Jonker set to start work as preparations for new season begin

July 1st is a pivotal date in the footballing calendar. It signifies the passing of one season onto the next, with many players across the world coming to the end of their contracts at their current clubs, whilst others formally complete transfers elsewhere.

For Arsenal, tomorrow will be significant for two further reasons. Not only do the first batch of players, including the vast majority of the U21 and U18 squads, return to London Colney for pre-season training, but Andries Jonker will officially start work as the club’s new Academy manager.

The appointment of the Dutchman was announced in January, so the 51-year-old has had plenty of time to consider his first steps in his new position. Over the course of his time at the club, his main aim will be to improve the quality of players being developed at the club’s Hale End Academy and ensuring that a greater number of homegrown graduates make the journey into the first-team.

Jonker will also be hoping to oversee an upturn in fortunes in terms of results at youth level, particularly in the U18 league. Although Arsenal, perhaps more than most clubs, have long prioritised development over scorelines with regards to the Academy, some of the results suffered by the U18s in recent seasons have hardly been beneficial to the progress of the club’s youngsters.

The acquisitions of Mourgos Savvas and Elias Hatzitheodoridis from the club’s Elite Academy in Greece, demonstrate that the club is still keen to bring in talented youngsters from abroad, but, despite Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem being promoted to the senior side last Summer, the production line has slowed a little in recent years.

With success so important, and Arsene Wenger fielding fewer youngsters in cup competitions than he did previously, it is becoming increasingly difficult for players to make the breakthrough. Jonker’s task is to ensure that Arsenal have a group of players to supplement the first-team squad who possess the qualities and determination to achieve success. It certainly won’t be an easy task, but, with the long-serving trio of Liam Brady, David Court and Roy Massey all leaving their respective positions, his appointment represents the biggest overhaul of the Academy for some time.




  1. Jorge, any idea why so many of the U18 are joining other academies?
    Olufela Olumola has just joined Southampton.
    A while earlier it was announced that Ovie Ejaria had joined Liverpool.
    Are they getting guarantee that AFC refused to sign on?
    Is it financial with AFC refusing to pay long term schoolboy the rate they offer to kids they bring in at that age?
    Or do they genuinely think that the path to first team football will be easier or at least more accessible?

    1. I think it’s more the latter- it’s such a high level of competition at Arsenal that it’s going to be more difficult for them to break through, whereas at other clubs they can progress more quickly to the U21 team and maybe train with the first-team etc.

      On Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 3:18 PM, Jeorge Bird's Arsenal Youth wrote:


      1. I’d find that explanation more convincing if Chelsea were having the same problem. But they’re not, are they? Chelsea’s academy is now one of the most successful in Europe with recruits (many from the London area) positively battering down the door to get in.

        I’d suggest Chelsea can attract and hang on to young talent, despite the total absence of first-team opportunities, because their academy is extremely successful and morale there is high. Their kids are getting first-rate coaching and every opportunity to develop their full potential – and they know it, which why they’re not defecting to other clubs.

        You make the point that development matters more than score lines. Sure, but the ability to win games is also an aspect of development. Instilling tactics, teamwork, self-belief, determination and discipline is all part of a competent youth coach’s brief.

        Jonker hasn’t come a moment too soon, and his first task should be to replace the entire coaching staff. It’s not that long ago that our academy was one of the best, so it’s some achievement on the part of the existing coaches to have relegated it in just a few years. Would relegation be tolerated at Chelsea, at Liverpool, at Southampton? Would the coaches keep their jobs? I think not.

        If we don’t turn our coaching around fast, expect the rest of the more talented and ambitious kids to see the light too. First-team opportunities are nice but they aren’t everything. What a really talented and ambitious kid wants above all is coaching that will help him realise his potential. Chelsea are providing that, as are Southampton. Their kids have been winning games, learning, gaining in skill and self-belief. Ours, despite their obvious talent, have been relegated to the outer darkness of division 2, along with the dross like Blackburn and Stoke. This isn’t the kids’ fault, it can’t be. The buck stops with the coaches, and it’s time for a radical change before it’s too late.

      2. I have to agree with miranda. Whilst development and progression through the ranks is the ultimate goal.

        There is not a youngster in the world that doesnt enjoy winning and collecting medals and trophies.

        I think jonker, needs to emphasis to the academy kids that there is no rush in getting to the first team what is more important is that when you are given your chance you take it with both hands and show you are ready. I would like to see us field a really strong under 21 team this season as well as fielding strong teams in u18 and all the cups. Let’s get that winning mentality back at all levels, sure some players should go on loan, but I would prefer we send the likes of martinez, coquelin, miquel, galindo and ryo out as we have u21 players at the club that are as good as them already and could step up if required.

      3. Some of the Chelsea academy players are on bigger wages than some first-team Premier League players. I think that explains it all really.

  2. Exactly. There can be nothing more disheartening than tramping off the pitch having lost yet again and not knowing why it happened or how to turn things around. Constant failure will sap the self-belief and will to improve of even the strongest kid. I watched the tie versus Barca. Those kids really wanted to win and clearly had the talent to do it. They just didn’t know how to, so eventually they lost their nerve and their discipline – missed penalty, keeper sent off! It was almost like watching the first team, where we’ve sometimes seen a similar lack of confidence, poor match preparation and focus.

    I’m all for players, especially kids, being encouraged to out and express themselves, and I’m the last person to think we should take a leaf out of the ghastly Pulis’s book – I can’t stand him or the type of football played by his teams – but there’s no denying that, through focusing on how to win games, he gets the best out of players and the success he gives them does wonders for their morale. A strong focus on technique and self-expression isn’t incompatible with winning. Barca’s kids win most of their games by huge margins. A successful academy teaches both things: skills, creativity and experimentation during everyday training, tactics and a winning mentality as they prepare for competitive games. If the kids never win they eventually just come to accept failure as inevitable and lose their confidence and desire to work hard.

    I’m amazed at the lack of criticism at what’s happened to our academy. The writing was on the wall ages before we were relegated but it seems to have have taken us years to recognise that something was wrong. Hopefully Jonker will now get down to work and take the problem in hand.

  3. Sorry, I’ll go away after this, but I do have a question: what exactly is Jonker’s job description? From the little I’ve read, it sounds a bit as though his brief is mainly to improve the quality of players being recruited, which, if so, would mean he’s essentially a scout with the posh job title of director of youth development. If his role is largely confined to recruiting young talent, would he even have the authority to replace the present coaching staff?

    Seems to me we’ve traditionally been pretty good on the 16+ scouting front with Cesc, Clichy, Ramsey, Toure, Eboue, Szczesny and, hopefully for the future, Toral, Bellerin, Zelalem, etc., etc. It’s the kids who have come through Hale End that haven’t been quite so successful, with only really Gibbs and Wilshere making the grade.

    Talent-scouting is obviously important and there’s always room for improvement if we’re not to be overtaken by other clubs, but surely our major weakness has been our failure to develop the talent we find. For that to happen it looks like much higher standards of coaching are needed. Will Jonker be in a position to do anything about it? Dutch youth coaching has for a long time been far superior to English, so it would be great if he had plans to bring in people from there.

      1. Yup, it was announced at the beginning of April. They’re managing the U18s and the U16s respectively.

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