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.
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.
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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.
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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