How, contrary to reports, Arsenal are giving a vast array of youngsters a chance in league football.

By Tony Attwood

Newspapermen often like to confuse ideas.  For example if a football manager speaks out of turn (at least “speaks out of turn” in the mind of a journalist) then the manager has engaged on a “rant”.  Call a journalist an ostrich, and immediately it becomes a rant.   But if a journalist says a club has been humiliated that is an “article”.

But of course the confusion doesn’t stop there.  To give another example, the issue of bringing young players through is one that is exercising journalists, but is constantly confused with the issue of bringing through England players.

England players struggle for the simple reason that we don’t have enough coaches at the highest level – something we’ve noted a number of times over the years.  But the issue of bringing through young players in general is quite different.

As an example of how confusing this can be consider the article Oven-ready players deny room for grow-your-own talent to flourish by Richard Williams in the Guardian.

I read it expecting to see what the writer had to say about the way Arsenal have brought through young players of late.   But in fact the only mention of Arsenal in the article comes as the writer discusses the introduction of young players into matches played by top four clubs.  He says

This season the four clubs have between them given two players league debuts – but the pair in question, Loftus-Cheek and Arsenal’s 17-year-old midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles, received no more than one minute’s playing time apiece on the single occasion each was summoned from the bench.

But it proved to be very easy to build up a list of Arsenal players who have had some decent experience on the pitch – and without including Jon Toral who had an article to himself last time, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

And I am certain I have missed out quite a few other players from this list (perhaps you could fill in the gaps).

Player Age Games Goals Loan
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 21 114 12
Calum Chambers 20 36 1
Yaya Sanogo 22 20 1 Crystal Palace
Damián Martínez 22 8 0 Rotherham United
Serge Gnabry 19 19 1
Joel Campbell 22 10 0 Villarreal
Ryo Miyaichi 22 7 0 F.C. Twente
Francis Coquelin 23 68 0
Gedion Zelalem 18 2 0
Chuba Akpom 19 9 0 Nottingham Forest
Héctor Bellerín 20 23 2
Isaac Hayden 20 2 0

Figures from Wikipedia

That is a fair old list, and it represents a range of players who are registered to Arsenal who are getting some sort of experience in clubs as part of their development.

It doesn’t take account of their nationality however, nor which team they are playing for – but in regards to this issue, such things hardly seem to matter.  Arsenal, either through Arsenal or through other clubs, gives experience and games to young players.

And if we want to look at older players who have been developed and given the chance over time we would add Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Jenkinson.  What’s more if we are spreading the net a little wider, Benik Afobe would be in the list, as he was developed by Arsenal before going on loan and then ending up at Wolverhampton.

In short, the whole notion of blaming the clubs for not developing players properly is nonsense.  It is indeed going on wholesale – at least at Arsenal.

In fact, looking at the list I begin to wonder just how many players we are expected to develop at any one time.

Anniversaries today…

  • 2 May 1990: Brian Marwood’s last game. Following the arrival of Anders Limpar it was made clear Brian would no longer be first choice, and he transferred to Sheffield Utd for £350,000 in the following September.
  • 2 May 1992: Last game for David Rocastle. He was then sold on to Leeds Utd who at the time were Champions, for £2m; their most expensive signing.  Anders Limpar later revealed that Rocastle was distressed about the move and the way that Graham handled it.

Untold Arsenal



8 Replies to “How, contrary to reports, Arsenal are giving a vast array of youngsters a chance in league football.”

  1. Tony,
    The obvious addition to your list is Benik Afobe, he was on our books at the start of the year before joining Wolves in the January window. 32 goals this year I believe at Div 1 and Championship level. I’d be somewhat surprised if he isn’t in the Premier League next year or the one after at the very latest.

  2. I wonder if there is a buy-back clause for Afobe, such as there was for Vela. Would be surprised if Arsenal let him completely go after the season he has had. Although in saying that, we do already have a very large number of great attacking options.

  3. Even if Arsenal eventually play 11 home-grown players in a competitive match in the near future, I’m fully expecting the media backlashing with the non-English players crap. I don’t think AW will go any better than that because he is not a racist like the media is. He is just a talent magnet like a proper football manager should be. I can guarantee that most English players at the moment idolize and patterned their game to great foreign players than English players. I’m not against the English but their arrogance and bias towards anyone else. I apologize to the English reader if you are offended. Tony, I hope you understand.

  4. Arsenal developing home grown players on one hand developing youngsters and look at chelsea they dont have a single homegrown player in there first 11.

    And still the media loves the specialist in blaming.


  5. Our record with youngsters speaks for itself, even if they do not all end up at Arsenal. I do worry though at the current U19s. We seem to have stopped buying and i hope it is only because players are not available rather than a shift in policies.

    Michael, even if Arsenal was to win CL, PL, FA and that other cup(Carling?) plus CS in one season they would probably still find something bad to say about Arsenal.

  6. I think it is a bit of an issue, but only really at Chelsea and Man City, and it certainly isn’t the thing holding back England, as you rightly say. Man U gave their youngsters a chance, and they sucked, Liverpool are also giving youth a chance (I always thought Flanagan could have been good, what have they done with him?), and of course you’ve illuminated what we’re doing.

    So, I don’t think the journo was wrong to point it out, but maybe could have been a little more explicit in which clubs are doing what about it.

  7. I think if more English lads were willing to go overseas to play then they would be developed. For example there are lots of Brazilians and Africans playing football in Thailand. I would think there are lots of English lads that could play professionally in Thailand, or other countries but won’t even think about it. This has two long term results. English football is isolated from other styles of football and from other ways of thinking about football. And it means the lower leagues of English football are clogged up with English players who are all average to good. But moving to another culture is growth producing in many ways and players who have played in several countries are often better for the diversity of conditions they have faced.

    When the MLS started very few English players would even consider it so they stayed in England facing predictable challenges and did not grow. At the start of the MLS a good English play might possibly have been a star in the MLS. This is not the case now as the MLS has developed.

    Football is played with the brain as much as with the feet. So if the brain is shuttered by a mono-cultural upbringing then it affects how the player is thinking. So cross-cultural experiences for a football player help them think with more adaptability and out-side-the-box. So if more English lads were willing to go play football in other countries it would help the English national team in the long run.

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