One of the most striking things about the youth setup at Arsenal is the way that the “Arsenal way” of playing football is inculcated into the very fabric of the Academy structure. All of the players share the same vision and have one abiding common characteristic. A high degree of technical ability. When I say that this or that player is potential world class or a major prospect for the future, you can take this to mean that I am referring to a player that you should look out for as someone very special within an already selected high quality group. The Arsenal Academy began in 1998 and is based at Hale End. It receives boys between the ages of 9yrs and 21 yrs. Being one of the first established Academies in the country.
The Academy has an awesome reputation under the direction of Liam Brady, an Arsenal legend of distinction. Liam together with David Court, Roy Massey, Steven Bould, and Roy Banfield are ensuring that the foundation of talent within the club is being nurtured and taken through at their pace. The extensive worldwide scouting network of Arsene Wenger continues to attract the very best players in the world. The players are often met personally by Arsene Wenger and it is from this initial contact that Arsenal Football Club have captured perhaps some of the most exciting prospects of the current generation, as they see Arsene Wenger as a top flight manager with a proven track record for giving gifted youngsters the opportunity to play football at the highest level.
Changes by the FA to the Academy structure has reduced the number of teams and now there are no longer under 17 or under 19’s teams. There are the under 18’s based at the London Colney training centre and from nine to under 16’s at Hale End. Basing the Under 18’s at the training centre enables the up and coming talent to mingle and see their icons of Arsenal Football club. They are sometimes allowed to join in with the training, so that when the time comes and they are called into the Carling Cup team, the acknowledged spring board to first team football they are known by most senior players. The changes by FIFA to future club squads based upon the 6+5 rule will not harm Arsenal Football club. The definition of home grown includes not only the catchment area of Islington in North West London, it also applies to any nationality that has come through the academy structure.
The 6+5 rule in club football was accepted as a resolution by FIFA at its meeting in Sydney at the end of May 2008. The intention of this ruling is to try and recreate the national identity of football clubs. In an effort to end what FIFA sees as exploitation of young foreign players and the suppression of home born players. It is also intended to reduce the increasing gap between the big and small football clubs. Some of the commentators/bloggers and I include myself in this group, feel that this is yet another way that Sep Blatter is trying to prevent the English premier league model of becoming the only quality base of up and coming talent in modern football. Some paranoid englishmen feel that it is yet another attack upon England, the ancestral home of football. What ever the truth, Arsenal football club’s future prospects will not be harmed by these proposals, as Arsene Wenger’s legacy is to ensure that we will easily accommodate the 6+5 rule should it become widely adopted.
I end this introduction by quoting what the official club website has to say about the product of it’s Academy, and what young players registering with the club can look forward to.
“The most prominent example of a player progressing through the current Academy system is Ashley Cole, who established himself as first choice left-back for both club and country before his move to Chelsea.
A number of former Academy youngsters have made their mark in the Carling Cup, taking Arsenal to three successive Semi-Finals and a Final appearance in 2007.
Goalkeeper Stuart Taylor, midfielders Jermaine Pennant, David Bentley, Steven Sidwell and defender Justin Hoyte are all Academy graduates who have earned England Under-21 caps, while Academy product Jeremie Aliadiere represented France Under- 21s. Taylor and Aliadiere also won League Championship medals, in 2002 and 2004 respectively.”
So in coming to the conclusion of my review of Arsenal Football Club under Arsene Wenger, I intend to give my views upon the players that I have seen or read reviews about. Because of the size of the squads, I shall restrict myself to the players that have caught my eye, or those who are being talked about by pundits and commentators. I apologise to those players that I leave out in the Youth section, as it has not been possible to make a frank judgement upon every player due to either loans or injuries. I have tried to be balanced, and use the experience of watching the reserve and youth games on Arsenal TV. I hasten to add that these are my opinions and not statements of fact. I have decided to divide this very long blog into sections entitled. Goal Keepers, Selected Defenders, and finally Midfield and Strikers for the future. I shall rank them in order of my preference when necessary.
Arsenal Football club has a long tradition of having world class and excellent keepers over the decades, from Pat Jennings to Bob Wilson and John Lukic to David Seaman. We have had wonderful seasons with the crazy Jens Lehmann and more latterly trembled with nervousness with Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski. Despite the concern over the goal keeping legacy at the club, what I can reveal is that the future prospects are very secure.
- James Shea
- Sean McDermott
- Luke Chambers
- Wojciech Szczesny
- Vito Mannone
- Charlie Mann
Nationality: English Born: Islington June 16 1991
I like this young keeper and many of you will have seen one of his best performances in the FA Youth Cup semi-final victory at The Emirates recently. He has come up through the ranks of the Academy at Hale End having initially been an outfield player. He has an excellent set of reflexes and is not afraid to put himself in danger. He has good hands and is very agile. In age terms he is a good prospect. He holds the number one position by virtue of his selection to play in the Reserve side. Whilst perhaps not a red hot favourite to stay at Arsenal in the long term, James has shown what can be achieved by application and hard work.
This young keeper was born in Norway of a Swedish Mother and his father from Donegal in Ireland. He is rated as the hottest of young goal keeping prospects. He came to Arsenal from Norwegian side IK Vag. He trialled at Spurs, Man Utd and Glasgow Rangers but chose Arsenal for the facilities and the prospects of playing. He has already been selected to play the Ireland National Youth team. If he continues his development, many commentators are claiming that he represents perhaps the best young Keeper of his generation. Only time will tell if this is the case. I look forward to seeing this young man in the future. I have placed him at speculatively at number two by virtue of his already blossoming International career. He will formerly join Arsenal when he turns 16 in May, I shall update Insiders in the future.
Nationality: English Luke came from Derby County having been courted by several top clubs. His striking hair style and slim build reminds one of Peter Schmeichel. Without doubt Luke represents the best of the English Keepers coming through the ranks. Whilst he may be demoted in the Arsenal team setup by the arrival of Sean McDermott. Luke will press his case with some of the fine shot stopping performances that ca ught the eye of Arsenal scouts. Watch outfor Luke, I am certain that you will enjoy seeing him play. He has played for the club in the under 16’s and under 18’s.
I have rated this young Polish keeper above Vito Mannone purely based upon the evidence of my own eyes. He appears to have more confidence than his Italian counterpart. In judging a keeper I like to see how they deal with high crosses and corners, and certainly this keeper knows how to deliver at the business end. His tall build strikes an imposing presence at set pieces and he certainly has good reflexes and ground ability for his height. He is the eldest of the keepers being reviewed here having played regulary for his country of origin. He should follow in Fabianski’s footsteps if he continues the excellent progress that he has shown so far.
If ever there was an accident waiting to happen, then just check out how Vito Mannone deals with crosses. It was not just based on one performance, but after several appearances against relatively straight forward opposition, I have concluded that Vito’s only inclusion in the senior squad is to hope that the association rubs off on him, and he can be sold on when his contract comes up for renewal. He is short on confidence, and in my view lacks the necessary technical skills to be a number one Arsenal keeper. Harsh maybe, but that’s my opinion.
Last but not least, Charlie Mann turned down offers from Everton and Aston Villa to come to Arsenal. Apologies to him if I have ranked him unfairly. I have not seen much of him play and the one full match that I saw, there was very little to judge him upon. Perhaps if any insiders have more information to add, then please do so under comments. He appears competent but there was nothing really eye catching. His mistakes were not howlers by any means, but he cannot be considered the safest pair of hands ever to grace the goal keeping ranks of Arsenal Football club. Perhaps the best is yet to come.
First Team Keepers
What else needs to be said about our number one? He waited for his opportunity following the mistakes by Jens Lehmann. He is not commanding in the box, and I fear that Manuel is one game away from a complete howler, but upon other occasions, his shot stopping can be breath taking. His ball distribution is not as good as his predecessor and he is apt to throw the ball away before assessing the strategic positions of the players about to receive his pass. However he works hard, and is gaining valuable experience. In my opinion he will never be world class despite his apparent aspirations to play for England in the absence of any call up to the Spanish national squad. Which just about sums up why I believe that Manuel is merely keeping the number one berth warm for someone, but who? As long as he does not make any major mistakes, he will retain the confidence of Arsene Wenger, and that is what counts.
Our Polish number two is slowly coming out from under the shadow of his playboy colleague at Celtic. Whilst Artur Boruc may hold the number one jersey for the National side, I see a lot of potential in Fabianski to suggest that he will be a better keeper than Manuel Almunia. I rate him very highly, and his progress since the five-one humiliation at White hart lane has been assured. I like the way that he commands his box, and he is not afraid to punch the ball away decisively. His weaknesses are merely down to lack of experience in my view and his potential is very good. If he can add good decision making at set pieces to his game, then he may well find himself taking over the number one spot midway through next season.
Fabregas the king.