Arsenal’s youth set to spark a bright future in N7
Arsenal football club has been known over the years for promoting and bringing through youth from their Academy that have gone on to perform at all levels. Despite the lack of success this season, the young players have remained the ever-present shining light that have made Arsenal fans proud to support their side. Some of these players have the potential to go on and become Arsenal and Premier League icons however, where do these players come from and what academy structure do the north London club implement?
Over years gone by, the likes of Tony Adams, Ray Parlour, Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshire, Emile Smith-Rowe, and Bukayo Saka are all just a few to name that spent time growing and developing in the Gunners youth sides before being given chances to impress and prove themselves in the first team.
The Arsenal story remains written for many of those famous names to represent the club however, in more recent years, the Hale End academy has produced lots of exciting players who have gone on to represent the first team and beyond. These players are just beginning the story of their Red and White careers with the potential to join some of the icons that have played for this famous football club.
Hale End Academy
The Hale End academy is currently headed up by former player and captain Per Mertesacker. Mertesacker took over charge of the academy in 2018 and is responsible for overseeing the progress of all its academy players. As well as being given the responsibility of having to release some of its members, Mertesacker also speaks closely with current Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta as to which players would be available and ready to push from the U23 side into the first team.
Mertesacker spoke upon his vision for the academy and how he wants to help the young players achieve ultimate success in their careers:
“I want to convince them they have something to do to get to the top of the world and, I want to be an example for them.”
“For me there wasn’t really a way up but somehow I made it there anyway because I did everything I possibly could to give me the best chances to succeed. Talent is what you make of your situation.”
Young guns making a statement
In recent years, Arsenal have seen the likes of Alex Iwobi, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah come through the Academy, these players have all gone on to represent the first team across all levels with Iwobi scoring in the 2019 UEFA Europa League final before a reported £40 million move to Everton that summer.
Nelson, Willock, Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have all featured in and around the Arsenal first team in the previous three years, mainly staring in early cup competitions and enjoying spells in the starting XI of the first team for parts of a season. Arsenal have now reached a point with this group of young players where they need to make decisions over their future and if they sell them for the highest amount possible or, tie them down to a new long-term contract with a chance to play regular football.
The Gunners have recently benefitted from a new crop of young players coming through from their academy, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe have been revelations to Arteta’s side and, have become crucial components of the Spaniard’s starting XI.
Bukayo and Emile running the show
Both of these players have been at the club from a young age and, have burst onto the scene at Arsenal in the previous two seasons. Bukayo Saka was recently awarded young player of the year at the London football awards 2021. His award was one of ten other awards at the event hosted by Arsenal woman’s legend Alex Scott.
Saka’s breakthrough came in the 2018/19 season. The Englishman began the season with Arsenal’s under 18 side. By the end of that particular season, he has starred for the U23 side and made his first-team debut at Emirates Stadium just at the age of 17.
The 19 y/o versatile attacker can play any role across the 3 positions behind the striker and, can even fill in and look dangerous at left-back. This versatility and high-quality performances have earned the attacker a number of call-ups now to the England national team and, is very much in contention to be part of the travelling squad to go to this year’s European championships.
Promise of a new exciting striker?
Alongside Saka and Smith-Rowe, Arsenal have exciting youngster Folarin Balogun who is another product of the Arsenal academy. The 19 y/o striker recently put pen to paper, ending speculation and signing a long-term deal with the football club. Balogun is an exciting prospect to come from the Hale End academy and, he has represented both USA and England at youth level. The New York-born striker has caught the eye of fans and pundits across England. Balogun was rewarded for his performances with the U23 with six appearances for the first team in this season’s campaign, two of which he scored in.
Mikel Arteta and Edu Rate the youngster very highly with the Spaniard saying:
“We have been extremely impressed with Flo this season, He has continually shown his natural ability in many training sessions with us, and we have been equally impressed with his early integration into the first team squad on matchdays.”
The Future is the youth!
Some of Arsenal’s other young players that impress and have very high potential include Miguel Azeez as well as purchases Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba. Arsenal have also said this coming summer they plan to invest in players of a younger age to set them up for the future.
Mikel Arteta’s squad is blessed with a lot of very exciting young talent and, in the future, this could be the core that their team is built upon to bring the glory days back to the red side of north London. If the Gunners recruit wisely and continue to promote and involve their youth around the first team then, they could be destined for success.