After the move to the Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal very much embraced a policy of promoting young players through the ranks at the club. After the stadium debts became manageable, however, they back-tracked a bit. Now, with the club having several young players with potential, plus a difficult summer ahead, Arsenal must make good use of their youth.
Unai Emery Must Embrace an Arsenal Youth Policy
The primary reason for giving young players a chance is to see them fulfil their potential. Especially today with the ever-increasing cost of transfers, finding a diamond in the academy is terrific for business.
Plus, there is the added benefit of fans feeling closer to the club. Any Arsenal fan of the most recent generation will always remember Jack Wilshere fondly, for example, despite his many weaknesses.
Currently, Arsenal have got several youth players who may become Premier League regulars in their careers. Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe have each been showered with praise this season, earning Bundesliga loan moves in the process.
Meanwhile, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock have each also shown good potential. Then, there are the lesser-known academy products such as Krystian Bielik and Tyreece John-Jules who have drawn praise at the League One and U-23 level respectively.
It would be foolish to assume all of these players will be able to contribute positively to the first team one day. However, they must be given enough slack to prove or disprove their abilities.
The biggest reason to allow them a chance is the risk of losing a potentially valuable asset. This would be bad for both the results on the pitch as well as the balance sheet. Just look as far as Serge Gnabry for proof.
Wenger, despite his belief in the Arsenal youth players, really didn’t give Gnabry the chance he craved. This lead to the payer running his contract down and, after an impressive Olympics in 2016, forcing a move to a smaller club where he got the minutes he wanted.
Then, just one year later, he finds himself holding the Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich. While he left Arsenal for £5 million, Transfermarkt now estimates his value at €60 million. Plus, let’s not forget that the Gunners could really use some help in the wide forward position right now.
Sadly, such a situation may play out again and again in the future. Cohen Brammall will see his stay in north London come to an abrupt halt on 30 June as his contract expires. The soon-to-be-former player sent a parting shot to the club in an interview with Goal,
“If they don’t get the chance to show how good they are they will go abroad. There are a lot of clubs in the Bundesliga who want English talent and they will jump ship and go and try it over there.”
Then there are the words of Bielik, whose contract has just one more year left. Following his appearance for the Poland U-21 side against Belgium, he told reporters,
“My future is unknown but there is one thing I can say for sure: I will definitely not go back to Arsenal U23 team. At this stage it wouldn’t make sense. If I do not receive the possibility to join the first team permanently, I will have to look for other solutions.
“I feel like a senior player now so I want to play senior football.”
Again, there is nothing to say that the current crop of Arsenal youth players will set the world alight. However, for every Emmanuel Frimpong, there is a Jack Wilshere who can at least serve as a decent squad player at the club.
In an era where Manchester City spend £60 million to allow Riyad Mahrez to warm the bench, having assets already in place at the club can create a domino effect.
Specifically, should Arsenal not need to spend on a squad player and instead promote from within, that money may be used elsewhere. This would make them more competitive in the transfer market and, hopefully, also more competitive on the pitch.
Last season, Unai Emery didn’t make use of the Arsenal youth products, even in the Europa League group stage and early Carabao Cup matches. Even allowing them more minutes in these matches will show them that there is a viable route from the academy to the first team.
Ostensibly, the reassigning of Freddie Ljungberg to the first team should facilitate this. He is much more familiar with the youth players at Arsenal than Emery or any of his coaches. Gooners everywhere will hope this is the case.
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