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March 2021

The Arsenal Youth System – Part 2 Comparisons with other clubs

by Andrew Crawshaw

In Part 1 – an Introduction I showed that 10 players out of our 32 man first team squad are products of at least one of the three phases of our Youth Team System.  This has occurred despite our U21 team (as it was up to and including last season) had been playing for several years in the second division of U21 football.

Last Season the top four clubs were Man United, Liverpool, Sunderland and Chelsea.  Let’s look at how many of their first team squads are products of their respective youth systems.

In what follows, to avoid my having to do an inordinate amount of research I am applying the same rules to the number in the Arsenal squad – principally that if a player was signed before they became 18 then they would have spent some time at least in the youth system.

1 – Man United (data from – 41 players listed so the figures may not be directly comparable.  Of these 9 appear to be products of their Youth System

  • Jesse Lingard – Midfield (came through United Academy)
  • Adnan Januzaj – Winger (signed from 2011 as an 16 year old from Anderlecht)
  • Marcus Rashford – Striker (came through United Academy)
  • Timothy Fosu-Mensah – defender (joined from Ajax as a 16 year old in 2014)
  • Sam Johnstone – GK (came through United Academy)
  • Axel Tuanzebe – Defender and captain of the United U18 team last season  (came through United Academy)
  • Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – defender (came through United Academy)
  • Andreas Pereira – Midfielder (Joined from PSV Eindhoven as a 16 year old in 1996)
  • James Wilson – Striker (came through United Academy)

2 – Liverpool (data from – 39 players listed including 7 on loan.  Of these 8 are products of the Anfield Youth System.  They have a ninth in Taiwo Awoniyi a Nigerian player 18 years old, seeking loan spells whilst trying to get work permits.  I believe he joined as a 17 year old and spent last season in Germany with FSV Frankfurt.

  • Andre Wisdom – defender (product of Anfield Academy)
  • Connor Randall – right back (product of Anfield Academy)
  • Sheyi Ojo – winger (joined from MK Dons in 2011 as a 14 year old)
  • Pedro Chirivella – midfield (joined in 2013 from Valencia a 16 year old)
  • Cameron Brannegan – midfielder (product of Anfield Academy)
  • Jon Flanagan – defender (product of Anfield Academy), currently on loan
  • Ryan Fulton – GK ((product of Anfield Academy), currently on loan
  • Ryan Kent – midfield (product of Anfield Academy), currently on loan

3 – Sunderland (data from  27 players listed of whom 4 are products of their Youth System.  In Seb Larsson they also have a former graduate of the Arsenal youth system.  They also have Duncan Watmore who is a United Academy graduate.

  • Jordan Pickford – GK (joined as a 16 year old scholar in 2010)
  • Billy Jones – defender (joined from West Brom in 2014 as a 17 year old)
  • Lynden Gooch – midfield ((joined on a scholarship in 2012 as a 16 year old)
  • Joel Asoro – striker (joined as a 16 year old in 2015)

4 – Chelsea (data from – 26 players listed of whom 5 are products of their youth system.  They also have Cesc Fabregas who is a product of the Arsenal youth system.

  • John Terry – defender (has been at Chelsea since he was 14)
  • Ola Aina – defender (signed for Chelsea Academy as an U11 player)
  • Nathaniel Chalobah – midfielder (at Chelsea Academy since the age of 16)
  • Ruben Loftus-Cheek – midfielder (at Chelsea Academy since the age of 8)
  • Juan Cuadrado – Midfielder (signed from Fiorentina in 2015 as a 17 year old)

So looking at the five clubs including Arsenal we can see the following

Club No of Academy Players in first team squad Percentage of squad No of players in another of the 5 clubs’ squad
Arsenal 10 30.3 2
Man United 9 22.0 1
Liverpool 8 21.1 0
Sunderland 4 14.8 0
Chelsea 5 19.2 0

Before you all have a ‘go’ at me I know that comparing the performance of an U21 team last year with the numbers of former youth team players in a current first team squad is a bit like comparing bananas with grapes and one should be very wary at drawing too much in the way of conclusions.  I was, however, just using the positions of the U21 teams last year as a selection process for the teams to look at in more detail.  I wouldn’t have thought of looking at Sunderland as part of this exercise without that lead.

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Let’s look at the positions the various graduates play in

Team GK Defender Midfield Wing and Attack
Arsenal 2 2 3 3
Man United 1 3 2 3
Liverpool 1 3 2 1
Sunderland 1 1 1 1
Chelsea 0 2 3 0

Arsenal have no Centre Backs who have come through our youth system, indeed they are singularly lacking from our U23 squad as well this year.  Apart from that we have promoted players across the pitch.

United and Liverpool seem to have a good balance across all positions.

Sunderland numbers are low but again across the pitch

Chelsea have two centre backs and three midfielders, no goalkeeper, or attackers

Overall, both numerically and by percentage of squad numbers Arsenal have the largest number of Academy graduates in their squad, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea all have a similar percentage but quite different numbers (due to the very different listed squad size) and Sunderland are significantly lower than the rest of the group (but would be similar if I counted the Arsenal and United graduate they also have in their squad).

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13 comments to The Arsenal Youth System – Part 2 Comparisons with other clubs

  • HenryB

    In Part One, earlier, I suggested that we may need to change our scouting system and the analysis of particularly the Man United and Liverpool youth squad players who have become involved with their respective first team squads, when compared with Arsenal’s, shows how many youth players who have been locally scouted.

    Arsenal, on the other hand have to compete with any number of other clubs’ in the capital for the best kids, and although London is far larger than either Manchester or Liverpool, those clubs only have to compete with Citeh and Everton for the best local youngsters.

  • Usama Zaka


    Just a little mistake you made in the Chelsea list. Juan Cuadrado was not a part of Chelsea’s youth. He was directly signed from Fiorentina at the age of 25/26. This inturn I think reduces Chelsea’s numbers you have calculated above. Little correction to be made. You can adjust it in the comments 🙂

  • Chris


    switching subject, don’t know where to put this

    The game Italy – France was the first one with video refereeing.

    I’ll be lookin forward to your/UA’s take on the issue when/igf the subject comes up

  • ClockEndRider

    Henry B,
    In fairness to Utd and Liverpool, the North West also has a great density of local clubs against which they have to compete for youth players – Everton, City, Bolton as well as lower division clubs such as Bury, Stockport, Preston, Blackburn etc.

    The low density of clubs on the Soth Coast could account for the at least some of the success of Southampton in developing players as realistically within their area are only Portsmouth, Bournemouth and at a push Reading.

  • HenryB


    I included Everton and City in my comment above, and i take the view that if a youngster is good enough they will always go for the best clubs in their area, with all due respect to the lower league or ‘smaller’ clubs whichever is the better term.

    In the same vein, Arsenal not only have Chelsea, the Spuds, Wham,and Crystal Palace to compete with for the best kids, they also have QPR, Brentford, Charlton and so on.

    But the point I was making is that compared with ManU and ‘Pool, Arsenal have very few coming through the ‘local’ Youth system, and will need to change their scouting system to improve that.

    Just a thought – but not a ‘game changer’. 🙂

  • Rich

    Lots to consider with our u23 team:

    Disappointing start to the season, and came as a shock to me that a team with as many good players as the one we put out at Liverpool could struggle as they did

    We seem to be moving players out of their natural positions more than ever, especially at full back and from defence to midfield. Seems likely this is a very deliberate policy and more about improving players overall than switching positions in long-term. Hayden revealed a while back Wenger moved him to cb specifically with the aim of improving him as a midfielder.

    Our record of producing centre backs is distinctly poor (2 from Wilshere’s youth cup side are in championship but very little else). Utd comfortably have the best record in this area : Evans, Chester, Keane, Mcnair, (Brown and O’Shea before them) plus a number of full backs.

    A good indication of how we view youth football and the careers of young players overall is that it is quite rare to keep a player over the age of 20. Typically they go on loan at 18 or 19 and only make a few u23 appearances between loans. Then decisions are made early- 20/21- about whether they stay or go.

    Rivals seem to have more of these 19-21+ players around and to delay final decisions a while longer. The makes things tougher for us at u23 level but means we are constantly giving younger players opportunities.

    While we all love seeing the youth teams win and dislike seeing them struggle in a game, the ultimate thing is player development and especially finding players for the first team, and the last couple of years have been good. Bellerin alone makes the recent youth history a success, more so than winning any number of youth tournaments.

    Still…let’s hope results pick up for them soon this year.

    My hope is that they experiment a little less in central midfield, because virtually any amount of talent up front and on the wings is undermined by not getting that area right defensively. Liverpool recently just sat and waited- defend, defend- and then pounced and moved into ridiculous amounts of space to attack our goal. Again and again.

  • Notoverthehill


    ANDRIES JONKER – the story first appeared in the July 2016 edition of the Arsenal Magazine.

    I assume Andrew, has read the article?

    If, I may quote

    “What you see here are two buildings. On the right is a building where the staff are working. Downstairs we have medical staff, the player liaison officer, travelling manager and safeguarding officer. Upstairs we have the people who work on the football side of things such as the coaches, recruitment and the strength and conditioning staff.

    Also in the building we’ve got strength and conditioning space where they do their work with the boys. The building on the left is the building where the changing room are downstairs. Upstairs the classroom is there, there is a room for meetings, there is a room for boys to relax in and there is a brilliant restaurant with a nice terrace around it.

    In addition to the indoor facilities, four state-of-the-art pitches are being developed too. Can you talk us through those?
    The classroom is equipped with everything we need, so it’s for studying and also for the coaches to explain to the coaches what we want to do in the games. You want to give it a football feeling as well, so we’ve put the trophies next to the windows, just to remind the players who they’re playing for, and you also have a great view of the new pitches outside. We have a smaller, full-size pitch for the under-12s and under-13s, and we’re going to have a very nice match pitch which will have a small stand, fences, ball nets, trees and floodlights around it. It will be a brilliant pitch to play on and every player who gets the opportunity to play there should be proud of it. On the other side we’ve got the same composition as the match pitch, but it will be 4G so it will be for training, and then on the side of the dome there will be another full-size pitch equipped in the same way. Again, this will be 4G because it rains every now and then in this country and we have to be sure we can practise!

    How important are all of these developments in attracting and training the next generation of talent?

    You should create the best conditions for the boys to develop themselves. That means good floodlights, good pitches, good changing rooms. When I came in it was all fine, but it had been built in the 1930s. I think that, with this reconstruction, we’ve made ourselves up to date. We’re living in 2016 and now it looks like 2016. That’s what we had to do.”

    end of quote

    May I add, I also have a copy of the syllabus!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Again, an interesting read on the numbers…..and the NOTH post from Jonkers about how we are moving forward.
    Let’s get a few more CDs through next!

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Usama, thanks for the correction – a ‘senior’ moment when preparing the piece. Their % figure drops from 19.2 to 15.4.

    HenryB, I touch on this in the part 3 article which should be published over the weekend.

    Rich, yes the Liverpool game was hard to watch, again more thoughts in the part3 article

    Notoverthrhill, the Hale End investment has cost about the same as one squad player on the open market, it should pay off many times over.

  • Jammy J

    (Sorry, didn’t mean to post that twice)

  • OlegYch

    it would be interesting to see the data on Southampton academy
    it seems almost every club has one or two of their graduates
    and yet they are barely more succesfull at u21 or u18 levels than Arsenal