WTTGT Writer: Matt Mace
Arsenal is well documented on their youth policy. Ever since manager Arsene Wenger arrived at the club back in September 1996, in which he brought youngster, and future captain, Patrick Vieira with him, his stance on youth football was well established.
The Frenchman also revolutionised Arsenal’s current training facilities in Hertfordshire, in which there are three training pitches for both the first teams, reserve team and youth team. This more so than any other factor illustrates Wenger’s feelings on the importance of a youth setup. By dedicating the same facilities that the first-team are use, to the youngsters, a vital integration between the two generations can be made allowing the younger players to learn from the more established, senior players.
Despite the Gunners’ excellent facilities, considered by many as the best in the country, there has been evidence of a lack of British talent rising through the famed youth academy. Players such as Justin Hoyte, Jermaine Pennant, David Bentley all showed promise but were all eventually shipped out to rival Premier League clubs. Yet for the critics keen to knock Arsenal for their supposed “anti-British” policy it is worth pointing out that the likes of Ashley Cole, Ray Parlour, Jack Wilshere and even Kieran Gibbs to a certain extent, all of whom were snapped up by Arsenal at a young age, are or were considered integral parts of Arsenal’s history.
Yet, there is no doubting that Wenger prides himself on his scouting system, with former players such as Giles Grimandi and Daniel Karbassiyoon sent on extensive trips around the globe in order to uncover the best young talent. When promising players are unearthed, Wenger turns to his shrewd spending tactics to lure the most promising players in for mere pennies. Despite being linked with players like Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku in the past, their inflated price-tags have seen Wenger turn to lesser, albeit just as promising young players in the market.
These players such as Fabregas, Flamini, Walcott, van Persie and the like are then all “blooded” into the first-team through continuous exposure to cup competitions, a notion that Wenger has become famed for. And while some players such as Amaury Bischoff, Jay Simpson and Kerrea Gilbert among others have failed to make the grade at Arsenal. Wenger and his coaching staff deserve an enormous amount of credit for building a squad capable of competing in four competitions year in year out for mere pennies compared to other clubs.
Arsenal also proved in their recent Carling Cup victory over Bolton that this golden conveyer belt isn’t about to stop any time soon. The talented Oxlade-Chamberlain, the ever improving Frimpong as well as Coquilen and debutant, Nico Yennaris proved that Arsenal still possess gifted youngsters even if the team are in need of more senior players. A look at the youth league will see Arsenal three points short of top-spot alongside famed academies such as West Ham and Crystal Palace. While the reserve table (where many of these youngsters learn their trade) sees Arsenal lying in third place, proving that the youth policy has its many advantages.
And with the future always on the horizon players such as Lansbury, Watt and Miquel have promised when selected. But the players that Arsenal fans should really be excited about are Afobe, Aneke, Miyachi and Daniel Boateng, all of whom have the potential to lead Arsenal to greatness.
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