Arsenal’s youth academy has produced some world-class players over the past few years. Yet their retention, or lack thereof, has left some fans puzzled, if not downright angry. Serge Gnabry’s transfer from Arsenal has to be mentioned every time he scores apparently. He is the oft-cited example of what could’ve been.
Fear, however, has been what has led Arsenal‘s transfer policy to be as poor as it is, especially when it comes to selling players. The fear of missing out on the next Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or indeed, the next Serge Gnabry.
We, as fans, must rethink the purpose of Arsenal’s youth system. There are two priorities for youth players. The top priority and hope is that they are integrated into the first-team squad, continue to play for the club and set the world alight, as Bukayo Saka has done.
The other, often ignored, priority is that youth players who don’t fit the bill must be sold for significant transfer fees. Not every player will have the impact Saka has had and we must accept that.
Arsenal youth system doing its job in both senses
The emotional attachment that comes with seeing a youth player finally make his first-team debut is what makes football so unique. It is this same attachment makes it difficult to move players on and causes us to look past their shortcomings. Tough decisions have to be made.
There are several cases of extraneous youth products in the Arsenal first-team that can be moved on. Take Joe Willock. He has great athleticism. He can make intelligent runs. He can score. Premier League games, however, have been few and far between.
I think Willock has the potential to be a great player and he has sporadically shown his quality. But if Mikel Arteta doesn’t see him with a role in this squad, wouldn’t it be better for him to be sold than for us to keep waiting for him to be the player we all want him to be?
The same can be said for Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. All three would bring in extremely useful transfer fees. We have to stop being afraid of missing out on the next Serge Gnabry. Some players will become legends, some will slip through the cracks and develop elsewhere and some just won’t make the cut.
We accept it, move on and hang all our hopes on the next player coming through.