The strength of Arsenal’s youth policy revealed through latest data

By Tony Attwood

So far this season Arsenal has had the third highest number of minutes played by players aged under 21 in the Premier League.  We also have the seventh youngest average age of players used this season.

Only Wolverhampton W and Sheffield U have had more minutes out of under 21 year olds – and both have particular reasons for their policy.  Wolverhampton, as we have noted, have severe financial difficulties, having borrowed against the second TV payment last season, thus ratcheting up their debts just before the pandemic cut their income, while Sheffield United have been trying out every player they have as a way of trying to stop the rot.

Our nearest rival from the traditional “big six” clubs in this table is Manchester City with a 31% lower use of under 21s than Arsenal.  Manchester United have a 42% lower use than Arsenal of under 21s while Tottenham Hots use can’t be shown in percentages because they have not used a single under 21 year old for a single minute of the season.

Of course just as fourth is not a trophy, nor is using under 21s a not a trophy.  But just as fourth has turned out to be something we would very much like to have once again, having lost it, so there is a value in giving a lot of experience to under 21s who are up to the task, for generally speaking they only get better and better.

Now the deep and well-thought through intellectual argument often heard from broadcasting commentators and clubs that put out old teams (“you don’t win anything with kids”) is the normal sort of simplistic avoidance of a debate that we have come to expect from the media.  As a result few commentators realise just how much advantage over time can come from having a young squad and playing these players 

First, players only develop their natural talent by playing in a team at the highest level possible.  They are not normally able to play every game not least because of the propensity for old hackers in lower level clubs to chop them down without referee interference, but when they are fit, they develop more quickly through being in the team.

Second, young players have advisers and even agents, and if they are doing their job properly they will advise the youngsters to go to clubs known to be playing the younger players.  

Now the point about all this is that these youngsters have their career in front of them.  Not all maintain it at the highest level but some will, and indeed some will develop into players Arsenal might be unlikely to afford.  Indeed in the years of building the new stadium Mr Wenger made quite a financial contribution by buying in young players and flogging them to the likes of Barcelona a few years later.

The only thing that can go wrong is where we have a manager who puts discipline above everything else, as we had with Bertie Mee, and again appear to have now.

Bertie Mee, having won the first Arsenal double, then presided over one of the most dramatic declines in the club’s history, taking us from double winners to a team struggling at the foot of the table in a matter of four years, while the manager talked of reducing the squad to 18 professionals and winding up the academy completely.  

Behind it all was Mee’s sense of discipline, and his dramatic falling out with Charlie George was only the most publicised of his “discipline first” tactic which brought about the disastrous decline.  It took us 18 years to win the league again.

It is possible that Mr Arteta has the same sort of feeling, given the way he treated Matteo Guendouzi, and it seems likely that we shall never see his skills again, which I feel is a shame.

Young players of great talent are hard to find but they have an enormous value to the club, not least because up to the age of 21 they don’t count in the “25” player list.  This not only means we can have as many of them as we want, but also their nationality can more readily be adjusted. 

And with the EU regulations no longer holding sway over English football, the FA has not stopped putting pressure on the Premier League to tighten its “home grown” regulations ever further.  A player who is not of UK origin but who has played for Arsenal for several years before turning 21 is more than likely to be able to get permission to stay, or indeed get dual nationality.

The proof that something is seriously wrong with football refereeing and reporting

The Arsenal video collection: free

200 historic Arsenal videos with more being added each day

15 Replies to “The strength of Arsenal’s youth policy revealed through latest data”

  1. I like to think that we have some very exciting young players in our books , and do hope that we will see them breaking into the first team. With money being scarce , we may get our wish.

    If we can keep them all together as a team , we can develop the lot into a superb unit . Hopefully tilting at honours next season . The same way GG developed the team of our own into one that challenged Liverpool in the late eighties and very early nineties .

    As for Bertie Mee , I think that the sale of Ray Kennedy weakened us , more than the sale of Charlie George . Who by the way , was my one and only favourite Arsenal player ever !

  2. I sicerely hope we dont let Quendouzi slip through our fingers. Hugh talent that may come back and bite us. Whate a tradegy and waste

  3. Brickfields I was at the cup final when we beat Liverpool and Charlie George scored the winner in extra time and lay on on his back . He was also a favourite on mine along with Peter Simpson who was very under rated and I’m sure would have had more England caps than just the one(1) because of Bobby Moore , have been fortunate to watch Arsenal at Highbury or the Ems ?
    We haven’t had many jokes lately .

  4. Steve I too was at that game (and lucky enough to be at WHL the previous Monday to see us win the league)….not my reason for posting though. I wanted to say how I completely concur with your assessment of Peter Simpson. He was a fantastic yet unassuming player who was so versatile he could (and did) play almost any position on the pitch.

  5. Mikey I went to WHL that Monday but alas couldn’t get in , stayed outside for a while but came home to South London just off the Old Kent Road .
    One other player who I liked so much was George Eastham a willow the wisp ( hope I got the phrasing right ) , I liked him so much I practiced to use my left foot so it became natural .
    When you consider the players he had around him at that time it was fantastic for him to get into the1966 World Cup winning squad .

  6. Based in the north of England, my visits to Arsenal have always been limited. My first match was in 1960, when Jack Kelsey was in goal. I was fortunate to be able to attend a number of home matches during the 1971 “Double Season”. My most enduring memory from that period was George Graham coming on as sub against Liverpool at 0-0, scoring a spectacular volley after a slick one-two with Jon Sammels and then creating the second goal for John Radford.

    I concur with those who rated Peter Simpson so highly. I also remember seeing George Eastham in a forward line with Joe Baker, Geoff Strong and Alan Skirton and John Macleod as traditional wingers, – just before the emergence of George Armstrong.

  7. I remember Jack Kelsey running the small supporters shop in at the Clockend .
    Was “ Fingers “ Furnell who came in after Jack Kelsey ?

  8. Steve, my recollection is that we had a few keepers after Jack Kelsey retired and before Jim Furnell. I saw John Mclelland and Tony Burns play. Other keepers at the time were Ian McKechnie and Peter Goy.

  9. John you have a far better memory than me , I remember Tony Burns since you mentioned him but not the others also we had a lot of Mc’s and Mac’s in and out the team at that time .

  10. @ Steve Vallins 13th April 2:26 PM – I started to follow after learning about the double exploits of that 1970 – 71 team. I too became a fan of Charlie George after he scored the winner.
    I have never been to England and looks like it may never happen. But my son did go to the Ems to get me the 71′ Arsenal jersey , as well as a tie and some AW commemorative items .

    Will start with the jokes shortly . Especially once ST. Totteringham’s Day is back on our calender’s !

  11. Brickfields nice to hear that that your son has been fortunate to visit the Ems and don’t give up it might happen .
    I think we are all a bit down in what’s going on in and around the world at this moment , but don’t give up hope .
    Looking forward to St Totts day and more jokes .

  12. Wow ,memories ,
    Magill and McCullough our Irish international fullbacks
    Fumbling Jim Furnell famous for his Manfred Mann song .
    John Mclelland another Northern Irish international.
    Jack Kelsey , and Peter Simpson who made McLintock the player he was.
    The 71 double team that shut the Totts fans up ( on the shelf for Kennedy’s header ) and the Wembley to follow it down ( can still see Wilson too far from his near post ) and Charlie’s finish which shut the Scousers down .
    Bremner and Collins nearly finishing Eastham’s career and Joe Baker smacking Yeats( Shankly’s man mountain ) in the mouth .
    Taken me back a bit.
    All good though.

  13. Here is a meme during the rounds in our region –


    ” The silence of Liverpool fans on social media is proudly sponsored by REAL MADRID !”

  14. An older couple was lying in bed one night. The husband was falling a sleep, but the wife felt romantic and wanted to talk.
    She said, “You use to hold my hand when we were courting.”

    Wearily he reached across, held her hand for a second, and tried to get back to sleep. A few moments later she said, “Then you used to kiss me.”
    Mildly irritated, he reached across, gave hver a peck on the cheek and settled down to sleep.
    Thirty seconds later she said. “Then you use to bite my neck.
    “Angrily, he threw back the bed clothes and got out of bed.
    “Where are you going ?” she asked.
    “To get my teeth!”…….:)……

Comments are closed.