Arsenal have announced a considerable re-structuring of their coaching staff at youth level following the appointment of Andries Jonker as the club’s new Head of Youth Development.
Steve Gatting, somewhat surprisingly, will remain in his position as coach of the club’s U21 team, where he will be joined by Carl Laraman. Dutch coach Frans de Kat will take charge of the U18 team alongside Kwame Ampadu, whilst another new arrival, Jan van Loon, will oversee the development of the U16 side. Terry Burton’s departure from the club has also been confirmed after the 61 year old was overlooked when the club decided to appoint Jonker as Liam Brady’s replacement.
The appointments of de Kat and Ampadu will mark the third change in coaching staff at U18 level since Steve Bould was promoted to the first-team set-up less than two years ago. After some wretched results under the stewardship of Pat Holland and then Laraman, the new pairing will be hopeful of improving the perception of the club’s youth set-up. With 14 new scholars poised to commence their careers in the summer, this is a time of considerable change for the Academy. Ampadu, a former Arsenal player who made two appearances for the first-team, has impressed since re-joining the club as U16 coach, whilst de Kat has vast experience of coaching in Dutch football, with the national team, ADO Den Haag and Willem II.
van Loon has also worked with the Dutch national team’s youth set-up and will be tasked with helping the club’s next batch of promising schoolboys, including the talented Charlie Gilmour, to progress to full-time scholarships.
The decision to retain both Gatting and Laraman would, on the face of it, appear rather bizarre, with both coaches having come under criticism from regular attendees of youth team matches for the disappointing results and performances in league matches that have occurred during their reign. That said, both have guided Arsenal’s youngsters to the latter stages of cup competitions this campaign. Results are not the most important aspect of youth-team football, but Gatting and Laraman certainly do not inspire as much confidence as their predecessors, Bould and Neil Banfield.
It is clear that Jonker, whilst introducing some of his compatriots as coaches, wants to maintain a sense of continuity at the club by retaining some of the existing staff. Whether that will prove to be a wise move remains to be seen, but next season will certainly be another campaign of upheaval for the Arsenal youth department.