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Why Emery Needs To Give Project Youth A Chance


It has been a fact for a while now that last season the youth players weren’t given as much of a chance as they should’ve had. I look back at last season to see the amount of match that were given to the youngsters as well as Emery’s previous poor handling of youth players at former clubs and look ahead to a plan which involves the youth more.

Last Seasons Youth

Last season was the second consecutive year that we had found ourselves in the Europa League which a lot of us hoped would be a chance, especially in the group stages, to see the academy prospects being given some game time. However, on many occasions this was not the case as more experienced players who were older and lacking quality to get into the first time were given the game time over the young players.

Only eight academy players have played under Unai Emery in his first season and some of them hardly players at all. Players such as Charlie Gilmour who has now departed the club for Norwich featured for under half an hour like Zech Medley and Julio Pleguezuelo who has also departed the club only featured once. Bukayo Saka was praised up after his excellent performance at home to Qarabag but didn’t play another match again after his inclusion in the final Europa League group match. Eddie Nketiah played a total of 331 minutes over the course of the season but only made two starts in the Europa League. Joe Willock also only featured six times and off the bench in the majority of fixtures while Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith-Rowe where both loaned out to RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim respectively.

The point I’m making here is that the youth players were given minimal time to develop at a top-level. We didn’t give as much time to the youth as Manchester United do and last season they were competing in the Champions League. We had six matches in the Europa League group stages where we could’ve given the chances to hungrier and more energetic players like for example, we played players like Elneny and Welbeck rather than putting in Nketiah and Willock. It’s just the kind of decisions and why would you put in two bang average players rather than giving the youth a chance to develop.

The fact of the matter is that players like that are leaving the club like Welbeck’s contract ending and Elneny looking to possibly going off to West Ham or at least leaving the club. The fact that we went and loaned Nelson and Smith-Rowe away to teams who are just as good as us and they got more game time than we were giving them, especially Nelson who ended up being one of their best players for the second half of the season. This is why we need a new approach to the bringing in the youth team which I will speak about but first let’s take a look at Emery’s previous handling with youth players and dressing rooms.

Emery’s handling of players

Emery has had a man-management problem at clubs before and most infamously at PSG with players like Cavani and Neymar. This has been said throughout his managerial career about that he can’t handle the dressing room which lead to a very divided team at PSG due to not being able to have the authority needed over certain players.

You can apply this to last season at Arsenal with the youth players. He didn’t know how to manage them and to get them the maximum amount of first-team game time and instead as before mentioned allowed players who were on their way out at the club to continue on playing in matches that could’ve instead gone to the young players to develop their first team understanding. He couldn’t handle players at the club last season as shown with the Mesut Ozil situation and he clearly needs some help in bringing through the youth players which brings me nicely onto my next point.

Freddie and Next Season

Freddie Ljungberg the former Arsenal winger and Arsenal legend has now moved up from the head coach of the Under 23 set up and is now Unai Emery’s right-hand man. He has worked with some of the players in his previous season and this will be a breath of fresh air and knowledge that Freddie can give to Unai throughout next season to get the youth more involved at the club.

The numbers of players departing the club automatically gives younger players more of a chance in the second team set up for cup fixtures and Europa League fixtures with the likes of Koscielny, Elneny, Welbeck, etc who have left or are close to departing the Emirates Stadium this summer. With these players going it almost gives Unai Emery no other option but to field younger players in the cup competitions and they are currently showing their worth so far in this preseason.

Eddie Nketiah has been in free-flowing scoring form over this preseason netting against Bayern Munich and a brace against Fiorentina. Other players like Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka have also been standouts from the tour so far this season. These players can help to replace in the depth of the squad and in cup competitions like Nketiah taking Welbeck’s place, Willock for Elneny and players such as Medley or Chambers being able to take from Koscielny. Callum Chambers is one who I haven’t mentioned who won player of the season at Fulham last season who got relegated from the Premier League.

He has been linked with a move away from the club but in actual fact I would like to see him stay and play a role with us next season but however if we got a good offer for him as he is young and English then you would have to consider letting him go to the club in question. Bukayo Saka came out the other day and said some great quotes on Freddie Ljungberg which shows how much he will help next season.

“From the Under-15s I worked with him,” Saka added. “It has been a long journey, but I feel like we both deserve it.
“Freddie helps Unai know who we are, tells him our strengths and weaknesses and comes to us individually and tells us what we need to do from Unai.
“Unai does not have to speak to us directly, Freddie comes to us and tells us what we need to do. It makes the transition from the academy to the first team much smoother.”

Saka also commented on what a good job Unai is doing on managing them all which means hopefully Unai has turned a corner on his man-management and we can really use the young talent that we have got at Arsenal rather than just rushing them out on loan as soon as possible and help develop them and give them the right amount of game time to be first-team starters in the future.

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