Worrying trend emerges as Arsenal schoolboys contemplate life elsewhere

Signing your scholarship, particularly at a leading club, is one of the key moments in a young player’s career. It signals that you are officially part of the U18 squad for the next two years, that you are now training at the first-team’s training ground and, most importantly, that you are a step closer to achieving your dream of becoming a professional footballer.

At Arsenal, however, a worrying trend has developed recently, with several of the players who have been offered scholarships by the club dithering over whether to accept them. Promising central-midfielder James Blanchfield is set to leave, having recently represented Manchester United’s U18s, striker Olufela Olomola is poised to join West Ham United and midfielder Ovie Ejaria represented Liverpool at youth level over the weekend.

There is very little Arsenal can do to prevent players from leaving in this manner. Until they officially sign their scholarship deals on July 1st, players aged 16 are free to move elsewhere. It is not an entirely new phenomenon, either, with striker Jordan Brown having chosen to join West Ham last Summer despite being offered a scholarship at London Colney. Brown was concerned about the potential lack of game time he would have received at Arsenal, and, so far, has reaped the benefits of his switch across London, with the striker featuring for West Ham’s U21 team, signing his first professional contract and also training with Sam Allardyce’s first-team.

Olomola and Ejaria are both set to leave Arsenal

Olomola and Ejaria are both set to leave Arsenal

Last Summer, Kyle Ebecilio and Jordan Wynter were amongst those offered extensions of their professional contracts at the club, but both decided to move on. Ebecilio is now thriving in the Eredivisie with FC Twente, whereas, had he remained at Arsenal, it is highly unlikely he would have come close to representing the first-team on a regular basis.

Arsenal have plenty of schoolboys from younger age groups who can step in and replace the likes of Blanchfield, Olomola and Ejaria, but it is slightly concerning that some players who have worked their way through the Hale End system feel that they wouldn’t get the best chance to express themselves during a scholarship at Arsenal.

Arsenal’s scholarship intake for next season is still promising, with England youth internationals Kaylen Hinds and George Dobson joined by those acquired from elsewhere, such as Kristopher Da Graca and Jonatas Centeno. Some players, however, notably Chris Willock, have yet to confirm whether they will still be at the club next season.

It is possible that more schoolboys could choose to depart before the start of July, and one of the first tasks facing the incoming Head of Youth Development Andries Jonker will be to make remaining at Arsenal a more appealing prospect for these young players than moving elsewhere. It promises to be an agonising wait until the start of July.




    1. Looks to me like it’s the opposite and our players are leaving for clubs where the competition is actually fiercer. United, Liverpool, West Ham, etc. have all been getting better results than us – take a look at the tables. And what about Chelsea? They have a fantastically successful academy but aren’t, as far as I know, suffering from this problem, despite the fact that the chances of their kids ousting Oscar, Harzard and co from their place in the first team are practically nil. Unpalatable though it is, our kids must be leaving because they believe they’ll get better coaching elsewhere and have more chance of developing to their full potential. Far from being scared, they’re ambitious.

      How our once excellent academy has been allowed to get into this mess is beyond me. Let’s hope Jonker can turn things around.

  1. Harrybarracuda,
    Spot on. We have actually produced very, very few players over the last few years who have come all the way through from hale end. I think they may be somewhat scared of the new regime clearing out those who arent good enough.
    Further, of the players who have gone elsewhere over the last few years, how many of them are playing or even approaching first team football at their new clubs? If they can’t do it there, they certainly wouldn’t play for Arsenal. Let’s hope the new Rhine raises the level considerably.

    1. Err the article points to guys like Ebecilio who are thriving in other leagues. Also guys like (forgotten his name) at FC Nuremburg is getting games at first team. Not to mention nomads like Barazite has done extremely well for himself (though of course sent out on loan after helping Monaco to the top league) and guys like Luke Aylng who left surprisingly very early yet is the starting right back for a Championship side at 21 and is on his way to likely being a PL player. Then guys like Harvard Nordtveit who we sold largely because he knew he wasn’t gonna get a chance, yet has become a very well respected DM/CB in the Bundesliga and got a good move to a top 10 Bundesliga side as their starting DM. Right now, I’d have him back in our squad as a 4th choice CB and DM option. Always felt he wasn’t given the chance.

      Find it ridiculous so many are claiming these guys are disloyal. It’s a brave decision to leave the comfort and money of arsenal for another team, especially in a lesser league. These boys are actually one of the smarter ones, they know already they aren’t good enough for arsenal, so no point in hanging about like a bad smell like guys such as Frimpong and co who have hung around the fringes of the first team collecting their pay check. They’ve accepted it early and decided to fight for another route to the top.

      Also find it hypocritical that we’re deeming them as disloyal, yet we will sing the praise and joy of signing young players from Villa (Crowley). It works both ways you know?

      There’s 2 levels of irony to this…
      Arsenal are infamous for signing young players from other top clubs before they sign professional contracts (Cesc, Crowley, etc.)
      It is also this reason why some are now leaving. Imagine being Akpom and doing so well, yet Sanogo just comes through and is given the chance that arguably he deserves? Or being a young right back (do we have any?) who has to go up against Hector Bellerin, who already has it stipulated in his contract his road to the first team?

      This is football guys. Can’t be calling for loyalty when we’re ready to dumb the players at any given moment when we’ve deemed them not good enough….. and they know it. They have to rightfully look out for themselves first.

      1. You are right on certain thing , however, you have to remember that these kids are 16 or less years old which mean they still having a football education , which is different from who you cited because they (Barazite, Nordveit, Ebecillio, Bunjaku, Ayling , Frimpong etc…) all played at a higher level (U18 or reserve) which means they learn all Arsenal had to teach them now it was due to the club to trust them by giving them a contract and playing opportunities.
        Jordan Brown then , Blanchfield, Ejaria and Olomola decided (if they leave) to not finish their football apprentichip were it started and that is a big gamble which can go well or completely wrong , however , as many current U18 will move in the U21 squad next season due to age (Jebb , Lipman etc…) or beacuse they have nothing to learn anymore at this age group (Zelalem , Crowley ) so for Blanchfield and Ejaria as both are midfielders they are (were?) opportunities .

      2. Agree with Nathan. Arsenal isn’t (can’t) be the same for us as it is for the players. It’s their career which will determine their future quality and direction of life. They’ve just made a judgement they believe will hold them in good stead for the long term.

        It’s modern football whether ppl like it or not. We haven’t done anything wrong by getting crowley or cesc because the rules/regulations allow us to just as these scholars haven’t done anything wrong in leaving the club. You talk about debt, loyalty etc but we didn’t snap them up as schoolboys on a whim of charity. We did so because we believed they would repay us in terms of performances and possibly cash should we sell them sometime in the future. Let’s face you’re never going to be a ‘fans favourite’ based on attitude. It’ll be the performances. A minor slump of a few months by a fan favourite and the merry chants and cheering on the part of fans would be replaced by a barrage of jeering.

        I believe arsenal is a great place to develope but ppl have to realise its immpossble for professionals to look at it from the same perspective. That’s actually one of the reasons I really like wenger. Although he has his limits he tries his utmost not to compromise on player development. Hasn’t exactly been repaid in kind though!

      3. Don’t see too many calling any of them disloyal, and most fo the players you mentioned did not come through the Hale End Academy, all but Ayling were actually brought in from other clubs as 15/16 year olds.

        As for Bellerin haing it stipulated in his contract his road to the first team, you need to realise that each and every player who joins the Arsenal Academy have their pathway to the first team laid out for them, it means nothing if they are not good enough or do not develope enough, all it refers to is the steps and goals they have to achieve to make it to the first team. Not one player who joins Arsenal’s Academy is ever assured to get into the first team, but the pathway is there for them all if they are good enough to take it.

  2. Gotta say I find it damn unpleasant when any young player chooses not to stick with us. What a decision to be making at 16,though!

    I know I looked back, a few years later, on those years and the decisions I had to make then and thought, ‘S***, wish I could’ve been a bit more grown up back then’. And these lads obviously have a lot more riding on their calls at this point.

    Potential is there for things to be pretty embarrassing and, potentially, costly if a lot of them turn down the contracts, but no need to panic yet. Probably natural for a few to turn us down given we’ve offered a good few more than usual (Here, they’ll know their competition; elsewhere, all they’ll know is a bunch of coaches eager to tell them they’ve a good chance)

    Wouldn’t hurt for senior team to win FA cup and start killing off this idea of us as no longer a winning club (that sort of thing could easily influence some younger minds in today’s social-media dominated culture)

  3. Hopefully the situation at Manchester United will convince a few (Willock …) that their future may be better served by staying at Arsenal. Going to West Ham may be better in the short term, but Allardyce does not trust youngsters. They will remain on the fringe of the first team and then be sold to a championship club. Overall they would have lost a couple of years.
    Frankly the problem is also that the quality is not there. None of those who have refused a scholarship are likely to be at champion’s league club soon. Barazite, Bunjaku, Nordveit, Ebicilio may have played more for the first team than they would. However it is also likely that they have reach their peak situation. A second tier club in some cases in a second tier championship.
    However maybe they also recognise that the coaches are not very good. Laraman does not seems to be the kind of guy that inspire confidence. Some of his choices are peculiar should we say.
    The worrying trend is that Liverpool are convincing the young and bright that Brendon Rogers will give them a chance. Southampton developing their players into first team, those are the two clubs a youngster should look to join rather than West Ham, Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea.
    Regarding Akpom, he was struggling at Coventry, so maybe he is not yet ready to play at premiership level. He also has some fitness and stamina trouble. He seems to dip after the 70 minutes mark. How would he have fare when playing at a higher level and faster tempo? In France, it was widely reported that Sanogo was put in a special training regime to bulk up. I would think that Akpom will be given his chance next season. The one who could have been complaining is Benik Afobe who has never been given a look in. He is much more suited to Playing with his back toward goal than Podolski was. With Bentdner out of the picture, he could have been a useful back up plan to Giroud.

    1. Benik Afobe has not been able to hold down a regular place at either Bolton or Sheffield Wednesday, yet he should have been given a role in the Arsenal first team. Just like Akpom who did not hold down a place at Brentford or Coventry, maybe, just maybe, they are not ready for the Arsenal first team yet, people need to realise that, despite what all the doomsayers would have you believe, Arsenal have a very good team, and very good squad, and it is still one hell of a step up from the Championship to the FAPL, let alone from U18 or U21 teams to it, and another step up to the first team of any of the top clubs, which AFC are certainly one of.

      1. I didn’t mention Afobe. But he’s a good choice. Barca were once after him, yet it seemed to rile so many Arsenal fans at the possibility of losing our academy crown jewel. Oh but now he’s not good enough, I don’t hear any talk of loyalty or that we should keep him. Everyone has moved on to the next best thing.

        Bet he wished he took in that Barca chance now. He likely wouldn’t have made it there either but the education would’ve been fantastic. But imagine if he did, what would everyone here be saying about him and loyalty?

        Afobe is a perfect example of why sometimes, when you know you’re not good enough, it’s better to try and get educated elsewhere when you’re still young enough to get it, Fans are fickle. It’s not like we’ve coached a huge amount of players from Hale End to the first team in recent years compared to many other clubs, so maybe the coaching education that we proclaim so much isn’t as good as what we think?

  4. This isnt worrying. It shouldnt be easy for academy players to make it to the first team, especially at a club like Arsenal. There’s only a about a 1% chance that academy players will forge for themselves a professional career, and even if they do there’s even a slimmer chance they make it at the very very top with a club like Arsenal. Its a romantic ideal that fans set for themselves when they think that we should be producing more “homegrown” talents, but if theyr’e not good enough, then theyre not good enough, simple as that.

    1. Exactly. No shame in that. Certainly no need to start deeming them disloyal or whatever. They know they’re not good enough, so found another way.

    2. It’s certainly higher than 1%, it’s probably more like 20% will make in the football leagues for several years at least.

  5. Nothing really we can do about this. These youngsters will look at those who has gone elsewhere and think they can do the same. Every year Arsenal bring in another youngster from elsewhere to compete and they pretty much become ahead with ease. I would love to see Willock stay and develop here for at least 2 years. I hope Arsenal put real effort to keep him here because he is really special.

  6. Our young players leaving is the price we pay for bring in so many foreign players. A guy like Blanchfield is right to leave, we gave him few chances in the u18’s while promoting guys younger than him to that level. We are also likely to bring in foreign players that he will have to compete with. I doubt him leaving will be a big loss, we still have Harry Donovan come thru and Charlie Gilmour will be a 16 next year.

    1. Not true at all , Blanchfiled is born in 97′ the only younger players who we gave a chance at U18 level are Mavidid and Willock born in 98 , Maitland-Niles , Dobson , Tafari Moore, Robinson , Zelalem , Crowley , Huddart , O’Connor are all born in 97 . Moreover how good are actually Blanchfield , Olomola and Ejaria because none of them have been called by England or any other nation yet…..Good luck to those leaving but if you look accurately we have better players (at the moment) at the club currently .

      1. National team is NOT a good way to measure talents. If you are going to watch talent in nationa teams then 18+ is the team you should look at because younger players develop at different pace. Thos who do good in national team are likely to keep his place and the other talent wont be given the chance.

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