There’s absolutely no doubt that Arsenal’s academy has probably the best crop of youngsters in the country at present. Over the recent seasons, Arsenal supporters have seen the emergence of players such as Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland Niles, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson but as Mikel Arteta tries to reinvent the team and make them competitive with a balance of youth and experience, how many of those academy players will remain at the Emirates ?
The regrettable truth is that there will be quite a few departures in the not too distant future for two main reasons. Firstly, the money from the sales will help finance the acquisition of more experienced personnel in vital areas. Performances have shown that there is an obvious and genuine need to revitalise and strengthen the squad.
The premiership can also turn the potential of Arsenal’s academy players in to nothing more than empty promises, just look at the unfulfilled career of Theo Walcott. Arsenal took him away from Southampton amid fanfares, and many saw him as the successor to Thierry Henry.
An early inclusion into the England side, with only a few decent games under his belt and he become more of a bit part player. In the long term, he never really lived up to the hype and as the spotlight shone on him, his potential seemed to diminish rapidly.
It’s a similar story with fan favourite Jack Wilshere, who had exquisite talent but was maligned by injury. Those injuries aside, Wilshere never went to the next level. At times, he looked as if he could be England’s heart in the national side but there followed a collection of average and poor performances, which eventually saw him released from the club he loved as a child.
It’s also recognised that the rigours of the season are a factor and it can take their toll on the younger players’ physical condition, confidence and performance, so caution is wise. The second reason to cash in is that Arsenal simply can’t accommodate them all as they try to achieve a top four finish and European qualification.
Youngsters in the modern game are hungry to progress and if playing time doesn’t come quickly or they are subjected to successive loan spells, they tend to look elsewhere. Jadon Sancho is the prime example of the new ambitious player that determines his own future.
So what of Arsenal’s academy prospects such as Zech Medley, Ben Sheaf, Tobi Omole, Harry Clarke, Miguel Azeez, Sam Greenwood, Folarin Balogun, Jordi Osei-Tutu and Tyreece John-Jules ?
Charlie Gilmour and Julio Pleguezuelo were thought to have glittering Arsenal careers ahead of them but the pair now play for Norwich and FC Twente respectively.
If Arteta goes with youth, success may have to wait. If he goes with experience, he could lose the stars of the future. That immaculate black hair will soon start to show wisps of white at this rate.