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July 2021

Who said project youth was dead?

The club that changed football


By Cameron Wolfe.

It is just coming up to 1pm UK time, and so far all that seems to have happened on transfer day is that Nic Bendtner is in Turin to have a medical with Juventus.

So perhaps we will have to look elsewhere for signings… such as the youth project in general and Chuba Akpom in particular.

Now living, as I do,  in North America it’s not easy to watch all of the British games unless it’s the mainstream ones. EPL, CL, Capital one Cup (this year) and the FA cup.

I know Tony had to switch off the Wembley v’s Uxbridge match but I would have been quite happy to sit through and watch those bone crunching tackles.  Perhaps the difference between us is that I was brought up on Scottish football so hoofing the ball as far up the pitch as possible. Then watching twenty grown men running full speed (normally in the rain) in the same direction.

Hacking down anyone standing in their way to get the ball was power for the cause. It was the seventies. I wasn’t a Gooner then – that didn’t come until 1989.

But now with the inception of the New Gen League we have a chance to maybe see (or if not then at least read about) the next bunch of kids that the Academy has coming through.

And all the reviews of the first Next Gen  game against Marseille had Gnarby and Akpom (who scored twice) as the pick of the bunch.

So who is Chuba Akpom?

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First the good news. He’s a Gooner.    I know loyalty has been a topic of conversation recently but here’s a kid who has already clocked up ten years of service with Arsenal already.

He was spotted playing Sunday league at six years old and was duly signed for Arsenal. He’s played at all the different age levels within the club and normally in the teams above his age.   In fact he first played for the Under-18s when he was just 15.

He’s a tall creative and by all accounts very quick. A powerful forward who can play anywhere across the forward line. He’s was a regular in Steve Bould’s youth set-up last season despite still being a schoolboy, making 15 appearances and scoring twice – and all while still only 16 (he’s 17 in October) in the summer.

The forward was given pre-season opportunities against Boreham Wood and Stevenage. In fact Akpom was deployed as the main striker against the League One side, facing perhaps the greatest physical test of his career so far.

He spoke to Arsenal player recently saying, “I think Terry Burton believes in me. He just tells me to go out there, work hard and stick to the things I am good at. It’s just about trying to be penetrative behind the back four, which is all about good movement.

“I just want to try and keep going the way I am now. I would love to get on the bench for the first team, maybe in the Capital One Cup. If not I am just going to try and maintain my place in the reserves.”

It has also been noted that he uses his footballing brain to outsmart his larger opponents

In another recent interview he was asked the question about where he saw his future.  On loan perhaps?   His answer was:  Arsenal’s first team.

At only sixteen he’s a forward at Arsenal who sees his future in the first team at Arsenal. Isn’t that what you want from any young Arsenal player? A young player who’s ambition is to make it all the way in to the first team.  And certainly he’s obviously full of confidence. As every striker should be.

The New Gen League obviously gives the younger players a chance to show what they have at a much higher level than just youth or reserve team football. It gives them a chance to compete against the very best other young talented player around Europe.

And just as Mr Wenger said he would be watching each match, not just to see our players but also to see what the other clubs have up their sleeves, I’m sure they’ll be a lot of top managers and scouts attending these games throughout Europe.

Speaking about New Gen Mr Wenger said, “People don’t realise that the most important thing is to keep in touch with the top level, and the top level in Europe is Next Gen.”

It’s just a pity that some of the sports broadcasters don’t share Arsene’s enthusiasm on the subject of the New Gen League.  Filming Wembley FC is a bit of a laugh, but just a few days later that was a game of much higher quality and skill going on, just down the road.

Chuba has represented his country already at under 17’s level. Playing thirteen games and scoring five goals. Not bad considering he’s still punching above his weight, and while he was anxiously awaiting his GCSE results.

Who said project youth was dead?


19 comments to Who said project youth was dead?

  • Neal

    New Gen, Next Gen, New Gen, Next Gen…

  • Sam

    I think the current crop of players playing the u21 league and the next gen have quite a few promising kids.
    Players like Gnarby,Akpom , Ollson,Bellerin look class.A little bit of nurturing and full dedication from their side might see them nearthe 1st team very soon.

    PS: I think Gnarby’s first touch and overall technical levels are already better than Walcott.

  • Realistic Gooner

    Arsenal are great at youth development.
    Its not players who are 16 who are the problem- hope he does remain a gooner when he is offered thousands more per week to play for someone else.

  • Looking at the transfers we seem to have waved goodbye to a second player today – Park has gone to Celta Vigo.

  • Mjc

    I was at the Marseilles match, and I thought Yennaris and Angha looked very capable of stepping up to the first team. Akron and Olsson look a couple of years away, though they are both very promising.

  • Mjc

    Akron=Akpom (bloody predictive text)

  • Jacobite Gunner

    Not me lol

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Who’s project youth, Wenger or Brady? I see Wenger’s part as being a crushing disappointment, whereas Brady’s is going from strength to strength.
    Now all we need to do is strap the Barca kids to a chair, prop open their eyes, inject them with serum TH14 and make them watch El Classicos for hours on end…

  • Hakeem

    That is the kind of player we need.

  • Adam

    I have always stated that a club who purchases a player is openly admitting to a deficiency in their team and youth training programme. Arsenal have academy status and have done for a while, And whilst I will admit that transfering players is a part of the game now, It would be even more beneficial to Arsenal to train their own stars of the future.
    A player must be a bit special to be playing so far above his age group.
    It is a wonderful side effect of supporting The Arsenal, There is always hope. Must be horrible to be a Stoke fan.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Youth,reserve and Academy development is ALWAYS a long term investment and one of the key principles Wenger and AFC have respected since he arrived in 1996. Cameron rightly points out that the Youth Project is alive and well but is now more appropriately combined with transferring in experienced players.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice ,Cameron , do wish this team stays and matures together
    and become the core for a future Arsenal 1st team .
    Up the Gunners !

  • Cameron Wolfe

    The problem or at least the conundrum about youth is. You just never know who’ll make it at the top level. But you have to keep on trying or we can always just give up like the Spuds. You need youth to come through and challenge for places at the highest club level. The first team ultimately.
    If not we’ll just be like the Spuds, Chelsea or Man. City.
    You only have to look back to the nineties when it did click for Man.U. who’s youth team from 1992 went on to be the back bone of their first team.(David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville)
    Playing together from an early age and more importantly progressing together is key.

    @Woolwich Peripatetic

    I don’t think Arsene’s youth project has failed.It’s still continuing today. Whether it’s through Liam Brady or whoever. Arsene has the last say on all footballing activities at the Club.
    It’s Arsenal’s youth project started by Arsene.
    Long may it continue.

  • Alan

    If you haven’t done so yet, you should check out the highlights of Arsenal Reserves v Blackburn on Arsenal TV. Chucks Aneke showed what vision he has. He is also a player with vast potential. In the next 2 or 3 years we could have Yennaris, Aneke, Afobe, Campbell, Miquel, Akpom, Gnabry, Eisfeld, Ollson, Martinez, Bellerin and Toral all knocking on the first team door. Not forgetting we already have Wilshere, the Ox, Le Coq, Gibbs, Jenkinson and Frimpong doing so now.

  • Goona Gal

    @ Cameron – nice article. Chuba is a bit of a revelation to me, I heard good things but did’nt think he would be as good as he is. The reserves is a big leap forward for him and he has taken it in his stride.

    The league cup game against Coventry must be an exciting prospect for many as there are a few who could get a chance and I would love to see Eisfeld, Yennaris & Aneke get the nod. Having so many good youth players helps players raise their game in an iron sharpening iron sort of way and bodes well for the future.

  • Ong Bing

    Good post Cameron. Terima kasih.

    I hope Akpom can make it, and ended in our first team regular XI. During Arsene era, we never have central striker from our academy.

    Yes Bendtner is from our academy, but he came at 16. And he never be first choice.

    Not every year youth academy can produce star, for me, if we can produce 1 star every 2 years is ood enough, is amazing.

    I still believed and supporting youth academy, that was part of football club. Football club without youth academy is not football club, no core, no soul, nothing.

  • Northbanker

    I am less enthusiastic about this now than I was. The sale of Kyle Bartley was a real disappointment and after 2 very good loan years together with some promising first team action this summer, I am staggered we did not include him in our squad plans for this season.

  • Lancer

    From arsenal’s own website:

    Supported growing up?