The Arsenal Youth System – Part 1 Introduction
by Andrew Crawshaw
As you may know I get to see as many of the Youth games as possible. Our U18 team play the vast majority of their home games at the Colney training ground but these are effectively behind closed doors. We have an U19 team who play in the Champions League and their home games are at Borehamwood, U18 FA Cup games are usually at Borehamwood (or the Emirates in the latter stages) and the PL2 team (now U23 but formerly U21) also play home games at Borehamwood with a requirement to have a minimum of 3 games at the Emirates. So over the course of a season I manage quite a few games.
So far this season our junior teams are having mixed fortunes – at least the U18s and U23s are. The former are unbeaten and top their league, the latter have lost all three games and are bottom. This raises the question is the Youth System a success?
In order to look at this question, which is actually not simple to answer I think it may be helpful to split our Youth system into three phases.
1 – Initial development
The Club start the formal development of players at our Hale End Academy. The youngest age group is 8/9, and this year’s intake were introduced to the crowd at a first team home game towards the end of last season. The boys (and girls) stay at Hale End up to the age of 16.
2 – First and second Year Scholars
Every year a number of Scholars aged 16 are chosen to undertake a more formal mix of football and academic lessons. This entails a move from Hale End to London Colney. These players are offered a two year programme which, hopefully, will lead to a professional contract. First professional contracts are generally signed once the players reach the age of 17. This group of youngsters usually comprises a mix of players who have come through the ranks from Hale End along with other young prospects from clubs across Europe.
The Scholars come under the care of the U18 coach Kwame Apadu and his staff.
This year we have 11 first year scholars (10 of whom have come from Hale End) and it will be worth noting how they progress over the next few years.
76 Reiss Nelson – the most promising of our U16 players from last year. Reiss is a winger who can also play as attacking midfielder. Reiss is an England U16 international and made the breakthrough into both our U18 and U21 squads last season.
79 Josh Benson – central midfield, impressive in the Arsenal U15s. English, again appeared for the U18 team last season.
80 Emile Smith-Rowe – Left Winger/striker. English U15 international.
82 Joao Virginia – goalkeeper. Joined us from Benfica’s academy last summer and was the youngest member of Portugal’s Olympic squad this summer (although didn’t play any games). He helped Arsenal to victory in the U17 ABN AMRO Future Cup last season making three penalty saves in the shoot-out victory against Anderlecht in the final.
Also we have…
- Daniel Ballard – Defender
- Dominic Thompson – Full Back
- Jay Beckford – Winger transferred into our Hale End academy from Leyton Orient 2014
- Joseph Olowu – Defender
- Nathan Tormey – Winger who made his breakthrough into the U18 squad last season
- Robbie Burton – Central Midfielder and Welsh youth international
- Toby Omole – Centre Back/Defensive Midfielder of Nigerian Descent
3 – Young Professionals and Academy Graduates
These are the group of players age 17 plus who have signed professional contracts and will form the bulk of the U18, U19 and U23 squads as they look to force themselves into first team squads either with Arsenal or elsewhere.
Notable in this group are two players who transitioned to our first team squad last season – Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
Coming back to the initial question, one measure of success is how many players the system puts into our first team squad. Currently the Arsenal.com list of first team squad has 32 players, including those on loan. Of these we have 10 players who have come through at least one of the three phases of our Youth System (NB: I am only counting players who signed at the age of 17 or younger) :-
- Emiliano Martinez – GK (joined as a 17 year old in 2010),
- Kieran Gibbs – LB (joined as a 15 year old in 2004)
- Hector Bellerin – RB (joined as a scholar in 2011)
- Jack Wilshere – Mid (joined the Hale End Academy aged 8)
- Jeff Reine-Adelaide – Mid (joined as a 17 year old in summer 2015 from Lens)
- Francis Coquelin – Mid (joined as a 17 year old from Laval)
- Theo Walcott – Attack – (joined as a 16 year old from Southampton)
- Alex Iwobi – Attack (joined Hale End academy age 7)
- Chuba Akpom – Attack (joined Hale End Academy aged 6)
- Wojciech Szczesny – GK (joined age 16 from Legia Warsaw)
Plus one we sold – Serge Gnabry – Attack (joined as a 16 year old from VfB Stuttgart in 2011)
That’s quite a number, probably larger than many of you would think and would indicate that on one level at least the Youth System is working.
Perhaps a more pertinent question would be, is it working as well as it should do?
I’ll try to answer this in the next article. Meanwhile we have the The Untold Preview of the Under 18, Under 19, and Under 21 squads. in these articles…
- Part one – Overview and summary
- Part two – Goalkeepers and defenders
- Part three – Midfield
- Part four – Attackers
The first ever and last pre-war Arsenal League match
2 September 1893: Woolwich Arsenal 2 Newcastle Utd 2. This was the first ever league match of the club with the goals coming from Shaw and Elliott. Also see this report And the original reports in the press.
2 September 1939: Arsenal 5 Sunderland 2 (Dark 4, Drury). This was the final match before World War II, the season then being abandoned after 3 games. The crowd was 17,141. A barrage balloon rose from behind the ground at the final whistle.
- Back to the Atlantic League: how proposals are afoot radically to change the face of English football
- Arsenal’s 25 man squad – The Final List (at least until January)
- Total transfer expenditure last summer v this summer and what it means for the clubs involved