Arsenal has always been a place where young players knew they were more likely to get game time at a top club and in a top league. This culture had always been with the club as far back as Tony Adams being the captain of the team at just 21 in 1987. The club had always tried to embody this attribute so it was no surprise earlier in the season when Head of Football operations, Raul Sanllehi stated in 2019 whilst making changes to the Arsenal coaching structure
“Identifying, recruiting and developing young players is a key part of our strategy. We have some great talent coming through our younger age groups and, like all top clubs, the challenge is to help them make the most of their abilities.
These changes saw former youth team coach and Arsenal legend, Freddie Ljungberg getting promoted to the first-team coaching duties and for a short period, interim manager after the departure of Unai Emery. Arsenal is also doing a lot of work around its Academy structure and how it is currently being run by Per Mertesacker who sees the Academy as a long term project to revitalize Arsenal
“We’re making steps in the right direction and that’s what I’m proud of. Every single small step I’m proud of but the vision I have to develop strong young Gunners is in the making and needs to really sink in over years. It can’t be done in two years, so I’m being very realistic about it.”
However, Arsenal have already started to see benefits from its investment in its Academy with a number of its Academy graduates getting game. Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah being primary beneficiaries of this system. The latter were instrumental to the Gunners recent victory over Southampton in the league
Head Coach, Mikel Arteta however, encouraged caution as young players get integrated to the team stating
“I have a lot of faith in the young talent we have at the football club, but we need the right stability and foundations around them to make sure they develop in the right way, at the right moment, with the right amount of talent behind them.
“But to do that, it’s a process and if you want to speed up that process, you risk burning them and burning all the process – and you cannot do that.
“We have some young players who are playing more football than they probably should be doing, but they’re showing great maturity and lot of personality to play in difficult moments which is great for their experience.
“But as well we need the other players to support them the right way, and that’s what we are trying to achieve.
“To find this balance to be very competitive but as well very excited about the future ahead of us.”
Hopefully, we all get to see these young players grow at Arsenal and contribute to the near term success of the team.
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