Things may not be looking good for Arsenal’s first team but the academy seems to be on the up. The new Arsenal Academy facility was revealed earlier this month, with Arsenal Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis saying “We’re incredibly proud, we wanted to take the level of the facility to something that was world class”.
The Academy at Hale End was unveiled alongside the Liam Brady Cup, which saw Arsenal’s under 16’s come out victorious. The tournament included the youth set ups of Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Juventus, who Arsenal beat 1-0 in the final.
The new facilities look amazing, with a number of full-size pitches now available, as well as an exhibition pitch which has the same surface and dimensions as The Emirates, which will hopefully give the players a bit of a preview of what it could be like to play at The Emirates one day. Interim Academy manager Luke Hobbs said “as I’ve tried to oversee this transition I get excited every day I drive through the gates” and it’s easy to see why.
Other new additions include a “state-of-the-art” gym and a new analysts’ suite which can only help improve the youngsters. However, the wellbeing of players in the academy seems to have been improving already. Leading strength and conditioning coach for the academy, Perry Stewart, revealed that over the last four years, they’ve seen a year-on-year decrease of injuries in the academy.
Only if that could happen with the first team.
But in the Arsenal Academy, it’s not all about working on players’ physicality, with there being just as much of a focus on players mentally. Assuming that the aim for all the players in the academy is to reach the first team, it makes sense when Stewart says “even at these age groups (under 9’s-under16’s) we have to understand the demands of the Premier League”.
This is reiterated by the Head of Education, Matt Henly.
“There’s an Arsenal way of doing things and we talk about intelligence and class and we try to develop that in the boys from a very early age, and obviously we’re also looking to develop those qualities of leadership and intelligence because we need those skills on the pitch as well as off the pitch”
And with all the talk of a lack of leadership at the club, we’d hope that this pays off for the players that do reach the first team.
For Arsenal fans hearing the voice of Gazidis is quite a rarity but, here’s another point he’s come out with about the new facilities “One of the really important things a place like this is that young players can understand the culture of the club, and learn not just what they need to be good footballers but also the club values”
This sounds very encouraging seeing as the majority of players in the first team probably weren’t familiar with the club’s history pre-Arsene. Arsenal’s history runs through Hale End from the pitches which have been named after the original four stands at Highbury to the indoor sports hall which has been named after club legend David Rocastle.
But with the future in mind and goal to have one academy player push into the first team every two years, it’s important for the youngsters to have more recent inspirations too. Pictures of players who have come through Arsenal’s system like Alex Iwobi, Jack Wilshere and Wojciech Szczesny surround the young gunners as they look to break into the first team just like them.