With another campaign rapidly approaching, Arsenal’s Academy will face some difficult decisions in the coming months. Here are eight of the most challenging tasks awaiting the club’s coaching staff.
8) ADD NEW FACES TO U21 SQUAD
With the U21 squad currently low on numbers, and many current members of Steve Gatting’s side set to head out on loan as the campaign progresses, there will come a time when many members of the U18 side will be called upon to make the step up. The likes of Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Jack Jebb and Austin Lipman have already featured intermittently for the second-string, but could be regulars at that level before the campaign is out.
7) MAKE FIRM DECISIONS ON WELLINGTON AND GALINDO
Having been perennially loaned out without ever playing a competitive game for the club due to work-permit issues, now the time has surely come to make a concrete decision on whether Wellington and Samuel Galindo have long-term futures at the club. The answer would appear to be a resounding no in the case of the latter, with the midfielder having returned to Bolivia on loan, but Wellington, if he can finally earn a work permit, still possesses enough raw potential to be granted a chance to shine. Whether he will get it is another matter entirely.
6) DECIDE ON SECOND-YEAR SCHOLARS
One of the most difficult yearly tasks faced by the Academy is to decide which remaining scholars should be kept on as professionals. There are currently seven players who fall into that category, with Josh Vickers, Alfred Mugabo, Alex Iwobi, Tom Dallison, Arinse Uade, Glen Kamara and Tarum Dawkins all well aware that they are entering a pivotal campaign as far as their respective futures at the club are concerned.
5) CONTINUE TO DEVELOP SCHOOLBOYS
The club currently have a promising collection of schoolboys on their books, many of whom have already made their debuts for the U18s and should receive further run-outs at that level this season. Chris Willock, for example, is already generating much attention, whilst George Dobson, who can operate at centre-back or in central midfield, was a mainstay for the U18s towards the end of last season. A decision on next season’s scholars will be made in December.
4) PRODUCE MORE PREMIER LEAGUE DEBUTANTS
Last season, despite the sheer number of players being produced yearly by the Academy, just two of them, Serge Gnabry and Ignasi Miquel, made Premier League appearances for Arsenal and both of those were cameo appearances as substitutes. This time around, it is hoped that more players will make a Premier League breakthrough, with the likes of Thomas Eisfeld and Hector Bellerin particularly strong candidates for a debut at some point during the campaign.
3) RESOLVE CHUKS ANEKE’S FUTURE
Chuks Aneke, having just turned 20, is now at the age where he needs to be playing regular football for the sake of his development. Last season the powerful midfielder shone during two separate loan spells with Crewe Alexandra, but this year’s Asia Tour could be pivotal in determining whether he will be involved with the first-team in any capacity this season.
2) CHOOSE BETWEEN THE UEFA YOUTH LEAGUE AND THE NEXTGEN SERIES
Arsenal’s maiden excursion in the NextGen Series was a memorable one, as the Gunners reached the semi-finals of the competition, defeating Inter Milan and CSKA Moscow in the process. Should the first-team win their Champions League qualifier in August, however, the club will automatically be invited to compete in the new UEFA Youth League, which will act as a direct rival to the NextGen Series and could contain a higher calibre of clubs.
1) APPOINT LIAM BRADY’S SUCCESSOR
After 16 years in the job, Liam Brady announced in January this year that he would be stepping down as the club’s Head of Youth Development by May 2014. However, since then, there has been no official word on who the Irishman’s successor will be, despite suggestions that a club legend such as Tony Adams or Dennis Bergkamp could return to fulfil the role. Terry Burton, who was initially appointed as U21s coach, has been filling in during the interim and may yet be offered the role on a permanent basis, but, in order for a blueprint for the Academy’s future to be set, an appointment needs to be made as soon as possible.