It appears Arsenal have slipped back into the bad habits of yesteryear by opening the academy doors with an open invitation to grab a bargain. Yes, the North London club which used to invest in youth only to flog it off in a crisis or to finance a stadium, is up to its old tricks with Sam Greenwood to move out, joining Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun in the exit queue.
This is again becoming a trend and one which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth having already seen the likes of Cohen Bramall, midfielder Charlie Gilmour and young Spanish defender Julio Pleguezuelo all head out the exit door. All were highly regarded at the club and seemed to have bright futures ahead of them but that didn’t stop them from being offloaded.
Some of the players have gone to help lower the club’s wage bill but at the lower end of the scale and while I accept Mesut Ozil’s reasons for declining a wage cut, other playing staff are being gradually forced out. Ozil’s not the only one, he’s just a convenient patsy but as the first team obsess about their value and rewards, others aren’t so lucky.
You can add to that list – Krystian Bielik, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Serge Gnabry, and probably Konstantinos Mavropanos, who aren’t all from the academy I grant you, but it’s more evidence of the club’s confused policy on young talent. There is a perspective for both sides of the argument, of course, choose which one you prefer.
Firstly, Arsenal need to become competitive quickly after being out of contention for the Premier League for years and because they have been unable to qualify for the Champions League for the last three seasons. It’s widely recognised that this will not be achieved by throwing their young prospects in at the deep end.
So, by selling off some of the surplus personnel, it should fund the transfers of the quality players Arteta needs. Arsenal could raise £50m plus on four young players of their choosing, but it sends out the wrong signals, doesn’t it?
The Arsenal academy starlets need time and patience but we live in times where the fans demand instant success and when it’s not forthcoming something has to give. I personally feel somewhat mislead by the bold noises that announced the emergence of this group of youngsters as one of the finest in the Premier League. Although there has been some success with the progress of Saka, Willock, and Smith Rowe, there have been more casualties.
The philosophy behind establishing a strong academy was to stop the club spending phenomenal figures on outside players by developing homegrown talent, but because of a series of poor choices and decisions, those youngsters are a risk of being sold off or by having their contracts terminated.
It’s just more evidence of Sven Mislintat’s claims of ‘mess’ behind the scenes and it validates his decision to depart for personal reasons. Perhaps, he knew that this was coming, that Arsenal would be involved in a fire sale at some point because things had spiralled out of control.
Wenger’s legacy of a vibrant academy has been undermined by poor quality acquisitions and the failure to address key areas of the squad. The former manager needs to accept some responsibility for that as do the Arsenal board!
Now, Mikel Arteta has to scramble around to find answers to the problems created by someone else. It’s a financial conundrum because the deadwood in the squad that Arsenal intend to sell, will never return the original investment. Only Torriera and Guendouzi look certain to bring in the bigger figures and that means that Arsenal have to look at a few of the academy players to help fund the transfer targets.
I’m torn as a diehard fan, do I want success even if it means that the club have to sell off some potentially amazing talents? It’s beyond inevitable I’m afraid. Arsenal can’t have another season like the last one, they were becoming mediocre, at best, under Emery and the decline would have accelerated if left any longer. Let’s hope that Arteta establishes a list of untouchables at Arsenal which prevents the sale of the remaining talent from the academy.