By Tony Attwood
Every now and then a story arises that Arsenal are looking to build a new stadium. The idea is that it could be used for the home matches of Arsenal Ladies, Arsenal Ladies reserves, and Arsenal men’s under 21 and under 18 cup and league games.
The story that has circulated is that there was a vision of such a stadium, but local planning permission could not be attained. However I’ve heard that there is now a resurrection of the plan and it is being taken seriously. I can’t confirm it, but the source was a good one.
At present Arsenal has its Training Centre at London Colney in Hertfordshire. Although it contains ten pitches, an indoor pitch, and all the medical and rehab facilities, it doesn’t include a stadium that can be used for matches with a crowd present.
This was the facility that was built after Arsène Wenger was appointed manager and opened in October 1999. The common perception is that it was paid for from the £24m profit gained from the sale of Nic Anelka and obviously the club wanted to limit its expenses. So training facilities it has, but no stadium.
It was also used by the England team until they got their own new training centre in 2012.
As a result of the lack of facilities for supporters to see games, Arsenal have played some of their under 21 matches at Meadow Park, Boreham Wood, some behind closed doors, and (because the rules insist that they must) three at the Emirates each season.
The problem with the Emirates game is that the crowd is small – only 2000 or so for most games. The problem with the Boreham Wood ground is that the quality of the pitch is not always that which we might like to see.
As we know there was an overhaul of the under 21 and under 18 approach in 2012 and as part of the new rules in the Professional Development League 1 meaning the under 21 team could have three over age outfield players – adding to the need for a quality pitch, especially when bringing a player back after a long period out of the game.
In addition we first had the Next Gen Series and most recently (continuing this season) the Uefa Youth League. An interesting regulation for this competition (article 21) says that for clubs playing in the Champions League and Youth League, the home club must ensure that the match venue is not located more than a 45-minute bus drive from the corresponding UEFA Champions League match venue.
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Arsenal’s standing in the two development leagues has been hindered a little by the way in which Arsenal organise its team.
Obviously at the top are the two squads of 25 for the Champions League and Premier League. But between these squads and the under 21 squad are the loan players.
This list is currently made up of 12 players.
- Wojciech Szczesny, AS Roma
- Carl Jenkinson, West Ham United
- Yaya Sanogo, Ajax
- Serge Gnabry, West Bromwich Albion
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Ipswich Town
- Isaac Hayden, Hull City
- Chuba Akpom, Hull City
- Emiliano Martinez, Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Daniel Crowley, Barnsley
- Jon Toral, Birmingham City
- Wellington Silva, Bolton Wanderers
- Gedion Zelalem, Rangers
Most of these players could play for the under 21 team, but are getting more competitive experience away from the club. Which means that the under 21 team is often incorporating younger players, and that in turn has a knock on effect on the under 18 squad.
Here is the under 21 table. The goal difference is particularly encouraging.
|2||West Brom U21||4||3||1||0||5||2||3||10|
|4||Aston Villa U21||3||2||1||0||3||1||2||7|
|5||Swansea City U21||3||2||0||1||4||2||2||6|
|12||West Ham U21||3||0||0||3||2||9||-7||0|
And the under 18 league table
|7||Aston Villa U18||5||2||1||2||6||5||1||7|
|11||West Ham U18||5||0||2||3||3||8||-5||2|