What has happened to the Arsenal Academy?

By Tony Attwood

Last season our academy teams seemed to do exceptionally poorly, compared with the sorts of results we have been used to.   The central cause was that the vast majority of the under 21 squad were let go during the summer of 2013.

There were of course many different reasons, and Arsenal didn’t let anything on, but one can only presume that the forthcoming departure of Liam Brady and the fact that Arsenal were no longer so dependent on youngsters coming through as had been the case for years, had something to do with it.

What was also noticeable was that certain players actually turned down deals – perhaps fearing the uncertainty of the total overhaul of Arsenal’s youth system.  There were even adverts for people to join the Academy System, including one for Youth Academy Head of Education & Welfare.  OK, that is not someone training the players but it shows how big the turnover was.

The actual array of academy staff is huge however.  Here’s the list, and I’ve noted the men that I believe have come in this summer, and a couple of others whose specific job I know.  If you have more information please do help out.

  • Andries Jonker – head of the academy
  • Carl Laraman – assistant manager to the under 21 side
  • Steve Gatting – head coach of under 21s
  • Frans de Kat – arrived with Jonker, job unspecified
  • Tony Roberts – academy goalkeeper coach
  • Jan van Loon – arrived with Jonker, job unspecified
  • Kwame Ampadu –
  • James Thorne
  • Luke Hobbs
  • Steve Leonard
  • Lee Smelt
  • Mark Curtis
  • Alastair Thrush
  • Dennis Rockall
  • Ryan Garry
  • Greg Lincoln
  • Steve Morrow
  • Des Ryan
  • Matt Henley


My guess (and it is no more than that) is that the uncertainty around the academy which is inevitable when the head man leaves and the whole ethos of the club in terms of cash changes, meant that the previous regime did not get rid of as many players as they might have done, in order to let the new regime see what was what.

But there were some new arrivals too – including Dan Crowley – so we hand’t abandoned the Academy totally!

Anyway, whatever happened, and although it is early days, we now seem back on track – Bellerin and Hayden are looking ready to step up, and there are hopes for Galindo and Chuba Akpom.  We also have five academy players out on loan, and although that can mean a prelude to transfer, it doesn’t always.  So Olsson, Toral, Afobe, Lipman and Wellington might still figure in the plans.

Meanwhile Martinez and Zelalem have joined Gnabry in the big time.

On the pitch things have been good thus far – although of course it is all very early at this stage.  Arsenal under 21s have played three, won two and drawn one and sit top of the league.  In the under 18s league Arsenal have played three won two and lost one, and again are top of the league.  All very different from last season when we came 14th out of 22 in the under 21s and 9th out of 11 in the under 18s.

I don’t think there is an under 21s Champions League this season, but instead there is a separate competition, which Arsenal didn’t join – reflecting perhaps last season’s results, and Arsene Wenger’s feeling that younger players need fewer games but more practice.

The team for our last under 21 game (a 4-2 win over West Brom) was

Diaby (substituted at half time)
Crowley (sub on 77 mins) (Goal)
Akpom (3 goals)


Maitland-Niles sub for Akpom
Zelalem sub for Diaby

 These games allow the inclusion of older players – hence the inclusion of Diaby for a run out, and the chance for players like Joel Campbell to get match time.  Akpom, still only 18, and having played for Brentford and Coventry, is still there knocking goals in, and must be included for another run out with the first team – presumably against Southampton in the league cup.

I still haven’t included everyone though, because Andrew’s review of Arsenal’s squad for the coming season added quite a few other names to the list.  Here are all the players with squad numbers beyond Francis Coquelin (34) who has already appeared on the bench several times for the first team.

Gedion Zelalem 35 Germany Mid U21
Semi Ajayi 37 Nigeria CB U21
Chuba Akpom 38 England For U21
Hector Bellerin 39 Spain RB U21
Samuel Galindo 41 Bolivia Mid U21
Isaac Hayden 42 England Def U21
Ryan Huddart 43 England GK U21
Deyan Iliev 44 Macedonia/Bulgaria GK U21
Alex Iwobi 45 England For U21
Jack Jebb 46 England Mid U21
Glen Kamara 47 Finland Mid U21
Matt Macey 49 England GK U21
Tafari Moore 52 England RB U21
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill 54 England RB U21
Julio Pleguezelo 55 Spain CB U21
Josh Vickers 57 England GK U21
Dan Crowley 62 England Mid U21

So early signs are the Academy just had a hiccup last year and is now up and running once again.

Next up is a match at Villa Park, on 11 September at 7pm.  Might well be worth a look.


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15 Replies to “What has happened to the Arsenal Academy?”

  1. The Dutch have an excellent reputation for youth development.

    Arsenal Academy is now being guided by experienced Dutch coaches;seems like a very progressive step.

    Well done yet again to the club management.

  2. There are no hopes for Galindo – he couldn’t even get games when loaned back to his home country last year.

  3. Remember Ryo is on loan as well.he spent almost his entire time injured while at ARSENAL so a dramatic change in form and progression may just happen yet.

  4. The Academy….now there’s a subject. Rumours abound of spats, and the threat of losing elite status. Have no idea what is or isn’t true…….but does seem like things stalled a bit, a new man came in, all I can say, I wish him well, youth development is so important to our club, and manager

  5. Ryo’s missed the boat I’m afraid. Too many injuries at a critical stage of his development (a la Frimpong).

    Galindo and Wellington have no hope at all now.

    U21s should be winning every week as they are in Div 2! Have to get out of there ASAP as very damaging to their development playing at an inferior level.

  6. The academy was not quite up to expectations last year re results, but hopefully the development of young talent continued.

    With the new coaching staff now in place lets expect an all round improvement this season.

    I particularly like what I have seen of Bellerin and Akpom, both showed up really well in the Emirates Cup. I have not seen Crowley or Hayden play much, but Crowley seems to have started well this season and Hayden has a possible opportunity to play for the first team in the cups – if he can be consistent.

  7. The results that count are not winning competitions per se but rather whether players are developed and make it into the 1st team. The jury is out on that, methinks.

  8. Professional football today is more big business than a sporting concern and for that reason the nurturing of youngsters in an Academy takes far too long for the backroom accountants and the like.
    Success is required without unnecessary delay and the signing of readymade players is now the order of the day.
    Occasionally, from the meagre background, a bright spark will emerge but he will be the exception rather than the rule.
    The old Arsenal motto about victory being achieved through harmony is only partially true today. Something should be added about “buying success”, unfortunately.

  9. One does wonder the decrepit state of the youth and first teamers at Manchester utd, the always media darlings trying to spend their way out of trouble, ironically coincides with the release of the class of 92 DVD!

  10. For all things about Youth and the Academy, I follow Jeorge Bird at arsenalyouth.wordpress.com. Very comprehensive, in my opinion. I used to follow Jamie Sanderson too, but he seems to be below my radar at the moment.

    Due to the fact that Arsenal has qualified for the Champions League, the Arsenal Youth will also participate in this coming season’s UEFA Youth League, meeting the same clubs’ youth team as the Seniors’ in the group stage. I believe this tournament, open only to those born in 1996 or later, will be a good barometer of where our youth players stand in their development.

    Already this season, under new Dutch leadership, the Youth teams are showing some positives. Good luck to them and may we see more graduates into our Senior team in the years to come!

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