Arsenal Youth review- reflections on the 2012/13 campaign

It has been another highly eventful season for Arsenal at youth level, with a staggering 78 players featuring for the club in the four main youth competitions. The Gunners may have ultimately ended the season without silverware on all four fronts, but there are many positives to be taken from the 2012/13 campaign, not least the run to the semi-finals in the NextGen Series and the continued progression of some of the more highly-regarded starlets at the club. Here, we assess how Arsenal fared in each competition.

U21 Premier League

Despite getting off to a flying start at U21 level, with three victories in succession under Terry Burton, results began to tail off for Arsenal’s second-string, but they were still able to take their place in the Elite Group. They largely struggled for form following the turn of the year, however, and, in the end were fortunate to finish fifth out of the eight teams in the group, although they were not helped by the change in coaching staff midway through the campaign, which saw Steve Gatting replace Burton, who in turn stepped up to the role as Head of the Academy.

Best performer

There were several players who used the U21s as an opportunity to express their considerable potential, not least Chuba Akpom, with the 17 year old striker establishing himself as the side’s main attacker and registering an impressive 13 goals in 19 starts. Hector Bellerin, Kristoffer Olsson, Isaac Hayden and Serge Gnabry also turned in several memorable performances. 

Best game

There were several contenders to choose from, but the opening game of the season, when Bolton Wanderers were comfortably dispatched of at Emirates Stadium with a 3-1 victory, was particularly impressive, not least because the Gunners had to cope with the early dismissal of goalkeeper Damian Martinez.

Best moment

After 14 months out of action, it was a heartening sight to see Jack Wilshere back in the Arsenal side as the U21s took on West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns. Arsenal lost 1-0 and Wilshere was far from his effervescent best, but the mere sight of him back on the pitch was one that warmed the hearts of all Arsenal fans.

NextGen Series

At one stage it seemed as if Arsenal’s maiden venture into European youth football was going to end prematurely after they went four group stage games without accruing a single goal or victory. A rallying 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao secured their progression to the knock-out rounds, however, and, from there, Inter Milan and CSKA Moscow were fought off in memorable fashion. It ended in disappointment, with an epic seven-goal semi-final eventually swinging the way of London rivals Chelsea, but Arsenal still finished as the fourth best team in the competition.

Best performer

Akpom was impressive on this front, too, but Bellerin was outstanding throughout, with the Spanish right-back attacking at will whilst also showing a welcome improvement in his defensive capabilities. His showing against Chelsea was of tremendous quality, and, although he didn’t have a goal to show for his efforts the former Barcelona youngster racked up plenty of assists.

Best game

It was far from the prettiest game to watch, but Arsenal demonstrated terrific resilience to overcome Inter Milan on a near-waterlogged pitch. Nico Yennaris eventually struck the most dramatic of winners, sparking mass celebrations from all players and the coaching staff.

Best moment

Gnabry’s stupendous goal to force extra-time against Chelsea certainly set the pulses racing and, although it ultimately proved meaningless, can still be looked back upon as a strike of superb quality after terrific build-up play by Bellerin.

U18 Premier League

Another disappointing campaign in terms of results at this level, with Arsenal having to spend the second half of the season in the lowest group, before only finishing fourth in that section. Like the U21s, there were considerable changes in the coaching staff, with Pat Holland’s short-lived reign followed by the introduction of Carl Laraman. A plethora of schoolboys also received run-outs as many of the more established players stepped up to the U21s.

Best performer

Glen Kamara stood out from the start following his move to the club from Southend United. The defensive midfielder emphasised his dual qualities as a stylish, yet robust player and was rewarded with a goal late in the season against Middlesbrough. He’ll seek to step up to the U21s next season, whilst Anthony Jeffrey, Jack Jebb, Alex Iwobi and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill also enjoyed impressive seasons.

Best game

Arsenal exacted a measure of revenge away to Aston Villa, winning 5-2 against the side who had trounced them 6-1 at London Colney just two months previously. Jeffrey, back from his loan spell  with Stevenage, found the net, as did Iwobi, Jebb, Austin Lipman and Alfred Mugabo.

Best moment

It may ultimately have been a disappointing 3-1 defeat, but Arsenal’s deployment of a side consisting entirely of schoolboys away to Manchester City offered a glimpse of the not-so-distant future, with the likes of Chris Willock and Stephy Mavididi receiving their first run-outs at that level.

FA Youth Cup

Arsenal progressed past the Fourth Round in this competition for the first time since they last won the trophy in 2009, but came unstuck against a spirited Everton side who defeated them 4-2 at Underhill. They had previously overcome Newcastle United and Fulham, the latter thanks to an extra-time winner from substitute Lipman.

Best performer

Jeffrey was in outstanding form during this run, teaming up on numerous occasions with the equally effective Bellerin down the right flank. His searing pace brought him countless goalscoring opportunities, and he scored against Newcastle and Fulham before surprisingly being substituted against Everton.

Best game

The win over Newcastle saw Arsenal playing how they are supposed to- with each member of the side contributing to a free-flowing and highly enjoyable display against a bewildered set of opponents.

Best moment

Lipman’s extra-time winner against Fulham was superb, as was schoolboy Jordan Brown’s cameo appearance off the bench against Newcastle in the previous round.


  1. JB – Well off topic, but worth investigating. Something I have picked up on after the recent culling of the academy is how few graduates we have left from certain age groups, and how coincidentally its the same number of players for each year born. for example

    1992 – Boateng, Frimpong, Wilshire
    1993 – Aneke, Afobe, Yennaris
    1994 – Ansah, Jeffrey, Roberts

    Obviously, I haven’t included players bought by the club, like miquel, Martinez, eisfeld, wellington, etc.

    Of the players born 1991 only 1 has survived Coquelin, who is now in the position Eastmond was in last year where the coming season he will start taking up a place in the 25 man squad.
    From what I have heard through the grapevine is that wenger has discussed the wage bill with kroenke and tough decisions had to be made to implement a new strategy to comply with FFP. In short the squad numbers will be reduced to allow wenger to bring in players on higher salaries and increase the salaries of existing first teamers. I also wrote a few days ago about changes and I am hearing that part of the new strategy will definitely include a split of the playing staff. With all players born 1993 or earlier gaining promotion to the first team squad under Wenger and his coaches and all players born 1994 or later being under the tuition of Burton and his coaches. As it stands it means Wenger has a 40 man squad to challenge on 4 fronts, with his oldest player being Rosicky and his youngest Oxlade-Chamberlain. Whilst Burton has a 28 man squad to also challenge on 4 fronts, with his oldest player being Phillip Roberts and his youngest among the new scholar intake, he will obviously also be able to call on the schoolboys.

    I don’t know where all this information has generated from, but it is certainly something that makes sense. It clearly spells out to the players in the academy that problematic behaviour and poor performances will lead only one way, whilst hard work and endeavour can lead to the first team. I do expect though that many of Wenger’s 40 man squad as it stands will not be at the club come September 1st.

    1. Interesting. I would just like to comment on your last paragraph though. I feel our scouting network is top class no doubts there. However having been on forums when looking up opinions on our loanees a common theme was how unfit some of them were in terms of league demands. Im sure it may be partially down to attitude but considering they’re professional footballers that’s one quality they really shouldn’t be lacking in and coaches should prioritise installing within them a stringent fitness regime. No,harm in having fun but slacking at pro level should be clamped down upon.

    2. 1993 : Afobe, Aneke and Yennaris.
      The only 3 players to have made it from start (u8’s) to pro that have come through the academy. Many players have joined later and made it but not sure of any others to have come through the system this way.

  2. Great article jeorge. Agree with most of it probably all! Lots to look forward to next season. Olsson my favourite player this season love watching him play and though its early would pinpoint BOO as my dark horse for next season. Needless to say competition for central midfield is going to,be overwhelming and the sad part is some potentially top quality prem players won’t make it here.

  3. Whose next –
    Özyakup – Besiktas
    Angha – Nuremburg
    hajrovic – Brugge
    monteiro – Brugge
    ebicilio – FC Twente

    Eastmond – Colchester
    henderson – Ipswich
    Watt – Colchester
    wynter – Bristol City
    Rees – Middlesboro
    Charles-cook – Norwich
    bhimoutine – Wolves
    Meade, neita,fagan – TBC

    There is life after Arsenal, Minor concern is the number of players we bring in from abroad who end up going back.

  4. imo Hayden and yennaris will be the only one to make it. i also think arsenal should look at cauley woodrow a st from fulham who helped the win the uner 18s i think

  5. I think it will be a waste to play Hayden in CB. He got vision and talent to play CM. Hard worker and great attitude too. We have got some really good prospects in the U21 at the moment. I would love to see Olsson loaned back to Sweden again for a few months like Guidetti. Not the best league but for development purpose. It will be interesting to see how they will cope next season.

  6. Why would you want to see Olsson loaned back to Sweden??? He might be loaned to a foreign football association, but why would you want him to go to Sweden??? He probably would consider this to be lateral, instead of a forward step. The Championship is at a higher level than the Swedish League, although technically, it leaves something to be desired. I would rather see him go to Germany, Netherlands, or even Italy, where they deploy deeper lying play-makers such as Pirlo. Perhaps Spain as well??? He could end up at Betis if we have finalized our partnership with them!😀

    1. Because he can slot in easy and well. He can get those minites he wants to. a few months only and if he done great then he can move up to maybe the dutch of german league or something. English leagues is a big joke for development, its proven. If you want him to get hurt and out for a few months then championship is a great club for him. They barely speak any english in italy and is also generally bad at developing young attacking talents. He needs to go somewhere where he can slot in immediately. That is the Dutch league and swedish league.

      In an interview Olsson said he will consider the swedish league but that might be harder for him to get in the Arsenal first team than if he would have done great in league 1 or championship. That is true but he needs to stay fit and play as many matches as he can. I think Dutch league will be great for him.

    2. Question : How many of our foreign imports have been loaned out to a championship or League 1 team? Apart from Ryo and that was for work permit reasons i think the answer is none yet they take precedent over home grown talent.

  7. Just a clarification. If we sign a young player and then he is loaned abroad can he still have homegrown status?

  8. Another season for the youth. i follow this up every day: news, match review, etc. Its great to see many of these players coming up. I have reservations for Kris Olson, Serge Gnabry, “Chuba Akpom”, “Hector Bellerin”, Thomas Eisfeld, Yennaris, and Jon Toral. I believe much that these will at a point break in to the first team.

    i am a great supporter of Arsenal’s legacy on youth development. I love to see more players join first team every year.
    However, looking at number of graduates from Arsenal’s Academy, we can ask ourselves, how many of these players are playing for arsenal now? How many can be categorized as “World Class”? Not just another mediocre player, but world class player. I love to see the academy produce Messi, CR7, Gareth Bale, RVP (no hard feeling), another Whilsere, Denis Bergkamp, Iniesta, etc. However, i am worried seeing players develop here (foreign and local) and not being able to break through to the first team. for 1 reason or the other. The season, the exodus is already here ( This shows a lot of things. My questions are:
    1. Recently, have we been recruiting wrong players?
    2. Could there be something wrong with their development: say coaching or the program?
    3. Is there something wrong with our approach to bringing players here: wages or scouting?

    The season is over, what’s next for these players and the management in resolving these issues is vital. Hope, just hope we continue to attract great players and be able to equip first team from within..


  9. bale is a Southampton product,Cr7 is a where did he come from? Porto? Not many top clubs create “world class” kids. Most buy them between 16-21 and then develop them from there.
    Arsenal has done very well in developing kids between 18-21 though.

    But if one think Tottenham develped bale and United developed Ronaldo then arsenal developed Cesc, nasri and the list goes on…

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