The Arsenal Youth Academy Is Not Good Enough


A recent article on Pain in the Arsenal looked at the news of Dan Crowley being sent back from his loan spell at Barnsley, as well as the comments made by Tony Pulis about Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry. It raised some interesting points about Arsenal’s youth development.

There is a very real possibility that the youth squad of Arsenal is not good enough. There is an argument to be made that the Arsenal Youth Academy has not been producing quality players for many years now.

Dan Crowley hasn’t made any sort of impact at Arsenal, and seemingly has not done enough to prove his worth to Barnsley. Admittedly he is still very young and could eventually become a quality player. But just because he is a youth player at Arsenal Football Club doesn’t automatically mean that he is ‘good enough’.

For a historical viewpoint, lets take a look at the FA Youth Cup winning side of the 2008-2009 season. This trophy winning team was lauded for their potential and class, but looking at the starting XI of the second leg of the final the only players that are still with Arsenal are Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin.

They are not ready to play at this level… none of them

Wilshere has been with Arsenal since he was 9 years old but, considering his injury stricken career, it is difficult to say that he has had any real impact on the first-team for a sustained period. Francis Coquelin, while now an incredibly important member of the starting XI, did not cement a first place position for another six and a half seasons, and that was largely down to an injury crisis with our midfield at the time.

One guaranteed starter from our youth team in an almost seven year period. Is this really good enough? Are we really in a position to say that the likes of Dan Crowley will make it as an Arsenal first-team player, when history tells us that its more than likely he won’t?

Of course it can be argued that very few top level teams in the Premier League see their youth prospects make it through to their first-team squad and maintain such a position. Perhaps this highlights a worrying state of affairs for all the elite Premier League clubs. After all, the last time that a Premier League team saw a large amount of their youth squad make it to their first-team squad and bring success was the class of 1992 for Manchester United.

Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC /

Arsenal FC

It’s not uncommon to have heard praise for Arsenals Youth Academy, or for some young player to be dubbed ‘the next big thing’. The sad truth, however, is that Arsenal’s record of developing young talent into players that progress to the first-team squad and maintain a lasting contribution is rather poor.

Perhaps a re-evaluation of the role of Arsenal’s academy is in order. If its role is to simply give young players a good education, only to have them sold on to lower level clubs for a small amount of money, then the Academy is doing well.

If, however, its role is to ensure that a crop of young players are given the necessary tools to unlock their potential, and subsequently break into the first-team squad, then the academy has failed and will continue to do so if history is anything to go by.

Arsene Wenger gave a scathing review of the youth players involved in last nights League Cup defeat against Sheffield Wednesday, stating that “they are not ready to play at this level… none of them”. This quote could easily have been used for any of Arsenal’s youth players over the last ten plus years, and proves to be just as scathing a review of Arsenal’s fabled youth academy.

Next: Sheffield Wednesday Did Not Embarrass Arsenal

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