On the day that Andries Jonker was confirmed as the new Head of the club’s Academy, a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Liverpool’s U21 side was not exactly the best illustration of Arsenal’s development programme.
There will undoubtedly be much work for Jonker to attend to when he assumes his new position in July, but unfavourable results at Academy level appear to be the least of the club’s concerns at present, with the emphasis firmly on producing players capable of breaking into the first-team set-up.
That aim has been achieved to a certain extent, with Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs all progressing from scholars to first-team regulars in recent times, whilst, even though their respective stays in North London may be coming to an end in the near future, Nicklas Bendtner, Emmanuel Frimpong and Johan Djourou also progressed through the club’s Academy to represent the senior side.
Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem are the two latest players to be elevated to the first-team, but, despite the above successes, there is still a rather long way to go before Arsenal are capable of producing supreme talents with considerable regularity.
Monday’s game against Liverpool was something of a case in point, with just four of the players who started the game for Steve Gatting’s side having been internally produced and the remainder having been acquired from other clubs.
It is true that the vast majority of youngsters brought in from elsewhere possess considerable potential, with the likes of Zelalem, Thomas Eisfeld and Jon Toral all superb technically, but the lack of quality players being produced by the club’s Hale End Academy is rather worrying.
Some players, such as the likes of Tafari Moore, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Chris Willock, not to mention Chuba Akpom, offer considerable hope for the future, but there are still many improvements which can be made in terms of the overall quality of players being churned out.
There are always a clutch of talented young players who appear to be on the cusp of the first-team squad, but, on a more immediate note, several of them would hugely benefit from a loan spell in the near future, with Eisfeld and Kristoffer Olsson in particular falling into that category.
As for whether there are any candidates within the club’s set-up who could provide cover at centre-back in the near future, Isaac Hayden appears far more capable as a defensive-midfielder, whilst Semi Ajayi, a recent acquisition from Charlton Athletic, has shown promise in some games, but is yet to deliver a consistent set of performances for the club.
It is now Jonker’s task to attempt to improve the overall situation concerning the club’s Academy. One thing that is for certain is that the transformation will be a long-term process.