Credit must go to Arsenal’s new loan-system
In a dismal season, there was one thing Arsenal fans held tightly onto: the youngsters.
At the Emirates Stadium, rather than the more experienced players leading by example, it was the young players who kept the Arsenal fans’ candles burning bright at night.
Naming three players in Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe for the club’s annual Player of the Season award, who are all 23 or under, was a testament that this season will only be remembered for the on-pitch development of Arsenal’s youth.
While Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka have already been applauded countless times that it has become the new normal, the emergence of Emile Smith-Rowe is what surprised people the most.
Although many were awestruck, some predicted that Smith Rowe’s genesis in first team of Arsenal in arguably the best league in the world was just a matter of time. They were the people from the Englishman’s former club Huddersfield Town.
The 20-year-old spent six months on loan at the John Smith’s Stadium last season. But acquiring his services was not straightforward.
The North London outfit’s loan manager Ben Knapper identified few clubs which suited Smith Rowe’s playing style. The club then wanted assurances from Huddersfield about the time being given to their academy product, due to his past injury records.
The 20-year-old’s manager at Huddersfield, Danny Cowley, explained Portsmouth News how they acquired the youngsters’ signature after a disappointing spell at German side Leipzig.
“Emile had a really disappointing time at Leipzig, who paid about £2million for the loan and then he got injured in the first couple of weeks. He was young and in Germany on his own.
“The way Leipzig play is a very high-pressing game, extremely different to how Arsenal play. As a consequence, they broke him quite early.”
“That meant we worked really hard with Arsenal to look after him. We put in a huge amount of work to make that transition as smooth as possible – which meant we had him available to us for virtually the whole season.
He continued, “At that time, though, Emile wasn’t able to physically play 90 minutes on the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, so we agreed with Arsenal that we’d manage his minutes. I would have to take him off at 60 minutes and the crowd would murder me!”
The comments of Cowley proves that Arsenal have a new system for the players going out on loan. That has certainly benefitted Smith-Rowe and more recently Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland Niles and under 23s player Mark McGuinness.
Their development is apparent, which has resulted in their market value soaring. Arsenal now looks like a club of ideas as they try to transform the workings at boardroom level.
Regret among the backroom staff is obvious. And now it looks like they are working to avoid similar situations. Next season, they have players in the form of Folarin Balogun, Miguel Azeez, Ben Cotrell and the 17-year-old Kido Taylor-Hart who can develop massively from a loan.
The club’s cause will be tested again. But many inside the club will be confident of finding the best clubs suited to their players’ playing style.
So that they can have a successful career at Arsenal, rather than somewhere else.