Youth Debate – Young Guns Meets Arseblog

Jamie Sanderson July 14, 2010 News 39 Comments

Arsenal’s Youth system is one of the most coveted and interesting in world football, but the way the club develop their players has changed considerably in recent years. For the new breed of Arsenal fan, Arsène Wenger’s ways of doing things are the norm.

Many followers have noted the changes over the years, but few have followed Arsenal quite as intensely as Arseblogger from Arseblog. His daily rants, raves and informative pieces are all delivered in a entertaining and compelling way, but looking back through the archives, the articles act as a timeline of the changes the club has gone through in recent years. So what does he make of the current standard of youth development?

“I think the standard is clearly quite good among some of the youngsters. We’re loaning players, like Jack Wilshere, to Premier League teams who are battling relegation. In those circumstances managers usually look for experience, that they’ll take Arsenal youngsters is a good indication the quality of the players is high.”

Wenger is seen as the man who really changed how Arsenal do things. Aside from his success with winning trophies, the overhaul of the Academy is one of his greatest triumphs. But what kind of changes have we seen compared to the George Graham era, for example?

“The youth set up has changed quite gradually under Arsene Wenger. It’s certainly unrecognisable from the one he inherited from George Graham, which was in a total mess. Yet not a huge number of players have really come through. Successes like Cesc, Clichy etc have been bought, but there’s been another leap forward with young English players like Wilshere and Gibbs ready to make their mark. We’re certainly producing technically excellent players, I do worry though that they get too much too young and that the motivation to achieve is diluted by the money they’re on at an early age.”

How about the differences since Arseblogger began following the club?

“I don’t think you can really compare to when I first started supporting the club because it was such a long time ago, but you look at talents that did come through – Brady, Rocastle, Thomas, Merson, Adams, Keown etc. Maybe they got more chances, the competition with foreign youngsters didn’t exist, but that not taking anything away from their talent.”

The policy on young players is increasingly becoming a strained one, with results in terms of numbers making the first-team and the determination to win trophies increasing year on year, but what part do the youngsters play in the future of the club?

“I think it’s crucial for any club to produce young players who can make the step up to the first team. However, I think we lost too much experience too quickly and it’s cost us trophies over the last couple of years. Maybe Arsene’s hands were tied financially but I can’t help thinking that with just a little more expenditure we might well have achieved more.”

So would he advocate a cut on the Carling Cup and play more of a first-team lineup in a bid to break the duck of seasons without success?

“I think they’ll get the usual chances in the Carling Cup, which I fully support. We’ve had some great nights and it’s a brilliant way for the young players to learn. However, I’m hoping that the investment we make in the first team squad this summer makes it more difficult for them in general. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just think the first team needs some serious surgery and I think we need to be looking at experience and quality rather than hoping to fill the gaps with youth.”

So finally, what does the future hold for Arsenal’s youth development program?

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that only a tiny percentage of them will make Arsenal’s first team. That is the way it always has been. Many of them will go and have decent careers, not many at all will do it at Arsenal. And while we know so much more about young players these days it does raise expectation levels to an unhealthy degree at times. Fans expect to see the finished article when in reality we’re looking at players just starting their careers and learning on the job. I believe we need to have a more realistic outlook on their prospects of success at Arsenal. How many youngsters come through the ranks each year? How many become regular Arsenal players?”

“As I said though, the higher the standard of our youth set-up, the better it is for us in the long run, both in terms of players we produce for our first team and financially when we sell on the ones who don’t quite make it. It is a business at the end of the day.”


  • crafty bison

    Interesting comments. Arseblogger is famously opposed to anyone getting excited about youth players and young signings, so it would have been interesting to ask his opinion as to whether blogs and reporters covering the youth sides are damaging for the young players (the club seems to think so).

    • insideright

      Those of us even older will remember that the double winning side of 1971 was built on home produced players – Rice, Simpson, Storey, George, Kelly, Armstrong, Radford, Kennedy, Sammels. The Club has always looked to its own production line before going out and spending money – usually sparingly but occasionally lavishly..Looking at clubs who have taken a different view (e.g. Spurs) the record of success and the stae of the Clubs finances would pay tribute to the policy.
      Where Wenger has changed things is more about raising the standards in the first team squad (which makes it more difficult to get into)and by replacing the Irish, Scots and Welsh ‘imports’ with those from further afield.

  • This was an perfectly acceptable interview, but as crafty bison alluded to, I think it was a bit of an opportunity missed. Arseblogger communicates on a daily basis with a massive Arsenal-supporting audience, so his views are hugely influential…would have been good to inquire about his principles on youth reporting (whether players are overexposed etc). He doesn’t ever criticise this blog explicitly, but it’s often a subtext when he goes off on little tangents…

    • Thanks for the feedback. We did glaze over it slightly, but he didn’t say anything very interesting on that subject. I just published the key points.

    • That is a very good point Lele(le), it was an opportunity missed. I somewhat think these Youth blogs overexpose players too early. But at the same time they are interesting, so I would liked to have heard his opinion on this too.

  • i think wenger should buy conor wickham and arsenals midfield is class , and defence abit too weak …

  • DeiseGooner

    Hey young guns, you might be able to answer this –

    Who is the guy battling Traore in pic 8?

  • DeiseGooner, that’s Emmanuel Frimpong.

  • DeiseGooner

    Is that Frimpong? He looks a beast of a man/boy – i didnt recognise him and his no 49 threw me, hes 41 on the

    • He does look bigger than I remember. It’s been good to see the likes of Lansbury, JET, Henderson, Barazite and now Frimpong training with the senior guys in the photos on the official site. Hopefully some will be taken to Austria and we’ll see more of them next season.

    • In training they wear random numbers. They don’t always wear their official kit number.

      He has always been strong and powerful. He looks taller in that picture because he’s on tip-toes a bit.

  • Thanks DeiseGooner for the question. I was also preparing to post a comment inquiring the same then saw your posting. He was also in the earlier pictures of pre-season training and I was wondering who it was. Its not easy to recognize him now if you compare to his pictures on the official player profile. He looks big, is he ready for first team?

    • He just turned 18 at the beginning of this year and he played in last season’s FA Youth Cup final and was on the bench in the Carling Cup. I would have thought he will definitely see first team game time during the CC run – I do hope so he is fiery and has a bit of character about him. He says Steve Bould often used to shout at him for mucking about in training – he’s a bit of a joker.

      That said he is often the youth player I have seen putting the boot in, in some uncompromising challenges.

      Who knows if he will make the grade at Arsenal – he’s not yet to the level of his peers (JET, Wilshere, Rambo) but he could make a strong DF midfielder if he keeps his head down. And we all know how valued DFMs are.

  • I am not so certain that foreign players are hampering youth development in the uk as much as some make out, like Arseblogger. By the time they are 14 the damage is done here in the UK. So AW looked abroad and so most followed suit. The problem is at 5-15 in the UK, where we don’t compare to Spain, France, Holland, Italy, etc. Throw in Brazil, Argentina, Ghana and you can forget about it. The England team is not great b/c training at the lowest levels is not great. The collapse of the golden generation proves AW was right not to trust that English players would somehow overcome their disadvantages and grow into world beaters. The collapse of the Golden generation is not a consequence of Wenger’s reaching out for talent away from these shores.

    To make my point, play an imaginary match between “Brady, Rocastle, Thomas, Merson, Adams, Keown etc” and Barcelona, Inter, or this year’s model of Germany or even Uruguay. Hell, you can even throw Glenn Hoddle, Beckham, Alan Shearer, Gazza, and Sheringham on there and I still can’t see the old players quite stacking up, although that would be cheating as these players were actually better than Merson, et al (but not Brady, but he was Irish). The problem in England is not enough talent all around; too much relying on one or two or perhaps three brilliant players but never 4 or 5 or 6. To me, English football didn’t evolve quickly enough after the Lineker generation while the other nations have been investing in going forward.

    That said, I fully accept that a late developing English kid is going to get overlooked in favour of someone foreign who’s more precocious, and he’ll not get the chance at a top club unless they’ve made the commitment to english kids, like the old West Ham. There, Arseblogger and others are correct.

    The irony of all this is that even now that Arsenal are providing an amazing skills experience to english 9 year olds, the U-19, u-17 national teams still ignore players that are ‘technically perfect’, as pointed out often on this site’s comments section. I wonder, too, if other clubs have raised their standards in terms of coaching technique to pre-teens? Hopefully. But that won’t compensate for the fact that the majority of the English population is still largely coached by unlicensed dads and brought up in a technique-phobic culture. Could you see Iniesta with his physique getting a second look by a championship club oop norf even ten years ago? Not too many, but I may be wrong about this. twenty years ago? How about Cesc?! It’s likely he’d have quit footie by 12 to concentrate on his computer games and maybe his academics, if he’d been growing up is much of the UK, but not all of it. Gazza was a one-off. What other midgets with wicked technique and vision but no serious pace have ever been in the england team? Ask yourself why. Just some thoughts.

    • Most of the PL clubs have British managers who give plenty of opportunities to British youngsters. Using ‘the foreigners’ as an excuse for a poor England team has always been a cheap way to deflect attention from the fact that England just doesn’t know how to coach and produce top young players. Clubs like Everton, Aston Villa, Man City, West Ham, Middlesbrough and others have always promoted youngsters and given them plenty of opportunities to play at a top level. The problem is the majority of them just don’t have the skill and technique to become anything more than ‘good’ players. The way they were coached as children, with not enough emphasis on technique and too much pressure on winning games, put a big glass ceiling on their potential.

      Arsenal have begun a change to the modern methods but the rest seem resistant to adopt it. Our gifted youngsters are regularly overlooked for the England youth teams in favour of players who are bigger and stronger but lack technique, and why? In order to win games, when the primary purpose of the youth teams should be to get the the most talented youngsters in the country to play and train together in order for them to develop into better professionals. This mentality of putting victory above progress will continue to hold England back.

      Steve Bould has said that his job as coach of the Arsenal U18s isn’t about winning youth trophies, but bringing players through into the first team. He’s won three trophies in two years, yet he believes those are meaningless unless those players actually fulfil their potential. If all English coaches had that approach then the national team would be far superior.

    • @Gambia You’re saying that the national team are overlooking players at Arsenal that are technically perfect? Those were identified by Wenger as technically perfect were Aneke, Afobe and Ansah (Some debate whether it was just Aneke and Ansah). All three of these players are regulars with the national teams. Josh Rees was called up to the U17 finals according to this website but couldn’t go because of his GCSE’s.

      Deacon and Watt have been looked at for the U19s and played games this year in the qualifiers, but didn’t make the final team.

      Cruise is going to the U19 tournament as he has done well when selected.

      You also have to remember that there are other teams that have very good English lads that can rival some of those here at other academies, who are able to make the national team aswell.

  • J
    Is Nortvedit training with the team?

    ON Topic
    I seriously think that we have the most talented youth team you will find in europe. People think that Barca produce good youngsters but I think we are gradually becoming better than them
    WE have so many talented player on loan, in our youth system its incredible
    and I think slowly we will start seeing more player come into our first team and hopefully be primarily funded by the youth team in the future

    our youth teams and our youth setup is the biggest achievement of wenger era. It will serve us in the future and also the present

    • thats an over’s youth system has produced excellent players that dominate their first team, valdes, puyol,busquets,pique,iniesta,xavi,messi have all been brought up there and are eaisly world class..even reina is from their academy and he’s a brilliant keeper..while our youth academy has produced clichy and fabregas only..admittedly gibbs and wilshere seem shoe ins to make it but still that is nothing compared to barca’s..overall though, i think we have the potential to be better but definitely are not close right now..i think it depends on this current many of them have the potential to make it to the first team..if they realise the potential this could easily excel us to the status of the team with the best youth academy

  • So what are the changes that have been made since Wengers arrived i mean in the sense of training or developments method employed

    • There is much more focus on the technical aspect of the game now than there was back then.

  • Our youth set up is excellent and slowly but surely the English lads are coming through.

    Wilshere, Gibbs and Lansbury are amongst the brightest prospects.

    After this the likes of Eastmond (arguably already 1st team squad), JET, Afobe, Aneke will become prominent.

    People have ciritcised that he doesn’t bring enough English through but let’s not forget that it takes years to produce the players of the standard you are looking for.

    He’s been around 14 yrs. It would have taken 5 to properly sort the mess ou left behind. By this time the likes of young Jack and co are 9-11 yrs old. the exact age they can nurture in the Hale end Academy weeding out the not so good.

    We are actually very much on course in terms of timelines since the overhaul of the youth system.

    I fully agree though that some of these are over exposed. We have already had Capello mention both Wilshere and Gibbs, 18 and 20 respectively. These have barely played 1st team football for Arsenal so how can he possibly be looking at them now for England. Yet again the media and Eng manager are setting players up for a fall.

    You can bet they’ll get in a few Eng squads (on no real merit) then have an off day and be slaughtered. Thus recalling the lumbering Lampards and Gerrards of the world

    Just let them develop at their own pace

  • I don’t have any real issue with youth blogs other than they do tend to raise people’s expectations of players – and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that. I think Young Guns and Jeorge Bird’s site provide brilliant information about an area of the club we really knew very little about before. My point is that fans have to remember players need to grow up, learn, make mistakes, etc etc. Maybe the fact players are going out on loan before being put in the first team is a sign we’ve been putting them in too young. Alex Song is a good example.

    I suppose my main issue is more with young players, they have so much, so young, and they’re being rewarded for their potential to ward off suitors before they’ve actually achieved anything in the game. The story about Jay Emmanuel Thomas crashing a hideously expensive car last season is a case in point. How can you keep kids motivated when they earn so much? Previously, the harder you worked, the more motivated you were, the better you became and the more money you earned. Now many of them think they’re god’s gift without anything to back it up.

    I’m not suggesting for one second Jack Wilshere is anything other than 100% dedicated but using him as an example – he’s on £30,000 a week at 18. Will his ambitions to win trophies and medals be as important when he’s so comfortable after a few years he never has to work again. He might well be a totally driven young man who goes through his career like that, but I guarantee you those players will become more and more rare.

    I’ve seen some stuff from some of our youth team’s Facebook pages and frankly the attitude of some of them is appalling. I don’t want them anywhere near our team. I’m not saying they’re all like that but we really do have to be mindful of the fact so few of them are ever going to play first team football (outside the Carling Cup) for Arsenal.

    • 30 grand? How do you know? That’s outrageous. Then again, Walcott did get £12k a week when he just joined.

    • Alot of this is due to the fact that we have so much more access now. Obviously Merson and Adams were no saints in their youth days, and I doubt the Barcelona youth players live like monks.

      The average youth player will have to realise they’ll have to work their socks off despite their pay cheque, because balancing out raising wages for youth players is the fact that youth football is so hugely competitive. Youth players who don’t progress don’t get offered professional terms, or get offloaded. Generally you need a good attitude to make an impact.

      As for more mercurial talents like Wilshere, such young players have ALWAYS been treated as “a bit special”, and we basically have to hope that they keep their heads. C.f. Mardona, Gazza, Robinho. As far as Jack is concerned, he seems very well liked by the entire Bolton squad, which to me speaks volumes about his attitude.

  • Wenger only has 3-4 years left in the club at maximum. I really really hope the new manager wont fuck it all up. This is the right way to develop young players. As soon as our first team will be filled with academy graduates, the nationals youth teams will be so too.

  • Frimpong?!damn i was hoping it was Afobe.The guy looks like a beast.He plays DM,right?He seems to have really matured quick.Ignasi Miquel,ozyakup,nordtveit,aneke,boateng,frimpong,lansbury,JET–we seem to have some ridiculously talented young boys.Not to mention Gibbs,Wilshere and Ramsey.
    I think we might finally have our Becks,scholes n neville’s—hopefully,they do even better than those guys!Up the Arse!

  • DemzDimmyDemz

    That was worth the read. i always believe we have a good youth system but givin youngster a big money deal before they have done anything worth the money does really put a aspect on it! we did have alot of youth players who have broke into the 1st team. back in the day. which was simple pure raw talent who loved the game of football. but does every youth think about football as a dream. i used to love football when i was young didnt care about the money. now im thinking to myself. i have family to feed and a life to live i sure do need that money! just had a reality check! an do break into the 1st would it be sad for me to boo them for wanting a better pay packet to finish there career on. hmmm loyalty sometimes has a price.

    but on a lighter note. we could have a high number of youngsters breaking into the first team in the next two season. i no most of them aint english, but we see why we search talent around the world. to much english hype gets you no were. just a big headed player. i hope to see player like whilsere, ramsey, welington, Big thomas, sanu, lansbury, bartley and many more get there chance to show they are arsenal material because its sad to no you was a investment. i do no football is a business. but damn its a cruel world!

  • I feel Wenger should not allow Wilshere and Gibbs into the England setup yet. I have a feeling that Capello is using the likes of these two players as a get out of jail card for the frankly atrocious WC campaign.

    Watch them have one or two off days and get absolutely slaughtered by the media/”pundits”/opposition fans….ironically the same people who where vociferous in their criticism of AW for not having English players.

  • I agree with last comment. Wilshere and Gibbs, are you listening, JUST SAY NO. Was struck by an England fan saying in the Guardian that the supposed upcomingt generation of young hopefuls like Ashley Young, James Milner, Micah Richards, Agbonlahor etc. are now all past it (!) and England must look to the teenagers like Wilshere and Gibbs. Oh no it mustn’t. I don’t want our kids having anything to do with that set-up. They’d be hyped up, made to play England-style alongside less technically gifted players, and then, when they too fail to win, be completely destroyed by the media.

    The best thing they could do is go and play somewhere like Spain.

  • AmericanGunnerFan

    Regarding the development of English youth players and the senior English national team, I think that the English could take a tip from the Germans.

    I believe that it was in the mid-1990s that the quality of German football had taken a rather precipitous dive in quality after years of excellence. Alarmed at what they were seeing and what they saw as the future for the national team, a number of influential figures in German soccer, including Franz Beckenbauer, other former players and managers, not only spoke out about the need for changes in the country’s youth development, but got together to improve that system and encourage coaches and club management at all levels to adopt the kind of changes that they felt needed to be made.

    As I recall, a lot of the changes that they wanted to make in the youth development system involved concentrating more on developing technique and keeping young players at home and in the system as long as possible in order familiarize themselves with playing the style of football played by the senior national team (which I believe they also talked about wanting the national youth teams to play as well).

    I think we saw the products of the program that was instituted as a result of these efforts in the last two World Cup finals, where Germany finished third both times–this time with a team that was very young by World Cup finals standards and featured a number of emerging young talents in the starting XI (as well as no fewer than 10 players who were either born in other countries, children of immigrants, or eligible to play for other countries: Klose, Podolski, Trochowski, Ozil, Tasci, Marin, Cecau, Gomez, Boateng, Khedira, Aogo–many who started or logged significant minutes in the tournament).

    Despite the fact that England is the birthplace of the sport and its national teams have boasted a host of big-name stars, the fact remains that, in recent years, the England national team has not achieved the same level of results as the German national team when it has counted most. Perhaps it is time for the English to put aside their pride and take a serious look at what the Germans did–the changes that they made in their youth development system–to resurrect the quality of their national team and make it more competitive at the highest level.

    Since most English players–youth and veterans–tend to stay and play at home, the issue of inculcating a system and keeping the players in that system would be moot. The biggest problem would be for the leaders of the English game to set aside their egos and attachments to “the English game” or whatever prejudices they may have in order to take an unbiased look at what would be necessary in order to produce a senior national team that can not just compete, but be a serious challenger for the World Cup title (striving for anything less would be a waste of time). This might be quite difficult, but, if the Germans could do it (they had their attachments, biases and prejudices, too), there is no reason, in my opinion, why the English could not do it too, if they put their minds to it, in the interest of the country and the betterment of the English game.

    I sincerely believe that, if the English were to do this (and they should get the input of foreign managers, like Wenger, Ranieri and Capello, etc. who have coached in England and are familiar with English and foreign players) that not only would the quality of the young English players improve, but the question of whether they have the technical quality to compete with the national teams from other countries on the youth and senior levels would be affirmatively answered.

    I think that blogs like this one and Jeorge Bird’s perform an invaluable service to Arsenal fans who are not based in the London area by letting us know about the young talent that the club in bringing in and how those players are progressing in their development. But, I also agree that it is vitally important to keep in mind that, whatever the hype or potential, only a small number of these players are ever going to develop their game to the point where they are capable of playing, let alone starting, for the Arsenal first team.

    I think that may be perhaps a bit easier for us North Americans familiar with the NHL and major league baseball drafts–where many talented 17 year olds are selected by the various clubs, but we know that only a few will ever make it to the major league (first team) level with the club that selected them. But, it is very true in sports that “many are called, but few are chosen”. Even in American football, where players are not allowed to join a professional team until they are at least 20 years old, the failure rate of the highest rated talents selected in the draft is almost 50% after 3 years–and that’s with players who are much more skilled in techniques, much more physically developed and more mature at age 20 than an athlete who is 15, 16 or 17. The fact is that it isn’t the amount of athleticism or talent that these young players have that will determine which ones will ultimately become successful on the highest level of the game, but rather their attitude, willingness to continue to work and learn to constantly improve, discipline and drive to do whatever it takes to become the best is what will determine whether they develop their talent and become successful or end up falling by the wayside. Talent and athleticism matter, but they are only the initial ingredients–without the work, learning, drive and discipline and a proper attitude, they will had up to nothing more than unrealized potential.

    And, arseblogger is right to warn that expecting too much of young players before we have any indication of whether they will be able to realize their potential to the point of being able to be contributors to the first team, let alone crack the starting XI or become stars is something to be wary of and to avoid. It’s nice to know that Arsenal is bringing in young players with a lot of potential, but it is also important not to get too excited about them until we can see which ones are actually going to be able to realize that potential.

  • Jamie are Nordtveit and Pedro Botelho in training aswell? haven’t seen them in the pics

  • I have this idea on how to help England, get players ready for tournaments and help fill the void from u18 football to first team. How about make the Carling Cup a Tournament event with the latter matches (say last 16) played on a identical format to the European Championships, i.e 4 group stages then knockouts regions could bid for it, say the first one in london, north west, north east, etc. Give it rules for a certain min number of u18’s, u21’s and u23’s as well as min no. of home grown and min no. of british. Tournament could be played over a 2 week period during december, january andb february thus not clashing with euro football.

  • 30k a week for Wilshire? Well Smalling gets the same in United. Its not unheard of in big clubs to pay young ,prosperous talents alot of money? How much you think cesc got age 19? what you think Ramsey is on? How about Wellbeck or Macheda? They dont exactly earn peanuts. the same can be said about Gosling. Was not happy with huss 15k a week so sought a new employe. What you think he gets in Newcastle? Does people not think Wilsihe is alteast twice the player Gosling is? How much did rooney get when he signed for United?

    Wilshire is about to become a top player in a top club, if he was not a couple of notches above the youg talents of wolves it would be weird huh? If he did not earn more than the Everotn talents it would be weir huh?

    If smalling gets 25K a week then wilishire is worth 30k a week as he is alot better than smalling.

    • even though id like to add the salarys in general in football is sickening! Nobody deserves to get 30k a week no matter what, howeever in the sick world of football, thinking in terms of pro footballers. Wilshires salary is not that outrageous. If JET is on 15k a week, about the same as Gosling then that is as it should be. if you look at it from a footbaling ecomonic perspective ofc….

  • Regarding the debate about whether youth sites or good or not;

    Arseblogger has a point, I’ve seen people say that they’re sure Afobe, Aneke (always get confused between those two, can someone help me out? :P) etc will become Arsenal legends before they’ve played a game for Arsenal.

    But Youth sites obviously perform a great service too, especially for gooners who don’t live in London; I live in New Delhi, and will probably never go to London, but I would like to know what’s happening at my club, know about the reserves etc.

    I think there’s a very simple and effective solution: simply make a list of those talents who promised so much and then failed to deliver (Aliadiere, Lupoli etc) and put it on the home page, along with a line that reminds everyone that almost all the players you report on haven’t played even one game for Arsenal, even in the Carling Cup.

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