

Latest youth cull emphasises the difficulties of making the grade

It is always disappointing when players whose progress you have been following for many years are suddenly told that they are no longer needed at the club.

In recent years we have become accustomed to the regular announcement, around this time of year, when it is revealed that a group of youngsters, several of whom have played for Arsenal for a prolonged period of time, will be moving on from July 1st.

The particularly concerning aspect regarding the players let go this year, though, was the fact that none of the youngsters who have been released represented the first-team in a competitive fixture, with the vast majority of them not even coming close to doing so.

Semi Ajayi, Jack Jebb, Austin Lipman, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill and Josh Vickers have all been released along with scholars Renny Smith and Elliot Wright, who failed to earn professional contracts at the club.

Of those Ajayi was the only player who received a first-team call-up and that was only in a defensive emergency, with the centre-back, who was signed following a successful trial in 2013, standing no realistic chance of making the grade at the club in the long-term.

Smith also joined Arsenal in 2013 after being released by Chelsea and the Austrian youth international, who can operate in most defensive and midfield positions, has been strongly linked with a move to Italian side Carpi.

The other players let go- Jebb, Lipman, Ormonde-Ottewill, Vickers and Wright- had all been with Arsenal for many years, stretching back to when the club was still at Highbury. Ormonde-Ottewill was the only one of the quintet who established himself as a regular for the U21s, but the left-back was allowed to move on after he failed to address long-term concerns about his positioning. He has, though, already secured a deal with League One side Swindon Town for next season.

A few years ago there were very high hopes indeed for Jebb, a central-midfielder with an excellent passing range and superb free-kick taking abilities. However, the former England youth international found his progress hampered both by injuries and the presence of two stellar talents in Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley.

Lipman, a hard-working striker, and Vickers, a goalkeeper with good reflexes, have both had loan spells in non-league football and will be seeking to demonstrate that they are capable of playing at a higher level, whilst centre-back Wright will hope to play U21 football elsewhere having been unable to experience that level of the game at Arsenal.

In a way, this year’s departures signify once more just how difficult it is for homegrown players to make the grade at top clubs. Premier League rules, whereby clubs have to name players in their 25-man squads once they are 21 or over, have led to many sides, particularly Arsenal, becoming more ruthless when releasing young players, with some prospects being let go much earlier than they previously would have done.

It is clear, though, that if a player is talented enough then he will be given an opportunity to prove his worth, with Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny, Jack Wilshere, Hector Bellerin and Serge Gnabry all part of the first-team squad.

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



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I wrote about upgrades going on in the academy and what the club have planned and aimed for it amongst other stuff the club are doing for the future here

Bouldy's Toupee

Great article! Shared it with all (1) my Tottenscum supporting friends. Maybe they’ll learn to support a proper club


Thanks to CB for initiating this.
Please vote Ramsey NOW for best CL goal…
Barca rigging us out of this again with Messy’s goal slightly ahead.
He’s now up to 35%. Process is a bit of a hassle but defo worth it for Ramsey’s sweet strike.


It’s sad to see though, all the youth prospect leaving the club especially as mentioned above. Got too many youth talent in the club & have to let go some. Hope for the best future for this young lads. Who knows they still could be better and got a future at arsenal later.


Elliot Wright obviously doesn’t have the wright stuff for Arsenal, because if he had any brains he’d let Souness know that he’s Ian Wright’s nephew, and consequently get a cushy job as a pundit.

Getso gunner

Has to do with us recruitting better players now coupled with the academy players not being good enough


our standards have always been high but now we are looking stronger in the first team the bar has been raised, the younger players always get a chance and a good footballing education at Arsenal and other clubs are aware of the fact they have been at AFC gives them a good platform to go on and continue playing the beautiful game, this model we have will continue and of the thousands that dont make it a few will

chippy's chip

Re. Todays blog. Mad jens coaching szczezny is a disaster or red card waiting to happen. What about safehands seaman?

chippy's chip

I paid a feckin lot for cl final ticket and he fecked up big. Will never forgive. Whats paddy jennings up to i wonder??


Given that the academies cost shed loads to run is it worth clubs spending money on then for such little return?


I’m afraid the academies halcyon days are pretty much gone. Arsene’s former reliance on developing young academy players seemed to end with Wilshire and then by chance Coquelin and Bellerin. The likes of Zelalem, Crowley and Akpom won’t break in to the first team, because the pressure on Wenger to succeed is too high now and it’s too hard for him to give them sufficient match experience. One or two capital one cup games isn’t going to do them any good. Now that money is available the fans demand signing big, proven match winners. If he doesn’t spend money and… Read more »


The British football leagues should take a leaf out of Spain’s books and terminate the U21 and U18 league and merge them into the league pyramid as ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams. (maybe at conference level or below)

Then youth prospects can play REAL league football in competitive environments which is better for their development. The fans win too because then we can watch more of The Arsenal.


I always thought jack jebb was one of the next crop of hopefuls but apparently not.
I really hope Crowley and zelalem get some chances next season, they look to be some players, akpom too. If we get a couple of goals up in league matches I’d love to see some youth rotation otherwise as others say, what’s the point of the academy really


There are some suggestions he (Jebb) had behavioral issues too. If he was the next Messi I’m sure that wouldn’t have stopped the club from keeping him but when you’re only a promising youth player the club is going to wonder why it would want to put up with that sort of thing.

Arsenal's Legend

For any player to have a realistic opportunity then he must be extraordinary at youth level. We have a higher target now which is winning silverware not just qualifying for the UCL which will make it difficult for Wenger to give any of the prospect a run of game and thank God for Shad which is making our injury list to drop. good luck to those released.


It’s even tougher than that. Because players mature at such different ages. Not anywhere near all of Arsenal’s starting 11 were ready for a top team when they were 19-20. A lot of our current starters probably would have been released by the club had they come through our academy because they bloomed too late. Giroud for sure, almost certainly Kos too. There’s a few others too I’d guess, although I don’t know enough about the rest of the team’s early years to say for sure. The requirement to register players at 21 operates rather perversely to force clubs to… Read more »

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