Since early last season Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has regularly referenced his desire to establish a “British core” of young players at the club, presumably in an attempt to create a contingent of players who will be committed to stay at Emirates Stadium for the long-term.
The first steps towards achieving this ambition took place today, as it was announced that five of the club’s most prominent British players have signed long-term contract extensions, whilst another promising youngster has signed his first professional contract.
Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, both products of the Hale End Academy (although Gibbs joined from Wimbledon in 2004), joined Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson, who all signed from Championship clubs and went directly into Arsenal’s first-team squad, in signing new deals, whilst left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, who has impressed for the U18s this season, turned professional having celebrated his 17th birthday earlier this month.
The glaring omission from those listed above is, of course, Theo Walcott, with whom talks are ongoing regarding a new deal, although it seems increasingly likely that the former Southampton player will leave the club, whether next month or in the summer, with his current contract expiring at the end of June.
That is not the full extent of Arsenal’s “British core”, however, with many other youngsters, in addition to Ormonde-Ottewill, currently bubbling under and seeking to make an impact on the first-team squad.
The likes of Nico Yennaris, Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden and Jernade Meade all have considerable potential, with several players in the U18s, including Jack Jebb, Austin Lipman and Alex Iwobi having been capped by England at youth level. The majority of the homegrown scholars confirmed for next season have also represented the Three Lions at junior level, whilst there are several Irish youngsters currently on the club’s books, including Conor Henderson, James Shea and Philip Roberts.
Arsenal have also been linked with several promising young players from other clubs in recent months, including Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Zaha and Luke Shaw and, even if the accuracy of such reports can be questioned, it is explicitly evident that the club are strongly committed towards creating a homegrown core for the future.