Arsenal have won the Premier Academy League – the first team ever to retain the title. What’s more they have secured their position as the most successful youth team club of all time.
What’s more, Arsenal won the title without using their main players from last year. Jay Emmanuel Thomas, for example, who could have played, was left on the bench. Others from last year such as Jack Wilshire, didn’t even feature.
What I will try and do here is explain how the competition works, and review what has happened.
First, the team. My guess is that you may not know too many of these guys, except Benik Afobe – who made it into the Golden 30 list (which you can still reach via the home page of this site.)
- James Shea
- Nico Yennaris (c)
- Cedric Evina
- Daniel Boateng
- Ignasi Miquel
- Emmanuel Frimpong
- Oguzhan Ozyakup
- Chuks Aneke
- Conor Henderson
- Benik Afobe
- Luke Freeman
Substitutes (not used)
- Sean McDermott
- Kyle Bartley
- Jernade Meade
- Roarie Deacon
- Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Now how it all works.
The league was started as the FA Premier Youth League in 1997, with the aim of being a unified top level of youth football.
In the very first season Arsenal beat the Very Tiny Totts 2-1 on aggregate in the play off final.
After the FA Academy system came in, the competition became the FA Premier Academy League and divided into Under-19 and Under-17 sections, and 32 teams played in four sections of eight each.
After several other changes the league was finally changed to the current format in 2004/05 as an Under-18 competition with up to 3 Under-19 outfield players and 1 Under-19 goalkeeper allowed per match. There are four groups (A to D).
In 2009-10 season Arsenal were in Group A. All teams played each other in their group twice and also played 10 inter-group fixtures. The four group winners enter the playoffs, as straight knock out games. Arsenal won their semi-final knock out against Man U (reported here the other day) and have now won the final against Nottm F.
Benik Afobe scored a hat-trick and was involved in the other goals. Luke Freeman got a penalty.
Arsenal now have three under 18 titles, plus one under 19 title and one under 17 title. The nearest rival is West Ham who have two under 17 titles, but nothing else.
To complete the record and to be exact, as only Untold Arsenal knows how, the record of the Very Tiny Totts is under 17 titles 0, under 18 titles 0, under 19 titles, well, err, sort of, 0. At least they are very consistent.
Just a final point – the reason that few teams manage to keep going and win titles consecutively in these leagues is simply because players of merit move up quickly. Jay Emmanuel Thomas is an example – he, along with many others from last season, could still have played for this team, but he was out on loan through this season.
In effect, and this is the point I want to make here, what we have done is produced two giant youth teams. The double winners of last year, and the champions of this year. Two different teams!
When people start saying, the Youth Project has failed, just point out this stunning, and amazing achievement. And if they say that Chelsea have a new successful youth project, you might like to point out that although they did win the youth cup this year, they are 15 points behind Arsenal in the youth league. And the fact that the last Chelsea youth player to make it to the first team was John Terry.
I think every serious Arsenal supporter should be extremely proud.
(c) Tony Attwood 2010
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