Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Arteta on the challenge of integrating academy prospects

Mikel Arteta included academy youngsters Reuell Walters, Ethan Nwaneri and Lino Sousa in Arsenal’s squad for tomorrow night’s clash with PSV Eindhoven and there are expectations the Spaniard will hand the academy trio a rare opportunity to shine at first team level.

While Nwaneri became the Gunners’ youngest-ever player when he made his debut against Brentford last season at the age of 15, the manager has mostly turned down the opportunity to field young debutants during his four years in charge, instead prioritising minutes for fringe senior players.

Such decisions have been the subject of much debate, particularly given Arsenal’s reputation as a hotbed of academy talent, although the manager insists the step up is easier said than done.

“I think on TV, it looks easier,” he told his pre-game press conference when asked if people understand the demands of top-level football.

“If one day we give them a chance to train with the boys, they will probably realise that the level is really, really high.

“The demand that the game has got right now is huge and the competition is huge as well, because we can pick players from anywhere in the world and we have the ability to do that. But I’m very positive with the few that we have at the moment.”

“Obviously it gets harder and harder,” he added when asked about the difficulty of blooding youngsters.

“The talent has to be really good and and you have to find and build the space in the squad to give that talent an opportunity.

“We should not forget that because it’s a big part of what we want to do in the future. And especially when you have it, you cannot let it go. I think we have some good space and good talent to develop in the environment.”

On the trio selected for the trip to Holland, he added: “Three big prospects. We want to bring a lot of players from a system and they deserve to be here. The circumstances have got them into this position.

“They’re still really really young but we want to get them the experience because they have the talent hopefully to be very close to us. We’ll try to give them the opportunity if we can in the right moment.

“Sometimes, it’s about timing as well and the competition that they have in their position,” he continued.

“Some days, you develop a lot of midfielders, then it’s strikers and then you cannot really accommodate all of them. The club has to have the capacity to give a space to those players to go somewhere else and it has to be part of that strategy for sure.”

It’s not so long ago that Arteta himself was coming through the ranks at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy. He, more than most, knows what it’s like to face competition for a shot at senior football.

“There was Pepe Reina, goalkeeper knobhead at Barcelona, Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Motta, Carlos Puyol, myself,” he reflected.

“So there was huge competition within a room already. You know, we were all like little brothers living with each other but the competition was fearless.”

At the same time, it’s clear he enjoys the vibe brought to training by the next generation.

“There is something about them. When you work in a meeting, or you talk to them. They have that energy, the eyes are open, there is a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.

“There is something fresh, something new and I have been there. Once you have been in that position you feel a huge sympathy for those moments. Everyone really wants to help them, I really want to help to fulfil their dream and hopefully, we can achieve that.

“It is early days, but we need to get the machine going because we want more of those and we have to produce more of those.

“There’s a lot of work going into the academy and that’s big credit to all of them every single day for the amount of work that they’re putting in. They do a lot, they’ve planted the seeds and now we need to bring them up.”

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Cannon and ball and arsen’all

There’s a fine balance to be met between winning titles and finding a way to run a football club sustainably. Unfortunately city and Chelsea throw money at the situation and it means they can pay kids stupid money and sell them on for profit without them even playing for them – then you have the alternative like joining the academies of arsenal or Liverpool where the talented kids can see they have a genuine route to the first team but they may not be given the same dollars until they earn it with success on the pitch… We seem to… Read more »

djourou's nutmeg

it’s really tiring for me to hear people complain about what chelsea and city spend and then depict arsenal like a family business. we’ve been “throwing money at it” too for quite some time now. granted, along with some smart decisions and a solid project, but we’re not self sustained anymore. 200 million spent every summer… and while those teams you mentioned did splash dirty money at first, you can’t criticize a club for investing. it happens in every field: you put more money than you have expecting to receive more in the future. and now, every year they sell… Read more »

Santi’s Phonebox

It shouldn’t be all about the money. Players with high soccer IQ’s and talent should appreciate that Arsenal is now a well run club and if you meet the standard, there is no better place for your career. Just like those that have resigned, Saka, Saliba, Martinelli, MO and Gabby and those that recently signed Rice, Havertz, Timber, Jesus and Zinny. I hope we get to see all three.

Death by 300,000 Passes

Knowing Arteta, I expect none of them to start against PSV. They will be lucky to come on as subs.


Depends on the result at the time, 0 – 4 up at 85 mins all 3 on, 0 – 0 at 85 mins 0 on.. our magnificent away supporters travelling to this match deserve a competitive line up, its not in Miki’s dna to play a sub par team either, expecting Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior, Rice, Jorginho, Elneny, Nelson, Trossard, Nketiah to start.

Faisal Narrage

Any news as to what’s happened to Azeez?

A Different George

I hope we see players who we may need later in the season–Kiwior, Reiss Nelson, Smith Rowe if he’s fit–get minutes with their likely teammates in those situations. To take one example: I’s like to see Reiss get real minutes with two of Gabriel Jesus, Martinelli, and Saka, not with Trossard, Eddie, or kids. That’s what Trossard has had, and that’s why bringing Trossard on in a close game is a reasonable tactical change, not a sign of desperation. Same idea with Kiwior and–although I hate to say it–with Cedric.

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