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Is Arsenal’s Youth Academy in crisis?

arsenal youth

When Andries Jonker joins the club in July for his first term as Head of Youth development he is certain to have his work cut out for him as Arsenal U21 and U18 team are finishing what has been one of their worst seasons in years.

The U21 are facing relegation to league 2 after a run of bad results since Christmas, that means they will lose the ability to play Southampton, Chelsea, Man United and even Tottenham next season. After finishing typically first or second over the past 5 years there has been a dramatic change in form and not any stand out reason why this has happened.

They have only won 2 games since Christmas which has left them sitting 17th in the league and relegation has only added to concerns about the youth academy set up. This is a huge issue for Arsenal, we are a top 4 team and having a sturdy youth academy set up is imperative to our future, especially as Wenger doesn’t like spending money for players in today’s market. We need to have a solid basis for players to enhance their futures and we need a decent homegrown element for our first team and without that we will fall behind in every aspect.

You have to also consider the effect that this will have on the players coming through to the U21, the second division is nowhere near as competitive as the first and they also just don’t have a standard of football to match those youth teams that remain in the top flight. It could improve results and therefore boost the team but it’s likely that the development of players will be hindered by playing lower league clubs when they have been consistently at the top for years. This could lead to certain players transferring to other clubs academies especially if they are in the league above.

The U18’s aren’t doing much better having only won 8 of  their 30 games this season which raises huge alarms bells that both teams are doing so badly. There are many reasons this could be happening, but there aren’t many explanations to why there has been such a drastic change.

Arsenal have loaned out some of the good players to other clubs and a lot were released last summer and with every year there are promotion of other players so it takes a bit of time to gel but there is no using that excuse as the first few months were a lot better than last 5 months have been for both teams.

In 2012 Arsenal announced there would be a huge re-haul of the Youth academies to improve them in the future, it led to the announcement that Liam Brady Head of the Youth development would be retiring in May 2014 and there would be a lot of change and new staff employed. Could they have changed too much too soon? With the promotion of Steve Bould and Terry Burton in the last couple of years this could be another reason why.

Andries Jonker was hired in January to replace Liam Brady and I am really excited to see him join the club, if anyone can sort out our youth team it would be him and it’s quite a coup to have him as the head of youth development as he is one of the best in what he does.

I hope Jonker can address the issues that have arisen this season and use his knowledge to improve our academy, this is our future we are talking about, not only do these players deserve the very best development they can get, our first team is desperate for that quality and so is the National team. We haven’t produced a successful academy player since Jack Wilshere and it shouldn’t be that way, there should be at least one every years.

Jonkers definitely has a tough job ahead of him over the next few years but hopefully the changes will be seen soon.

Thank-you all for reading and feel free to comment.

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