Arsenal Managing Director Vinai Venkatesham says that promoting players to the first team from the Academy is a key part of the club’s strategy for the future.
For a club with a reportedly restricted transfer budget, promotions provide a cheap way of adding players and depth to the squad, but he also wants to ensure that the first team has players who have grown up with the club and understand what it means to pull on that red and white shirt.
The 37 year old spoke alongside Head of Football Raul Sanllehi, and outlined their hopes for the Academy under the auspices of former captain Per Mertesacker.
“If the money and revenue its the fuel and the football side is the engine, then we need that engine to be operating as efficiently as possible,” he said. “So every pound we’re spending has the absolute maximum impact.
“There are lots of initiatives that we have to ensure that the football side of our club is as efficient as possible. For example, the Academy. We want to make sure we continue to promote players into our first team, and that they make a real impact.
“It’s important because it’s obvious financially efficient, but we also want players in the first team dressing room who have grown up with the club and who really know what it means to represent Arsenal.”
Venkatesham sounded confident that the right man is in place to head up the development and education of young talent at the club.
“We think we’re in a good place with the Academy,” he continued. “We’ve got a great leader in Per Mertesacker, we feel like we’ve got a good group of youngsters – some of whom have been promoted into the first team squad this season. The 18s and U23s have had great seasons, so the Academy is a hugely important part.
“We’ve got to manage that progression from the Academy to first team sensibly. Should a player play a bit longer with the U23s? Should they go straight to the first team? Or should they go out on loan?
“We’ve done quite a lot of that this season with Emi Martinez, Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe, and I think as we look forward we’ll see more of those development opportunities on loan to make sure we’re giving players the playing time in carefully selected clubs that we think can help them on their journey to the first team.”