Arsenal’s best Academy products by Dan Smith
A recent statistic emerged this week showing that Arsenal are the most inclined to give youth a chance. While that doesn’t stand out when your finishing 6th in the Leauge, there are many examples of players from our academy who went on to be a success.
Here’s a top 10 list of the best Gunners who began as part of our academy.
Micheal Thomas (10)
While millennials will tell you Sergio Aguero produced the most dramatic ever ending to a League campaign, that honour in fact belongs to Thomas, who wrote himself into Arsenal folklore at Anfield in 1989. Such was the feat of beating Liverpool 2-0 away,that documentaries and movies continue to be made based on the Welshmen’s last minute goal which took the title to Highbury. He showed versatility during his career, switching from fullback to midfield, having a decent goal return in both positions.
Jack Wilshire (9)
Refusual to extend his contract ended an Arsenal career that didn’t meet people’s expectations, due to injury more then talent. He broke on to the scene as a teenager with the likes of Iniesta complimenting his performances against Barcelona. His emergence was supposed to cushion the blow left by Fabregas’ and Nasri’s departures. Fitness concerns however meant he could no longer be reliable for club or country and he has become more famous for the length of time on sidelines than his displays. The fFact he chose not to fight for his place , choosing first team football at West Ham is not the ending anyone wanted.
Kind of cheating as he didn’t start at our youth team but was a handful of teenagers we convinced to move to England.
It was a sign of things to come. Arsene Wenger’s reputation for giving youngsters a chance made our club a place where parents trusted their kids would get the best possible opportunity to develop. Like many Spaniards though he got homesick and a return to Barcelona was inevitable in the end. He deserved more for his contribution then 1 FA Cup
Ashley Cole (7)
Given how he left, some gooners wouldn’t have him on this list but if we judged this purely on his career he’d be higher. In essence, we hate him because we loved him. One of our untouchables who formed an understanding with Pires and Henry that saw our left side destroy teams. Chelsea offering a bigger wage was first sign that paying off the stadium was going to Impact the squad
David Rocastle (6)
Spent a decade at the club with Arsene Wenger later insisting he was a player ahead of his time in terms of his technique and vision. ‘Rocky’ is rememberd fondly by fans with tributes at both the academy and the stadium, with George Grham heavily critisised for tranfering him to Leeds. Ian Wright tells a great story the night before signing with us, staying up all night listening to Rocastle talk about ‘the Arsenal’. Don’t you miss the days when a player had so much pride in representing our club
David O’Leary (5)
A succesful youth team ran effectively develops players, saving the club money. To produce an individual who would go on to play more games then anyone else in history is credit to the whole set up. O’Leary was a calm defender who became a leader on and off the pitch. Those qualities were crucial in readying the next generation of stars such as Tony Adams.
Ironically his most succesful years in terms of trophies won were when he was no longer a automatic starter although deserved due to his longevity.
Paul Merson (4)
Spent over a decade at the club during which time he scored 99 goals. Technically superb, he gave creativity to an Arsenal team, during our famous ‘boring boring ‘ phase. Despite his success, he would have been even better if not distracted by other demons in his life.
Ray Parlour (3)
Longevity is classic example of how hard work and effort can make a career. Parlour saw more technically gifted players than him come and go but remained due to his work rate. An individual not appreciated ’til he was gone. Parlour’s the type of character we have lacked in the last 10 years
Martin Keown (2)
During our title drought lots has been made about our lack of mentality. Martin Keown is the type of character we desperately could’ve done with round the club. Despite starting his career with us, George Graham, who knew a thing about a defender, chose to sell him. Keown was re-signed a few years later, forming part of a famous back four. In truth he could of been part of it from day one.
Tony Adams (1)
As part of his contract negotiations, there’s talk of Aaron Ramsey being made our next captain. I miss the days when the armband was more then just a prop to pacify a star player from leaving. If Tony Adams was in our dressing room he would refuse this protocol of keeping individuals who didn’t want to wear the shirt. That’s because he grew up on the values of the crest and was surrounded by leaders who were equally proud to be a gunner. He was instrumental In preaching these standards to the French Revolution.
Will we ever be a club again who someone loves, where he doesn’t think the grass is greener?