- Arsenal has let in one more goal than at this stage last season, and that’s a disaster
- Arsenal continue to make more progress than the rest of the big seven
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By Tony Attwood
Now here is an interesting little fact you might not know and which might be of interest ahead of Wednesday’s Brentford game…. Unlike Arsenal and indeed unlike most of the rest of the Premier League clubs, Brentford don’t have a side playing in either division 1 or division 2 of Premier League 2; the league inhabited by the under 21 sides of the larger clubs in the country. Which is interesting since even the likes of Derby and Stoke City who are not in the Premier League, do have such a side.
It is also interesting (to me if not anyone else) that despite the restructuring of the Premier League 2 so that it now contains 26 clubs (who don’t all play each other in the course of the season, rather like the old Football Combination) Brentford still don’t have a side in that league.
And that is interesting because we would expect several players from Arsenal’s under 21 side to be given a chance in the league cup match against Brentford on Wednesday – if that chance is nothing more than being on the bench (or beach as we used to call it, and which I rather liked, since the physical “bench” has long since vanished, and players now sit in comfy chairs).
There are 26 teams in Premier League 2 which makes it rather odd looking, and indeed it functions without every club playing every other club during the course of the season. In fact if you have an incredibly long memory and are of a certain age, you might just remember that that is exactly how the old Football Combination functioned. That was a league of a similar size and which lasted in various forms from 1915 to 2012. Arsenal was a founder member and won the league multiple times, the last being in 1990.
But enough of that; back to Brentford. Their Academy was closed in 2016, and instead they have Brentford B which is in no league at all and simply plays friendly games. It also exchanges players with FC Midtjlland in Denmark, which like Brentford is also owned by Matthew Benham
Mr Benham is himself of interest as he is a graduate of Oxford (a provincial university of which you may have heard in passing) and the owner of Smartodds, which does statistical research for professional gamblers. He also owns (via Smartodds, I think) the Matchbook betting exchange. This puts Brentford on a similar level to Brighton and Hove Albion in the sense that Brighton is owned and to a large degree financed by a leading figure in the betting industry – in Brighton’s case that being Tony Bloom who went to Manchester University.
This is itself an interesting concept because the ownership of clubs by persons deeply involved in gambling takes the link between professional football and gambling a stage closer, and may be a sign of things to come.
But back to Brentford. Their Academy re-opened in 2022, but the Brentford B concept continued.
All of this is a very different approach from that of Arsenal and most other (if not all other) PL clubs, and it means there is no league table that can be shown relating to how well Brentford’s reserve side is doing.
Arsenal of course are in Premier League 2, and it is expected that a few of the players regularly playing in that league will play along with the likes of Jakub Kiwior, Emile Smith Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Cédric Soares and Reiss Nelson.
Here’s an extract from the PL2 table – showing the top of the table and position of certain Premier League clubs.
|1||Tottenham Hots U21||5||5||0||0||17||1||16||15|
|7||West Ham United U21||5||3||1||1||13||9||4||10|
|8||Brighton & Hove U21||5||3||1||1||11||7||4||10|
|16||Manchester Utd U21||5||1||1||3||20||15||5||4|
|17||Manchester City U21||5||1||1||3||10||13||-3||4|
It is interesting to see how far down the table the Manchester clubs are, with Manchester City clearly having little interest in finding new players by bringing them up through their own under 21 side since they have been shown to be able to spend any amount they wish on senior players without impunity (at least thus far).
Arsenal under 21’s last game was a 2-4 away win against Manchester United. The team was
Sweet, Walters, Monlouis, Sousa,
Ibrahim (Foran, 75), Henry-Francis (Azeez, 46), Gower,
Cozier-Duberry, Sagoe Jr, Edwards
However, given the growth in the prowess of the first-team squad, I am not too sure that we will see anything more of these players than one or two of them on the bench.
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