Arsenal starting Academy Players cannot be underestimated

Joe Willock3 English Academy Graduates Start by Dan Smith

I know some gooners were disappointed not to see more of Arsenal’s new faces at the weekend, but the significance of our starting line-up should not be underestimated. It included 4 Englishmen, 2 of whom were teenagers, 3 of which graduated from our youth team.

In the same week ‘one of our own’ fetched 35 million, those in charge of running our academy deserve credit. You have to go back to 1998 the last time two English teenagers represented us in the Premiership.

2002 is the last time more than 3 English graduates from our academy started in the League, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole and Ray Parlour. The last time we started more than two English teenagers from our youth team, you have to go back before the Premiership era.

The reason I empathise this is because for years we have spoken about the lack of leadership in our squad. The arm band has been given to our best players as a way to entice them to stay, look how much the captaincy meant to Koscielny. You can’t buy leadership; you can’t coach a person to have that mentality It comes from within. It comes from being a lifelong fan, who’s grown up at the club, who’s been educated about the ethos and values of the club. It means you have individuals who see pulling on the red and white as the biggest honour, with no aspirations to move to a Real Madrid or Barcelona.

It’s why all those years ago our PR Department wanted our British talent pictured together as they extended their contracts. It’s why those same 5 were often the face of our social media platforms or asked to model merchandise
A gunner is more likely to relate to a player from the UK as they are more likely to view Arsenal as the holy grail. In terms of that famous photo no one lived up to the hype, injuries meaning they all suffered stagnation.

When Ramsey left in the summer for the first time in my life, I questioned our identity, who was our backbone, our heartbeat, who was ‘Mr Arsenal?’

That’s why Sunday could have been a massive moment in our history.


  1. Arsenal’s trust on their young British players in their first EPL game was admirable

    I hope they keep the young British players in the starting line-up when facing Burnley. Those youngsters deserve it, because they won an away game

  2. I hope we weren’t Naive enough to believe what started on Friday will be our default starting lineup.

    Hector could return to Oust AMN Ozil definitely for willock, Auba most likely in place of Nelson, Pepe for Miki

    1. Totally agree, giving them chance here and there is fine but to play them on regular base is suicide. You dont get extra points if you have British players in ur starting line up. Why create so much hype bec what I saw at Newcastle is Nelson is no where ready to play senior football he should be loaned again for experience. Willock should be kept n introduced time n time again for short spells in PL while given more time in other competition. I am afraid when hector is back AMN playing time is going to decrease significantly n I hope like willock he is given chance in middle in other competition but plz do not play these youngster too much in PL on constantly bec it’s a make or break season for us.

  3. I was okay with it when I saw the line up, I didn’t complain. I had a friend telling me why would Emery field three more than two youths in the game like this.
    My response to him was this, “The senior players we’ve been fielding for the past two seasons, what have they done for us? Where have they gotten us ? And he tried saying, you know it doesn’t mean, this and that.
    Look I’ve been calling for our academy players to be given the chances in place of our senior players since last season, I’m glad it happens, I hope it’ll continue to happen.
    If we lose, then we know we lose with youths growing and learning, instead of watching our players losing every winnable games like it’s nothing

    1. A team of academic players instead of seniors would never get you to the top 4 or europea cup final,as if we can financially afford it and such a team would be battling relegation,you need to think Eddie man!l keep repeating it the solution is to find the right balance!!

    2. well said Eddie. I’m with you on this one. Why should our senior players get time just because they are older? If they are not pulling their weight, they should be sat and other members should get a chance. Last season, Emery should’ve used Willock much sooner. even would’ve been fine with giving Medley a chance. Instead, it was Mustafi, Ozil, Xhaka, and the same players failing over and over towards the end of the season, and then they all started in the Europa League final. Many of our senior players do not deserve to be here.

  4. The so-called senior players can kiss my s*x if they think I care about fancy football this season. I want a gritty performance on the pitch win or lose. As much as I don’t fancy Xhaka’s all round play, I still see the willingness to deliver. A lot is said about Xhaka being slow, but has anyone noticed that Kroos and Khedira are just as slow and they all share similar trait. I believe with better coaching he could improve his decision making and intensity of his game. Like my Grandpa once said, never underestimate a man with purpose doesn’t matters if u think he is weak or strong.

    1. Once again your comment like many of your other comment shows you lack of knowledge of the game,f*CK seniors players What’s wrong with you?young players without seniors, experienced plays will get you nowhere that’s why we can only slowly field 1,2,3 at the times and not in big games,you don’t realise what seniors players do for the young ones on & off the pitch,give advice on anything share their experience, explain to them what it means and the values of the cloud and what it takes to win trophies,motivate them during difficult periods, especially in middfied and defence where you need cool heads,it is all about finding the right balance between hungry,motivated, fit young players and experienced players,look at Chelsea yesterday where were the seniors players,leaders no where?the best example is Juventus one the most consistent team in the world in the last few years, they have the right balance,if you look at the ages most of their defenders and middfied players are over 30″,s and the rest are 25 or just under!and by your description of khedira you can’t have been watching him play!

      1. Interesting point Tissiam. I mean, of course I can see how the senior players helped us achieve our objective last season. You obviously didn’t care to point out how the young guns pushed us through in the europa league knockout stages until the so-called senior players jinxed it in the final. Still the young lads came on in the closing minutes in Baku to help salvage something but it was too late. Remember Ozil’s behavior in Baku when he got subbed. A way to react for young gunz eh?. Similarly, I couldn’t help but notice how one of the most experienced heads in the team ( Koscielny) sheared his advice on code of conduct with the young lads on how to get what you want from the club. Look Tissiam, experienced heads show examples on and off the pitch not just say it.

        1. You made some good points I have to say,I dare to say we agree,we need to find the right balance between youth and experience and choose the right players young and experienced,do you agree?

    2. You are blessed with blinkerd vision sir. Xhaka is a con-artist who has perfected the art of the deception that he is a football player. A question for you and all those who have been deceived by Xhaka’s running around and pointing fingers to make it look like he’s in control anything, when in reality what he is doing is cleverly hiding his inept lack of ability to play the game with real skill aggression and passion, instead of safely circulating backwards and and sideways that will make his pass completion stats look really impressive but actually achieving nothing for the team and meaningless in terms of impacting the game. My question to you is. Has Arsenal’s football improved since Xhaka’s arrival and inclusion in the team either defensively or in attack? And if so is it because of him?
      Is it not true that Arsenal rejected Kante for 25 million and instead bought Xhaka for 35 million. And since his arrival Arsenal have progressively been conceding far more goals than I can remember in all of the time I have been watching and supporting the team. The defense has been a whole lot worse while on offense he offers nothing zilch zero. One way to tell if you have a good player on your side is if other teams want him and the price they are willing to pay. Right now Arsenal couldn’t give Xhaka away.

  5. I applaud the move 100%. Most of the senior players have let us down big time. Give the youth a chance & let’s see what they can do, afterall it’s an opportunity for them to improve.
    I was really disappointed with the senior players last season, I just wanted to see what our young guns can do if given the chance. I wish them all the best & hope they can flourish at Arsenal.

  6. I agree with the article it was great to see our young gunners given a chance. Although we are nowhere near full strength just yet its great to have those options in the squad. With Tierney, Holding and Bellerin(i beleive he is homegrown) still to come in things are looking much better than just a few months ago.

  7. Trust me, if Ozil & Mustafi started on Sunday, we surely would have lost. Young Willock had lot of energy all over the pitch, and even Xhaka wasn’t bad either. Nelson – give the lad time ,if you can give seasons to Ozil, at least let Nelson and Gabriel compete for the left wing spot. AMN provided that killer pass that won us the match and was composed when defending. I can see the impact of Freddie as against Bould. Happy we have teenage talent as a back up. I wish to see the same line up against Burnley with substitutions around the 60th minute,however lets leave that to Unai

  8. Academy players may lack experience but they are HUNGRY to prove themselves. So I expect them to make the odd mistake but also expect them to work hard

    Ozil and mkhitaryan don’t defend much and try to get the ball back that much either. Especially Ozil. The combination of his high salary and the fact that he doesn’t need to fight to get into International team (he is retired) is a bad combination. I HOPE I’m wrong and Ozil replicates 2015-2016 performance

    I want all players to work hard

  9. I think the thing that was brilliant to see is that arsenal are doing things the right way. We needed big investment into our current squad and the future is looking very very very bright.

    At the moment without a doubt the best team is city. They have 2 teams that could win the league I dont think our B team could quite win the league but the team we fielded on Sunday was a B squad. Pepe, lacca, ozil, kolasinac, Toreira. 5 players not starting but we still looked in the mix of the game. This is encouraging as there will be competition for places. No automatic starters like previously under wenger even ozil and auba will be under threat. Also our cup games will be more cutting edge with players who are quality and not just gaining experience.

    Top4 this season definitely and next season even stronger

  10. Admin:first of all I have been a fervent supporter and contributor with my comments from the start,until yesterday I never caused any problems or anything else,after calming down and some reflection I did apologise,about 15/20 minutes my comment was waiting for “moderation”,I haven’t seen it, could you explain to me what is happening please?or am I mistaken?thank you!

  11. As much as Arsenal can easily field an all foreign first team

    Bellerin Luiz Sokratis Monreal
    Torreira Xhaka
    Pepe Ozil Aubameyang

    Martinez, Kolasinac, Mavropanos, Saliba, Guendozi Ceballos, Martinelli (plus Mustafi, Elneny and Mkhitaryan)

    The all British team is pretty exciting too

    Niles Chambers Holding Tierney
    Willock Smith-Rowe
    Nelson John-Jules Saka

    Not forgetting Okonkwo, Osei-Tutu
    Ballard, Medley, Burton, Olayinka, Nketiah

    Who could all have a good future at the club. And not too long before we could have a 50/50 split of British to Foreign, which with Brexit around the corner, who knows what might happen.

    1. I see the clip of Willock being pushed off the ball, but then immediately getting up and fighting back to win it. This is the extra effort I believe academy products and British players put in. I love the foreign talents we have, but I also think it is important to have players in the squad that have been with Arsenal since their youth and understand the meaning of the badge. Not that foreign players can’t, but academy products understand this much easier. It’s about more than the money and trophies even. Hope Willock makes it as well as Reiss and the rest of the boys coming up.

      1. This is the same pure nationalism that is polluting the world.

        Next you will be saying foreign players dive more and will forget about Dele Ali, Kane, Sterling etc

        FYI – Iwobi was academy and is Nigerian. Chambers is English, but not from our academy. I don’t understand how people still conflate academy/nationality in 2019.

        If the team is better with more English players, so be it.
        If it’s better with foreign players, likewise.

        Does a team need academy players for extra effort? Not at all.
        Look at how City fought to regain (!) the title last season. How many of their academy players were in their regular starting lineup?

        NONE. Zero. Zilch.

  12. Are you really blaming xhaka only for the reason We’ve been conceded so many goals really?I won’t bother trying to explain to you how wrong on so many levels, unbelievable!

  13. Admin:could you find someone to write an article on the importance of senior players in a team/squad on every levels,on & off the pitch for the young player thanks!

  14. The key is balance. It should make any gooner proud to see our youth being promoted up and be given opportunities but in the right doses. The right mix of experience and youth can yield great results both short and long term along with protecting transfer budgets as development should avoid constant buying. It’s been a while since our academy has produced a myriad of talent that can make the step up but I’m hopeful this has now changed. We invest more in the academy than signings so it makes sense to give chances and I’m proud to see the manager giving that platform

  15. The youth was given a chance against Newcastle because the remainder of the bench was not fully fit. On other occasions they will get game time because we will have a busy period (like xmas) and rotation is important. On other occasions they will be selected on their ability and current form. It’s the way it should be.

    It’s a contrast to Lampard picking his youth against United where the decision didn’t work.

    Each of our players will be given personal objectives as well as group objectives. The young boys, in their debut 1st team season will…I suspect be given a number of assist and goals as well as other objectives like game time minutes. They should he aiming for 16 1st team starts and many more minutes.

    It’s a great sign because they are not just youth being given a chance but youth who are given a chance because they have talent – and we have the platform for them to excel.

    The rest is now up to them, and the fans to support their endeavors

  16. The PL quota requirement apart (and for the good of the English national team) thre nationality of anybof our players is unimportant. What matters are essentially three things; are they good enough, have they the necessary desire to work flat out and are they likely to stay fit. Yes there are minor matters , like are they African and likely to play in the African Cup bi annually. But ALL top playrs, which we have to hope all OUR players are or will become, are likely to play extra national games at whatever senior level , so is the AC that different in essence? I suggest not!

    Far too much false importance is attached by so many to mere nationality. We older fans can easily remember when it was commonly said “Oh he is black, so will not be as determined as white players”! Yes, REALLY! IT USED TO BE COMMONLY SAID AND WIDELY BELIEVED. Amazing how intelligence and knowledge of facts destroys evil prejudice . Isn’t it!

    To Wengers eternal credit he was never remotely one of these prejudiced dunces. Quite the opposite.

    1. Well said, jon ?
      If you’re good enough, you’re old enough and if you’re good enough you’re never too old!

    2. Because you don’t subscribe to something doesn’t mean it is stupid. I wonder why admin condones this. Are you saying because you do not rate the AFCON so African players should not represent their nations. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, it means to hundreds of millions of people in Africa. Mane was willing to exchange his champions league winners medal for an AFCON winners medal. The disrespect people show on this site is getting out of hand.
      FYI, the AFCON is biannual and holds in the summer now. Your ignorance is out of this world.

  17. They can be overestimated though and endlessly are … The number of players defined as the next big thing and then disappear to football oblivion a few years later goes long back … Can’t think of one world class player we have produced and only one or two of real quality sadly …

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