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What on earth has gone wrong with the youth team?

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by Tony Attwood

The Premier Academy League Table: don’t look at it unless you are feeling strong.   We are sixth in the league out of ten, with a goal difference of minus 4.  Won six, drawn two, lost seven.   The last three games were a 0-3 defeat against West Ham, a 1-4 home defeat to Palace and a 0-3 against Charlton.

And in the midst of this, our old pal Mr Wenger said that he could see about five players in the youth set up who could make it big time with Arsenal.

So what’s going on?

You begin to get a bit of a clue when you look at the Youth Cup, in which we beat Darlington 6-1 in the last round.  The team was

Emilio Martinez

Daniel Boateng, George Brislen-Hall, Sead Hajrovic, Ignasi Miquel

Oguzhan Ozyakup, Kyle Ebecilio, Nico Yennaris

Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke   Nigel Neita

Compare and contrast with the team that played and lost their game against Charlton.

Emilio Martinez

Martin Angha, Elton Monteiro,  Steven Smith, Samir Bihmoutine,

Kyle Ebecilio, James Edge  Jordan Wynter,

Josh Rees, Jeffrey Monakana    Nigel Neita,

What has happened here is that there are only four regulars from the youth team in the cup game – the rest are Reserves, plus one youth player who is so far ahead of the game he is actually out on loan with Huddersfield.

Benik Afobe was given permission by Huddersfield to return for this game.   Afobe was one of the main attractions last season as the Youth Team won the Premier Academy League for the second year running  He scored 20 goals in 25 games, including three in the play off final.  He’s been at Arsenal nine years, and signed a professional contract last year and played for the title winning England team in the Under-17s European Championships last summer.

So let me just make this point.  Here is a player, qualified to play in the youth league, who has already moved up to the reserves and through them into playing for a League One team (he’s started seven times for Huddersfield, plus come on twice as a sub and has knocked in three goals – all since November 2 when the loan started.  He comes home on Jan 8).   Huddersfield (as I write this on Boxing Day morning) are third in the league and recently beat the league leaders Brighton.

This player, this League One player, is actually a member of our youth team squad.   He’s the shining star, but lurking behind him are a bunch of reserve players all of whom are also of such an age that they can drop back into the youth team for the cup games.

Take Chuks Aneke as another example.   He moved into the reserve team last season, and has also played for the England under 17s.

What this shows is that the production line that we have spoken about for so long is now well and truly running.  In fact it is running so fast that it is impossible to hold players back in the youth team.   That might be the right league for them when it comes to age, but they are simply too good for this league, and so have to move up to the reserves, or even the loan squad.

It is tough on the youth team of course, because their best players are being moved up so fast so that the players don’t become stale or irritated by it all being too easy for them.   And although the youth league table looks depressing at the moment compared to the normal high standards, all is not lost – it is something of a warped table because the club at the foot of the table is doing so badly.

There is also the problem of the various rules prohibiting the recruitment of players from  outside the local area in their youth days.   But on the positive side, it also shows that the fast track approach that brought us Jack Wilshere was not a one off.  There is a whole raft of players making their way up quickly.

It is also interesting to contrast this four tier approach (first team 25, on loan squad – usually around 15), reserve squad, youth squad, with that adopted by the noisy neighbours (not Leyton, the other lot).   Arry came in and abolished the reserve team because it did not have this progression of youngsters in it.  As I have mentioned before, I watched Bentley and a host of fellows of a similar ilk play our reserves side made up of the usual 16, 17 and 18 year olds.   Such a situation was of course hardly good for morale among the Lesser Tinies, and ever since then Arry has used his son as a mouthpiece, spouting off about how pointless the reserve league is since no one will ever put in a tackle etc etc.

In fact a revolution is going on, which is leaving the little clubs like our neighbours behind – a revolution that involves finding 17 and 18 year olds who can play for the first team.

But it is a revolution that also has a problem.  As the production line of players who joined the club at nine rolls on and on, we will quickly have a situation in which the reserves will be full of 16 year olds, and there will be another bunch of quality players taking us back to the top of the youth league.

What then?   The number of players we can put out on loan is limitless, but we also need another Arsenal team as a place for our young stars to play.   This can only be a team playing in League One or maybe Scotland’s second division, or something like that – as is done in Germany and Spain.   But of course we’re governed by people whose ability to look forwards without looking back is legendary.   However there is nothing that I know about in the rules that says we can’t have a second youth team.   (If we get one, remember you read it here first.  If we don’t, well, it was Boxing Day, and last night was rather late etc etc, and I will deny ever thinking of it.)

Meanwhile Kyle Bartley, Pedro Botelho, Francis Coquelin, Tom Cruise, Henri Lansbury, and Sanchez Watt are all out on loan, and lurking elsewhere is the likes of Gilles Sunu.  Then there’s Ryo Miyaichi who has just been signed from Japan.  True Nordveit has gone, having impressed naive viewers like me (just shows what I know) but the word on the Young Guns blog is that we don’t need him because of the genius that is Bartley.  And we are still awaiting a decision on Wellington Silva’s appeal.

Maybe its not quite a disaster after all.

Feeling bored on Boxing Day?  Maybe no one gave you Making the Arsenal

Feeling bored on Boxing Day.   The biggest puzzle on the Arsenal blogs – the Untold Index

Feeling bored on Boxing Day.  What’s the matter with you?

24 comments to What on earth has gone wrong with the youth team?

  • I am not following much the youth team, although I am reading news and looking for results, I don’t really think it is a disaster either. Youth players needs to work on together, sometimes the whole team feel like they players together for years, sometimes not, it is hapenning right now with te youth side but that doesn’t mean that they are doomed. I surely hope that they ll go up in the table but even then, I won’t see any problems if they do not achieve anything this eason.

    Keep up the good post UA

    Greg

  • Marc

    The simple answer is an “Arsenal B” team. This should be allowed to play in the lower leagues and progress up to the Championship should they be good enough. This enforced with a combination of the new financial rules and teams realising that they can’t go on making huge losses forever will see other clubs begin forced to produce homegrown talent.

    Aside clubs like Man City, Bolton, Blackburn, Chelsea etc finding their own natural level whats the problem?

  • bc

    Or why not see if “arsenal B” could apply to other countries league’s I am sure scotland, france, belgium or even holland would take us, or perhaps a scandinavian leaggue

  • walter

    I think it would not only benefit Arsenal but maybe also would benefit the lower leagues also if there would be an Arsenal B or Man Utd B playing in league one.
    In many countries the reserves play in the regular leagues with the only rule that is saying that the A team cannot be in the same league as the B team. So a Leeds B team playing in league one would go down when the Leeds A team went down the leagues some 10 years ago. It works like that in many countries.

    I also could imagine that a game in league one between Arsenal and United could attrack some big crowds. So it could bring in extra money to the clubs at the end of the day.

    Another option could be setting up a team in another country (I would advice Belgium for some reason and I do admit it would be with some self intrest… 😉 ) I even could give the name of a team (again some self interest…)

  • only1

    HOHOHO!!! I

    Yet another attempt by AAA to send in a piece which has nothing to do with the article. How thick do you have to be not to get the message? Comment on the article, not your own agenda.

  • IndianGunner

    Tony,

    Could you please let me know the source where it states that Havard is sold(I believe you mean that when you say he is gone)
    I checked Arsenal website and i couldn’t find any news there.
    Also few days ago i saw in wiki stating his club as Borussia Mönchengladbach but today it’s showing as Arsenal reserves
    I was not sure if he was already sold

  • Wrenny

    @IndianGunner

    This link should explain:
    http://younggunsblog.co.uk/2010/12/nordtveit-in-talks-with-monchengladbach/

    Havard’s contract is up in July and it seems as if he’s rejected the extension that Arsenal put on the table, so he’s now looking for another club.

    None of this is official though so things might always change. There were rumours about Szczesny leaving after his contract negotiations appeared to stall but he signed his bumper five year contract soon after.

  • Marc

    Walter – I agree. When you hear about so many clubs struggling to survive having Arsenal’s financial common sense and fan base behind them could help save club’s going to the wall. You could even tie in Arsenal Season ticket sales with 10 games for the “B” team to help encourage crowds. It wouldn’t work with a foreign league but club’s already sign deals to help with player development abroad anyway. Having more players exposed to high quality coaching cannot be bad thing.

  • Yes it was Young guns – they are normally totally accurate on such matters.

    so I took their statement

    Arsenal have accepted an offer from Borussia Mönchengladbach for defender Håvard Nordtveit, Young Guns can reveal. The 19-year-old will now hold talks with the German outfit and is expected to move in the January transfer window.

    as what’s going on. Could be wrong, but normally they are not.

  • Dark Prince

    Doesn’t anyone think its little odd to send players on loan directly from d youth team in between a season??
    The youth team too have a league to win, and if they have so many changes in their team then how would they find stability to win their league??
    Also i think Afobe should had been sent on loan from the start of the season. Not only afobe but everyone who deserves to go out on loan should be sent at d start of the season so that all the concerning parties can hav a team which will remain wit them for the whole season.
    Even the players themselves will take few months to get settled in their new team.

  • critic

    hmm…soon arsenal will be in untold, unheard,unseen crises. Hw is management team gonna choose STAR among stars?what if they let go sum1 who later becomes really good?

    Will we ever get “world beating 11” from such endless supply of talents?

    Only time can tell.

  • Wrenny

    @Dark Prince
    Because the development of the players is more important than winning the Academy League. It would be nice to win it three years in a row, but it makes no sense in holding back the cream of the crop like Afobe, Aneke and Miquel to achieve it. Steve Bould has said so himself – his priority as U18 manager is to produce players for the first team, not winning youth trophies.

    As for sending out Afobe at the beginning of the season, how do we know that A. anybody wanted him then, or B. the Arsenal staff felt he was ready?

    Afobe spent all of last season in the U18s with just a handful of sub appearances for the Reserves. It’s very probable that both Arsenal and Huddersfield wanted him to have a run of Reserve games before making a decision.

  • Wrenny

    DP,

    It’s also worth noting that Afobe is just 17. Most of our young players aren’t sent on their first loan spell until the age of 18, sometimes 19. Why do you feel he should have been loaned out even earlier?

    Also, this is Afobe’s first loan. And a player’s first loan is often short (sometimes just 28 days long) with the option to extend it should everything go well. A season long loan right off the bat was never an option for Afobe.

  • GoonerGaz

    Lets hope we get some good defenders coming through as the ones we have currently are not of a level needed to win the premier league with the exception of Sagna and possibly Vermaelen.Hopefully Wenger saying he will not buy any in Jan is kidology.If its not its merely poor judgement.

  • Dark Prince

    @Wrenny- Its very encouraging to see Steve Bould giving more importance to players than winning the trophy. I think if any player has exceptional talent like Afobe then he shud go for a loan at d start of the season. Infact he n Aneke shud hav been loaned to d same club at d start of the season, then they wud hav made a huge progress, possibly even used in the carling cup matches of next season.

  • Wembley79

    @Dark Prince

    why do you have to mangle the English language so much? Is it really that difficult to write “the” instead of “d”, “have” instead of “hav”, “and” instead of “n”, “would” instead of “wud” etc. You obviously can spell these words, so I can only assume that it is not ignorance, but laziness. It’s a shame, because although your comments are often cogent, using txt speak makes them appear to be the work of an illiterate juvenile.

  • Dark Prince

    Wembley79- does it matter how is write my comments?? d only thing that matter is whether u’re able to read it n understand what i’ve written….

  • Adam

    Tough one this as i beleive football to be a sport of location and if Arsenal can enter a 2nd or even a 3rd team into the pro pyramid, what chance do the smaller teams of the smaller towns and cities of England stand. how do they hold onto a promising youngster and build a team and progress up the pyramid. what would you say to the teams that lose there professional status when you promote all the prem reserve sides above them without them earning entry. This to me smacks of elitism, yes Arsenal have a right to educate and expand as a club but not at the expense of the smaller clubs more should be done to help the growth of the smaller clubs rather than the larger sides hoarding players.

  • Wembley79

    @Dark Prince

    To be honest, I shall give your comments a miss – it is too much effort having to re-translate them from txt to English – they may be occasionally cogent, but they aren’t worth the extra effort

  • Dark Prince

    @Wembley79- thx (thankyou) 🙂 n btw, pls dont mangle d english language urself, its not ‘txt’, it shud be ‘text’!! 😛

  • Wembley79

    The colloquialism is “txt” – if I were using the correct form, I would use “text”.

    😀

  • Alex

    They are only 5 points back. Worry when they are 15 points away from first place. They have 12 games to make up those points. They won’t be in 6th place at the end of the year.

  • GoonerTerry

    Come on DP you know that Wembley is right! I have the same problem with you – but as a fan of yours I usually don’t complain because I don’t want to appear to be siding with the “anti” DP crowd…@ Wembley: This is a generational thing…my bet is that my friend DP is a young Gooner so I’d like us to forgive him because he’s a star in the making (0;

  • GoonerTerry

    BTW Tony great piece. Apart from Untold my second favorite site is Young Guns. I totally agree with your conclusions – we do need another outlet for our production line…A few years ago we made a partnership deal with Beveren (but that was primarily to create a channel to import young African players)..That arrangement was deemed illegal by the Belgian authorities..but surely an arrangement where we actually “out source” our youth development set up would be acceptable. Obviously the Arsenal would have to staff the set up to ensure that our quality is maintained…this would be essential because I don’t think at this rate it is sustainable – we are producing far too many players to absorb into our first team squad!