What has happened to Arsenal’s player development?

What has happened to Arsenal’s player development? by AndersS

I am convinced most of our players, young talents and established players alike, have a wish to do well in their careers. In a mix of individual ambition, ambition to win prestigious trophies with the club, and for some, even ambition to play on their national team and do well.

The possibility to fulfill their personal ambitions is for a large part down to their own talent and especially their will to work hard to exploit their talent. The possibility to win with the team, club or national team, depend partly on their own contribution and mostly on the team as a whole. But even so, I am sure, most, if not all players dream of achieving both individual success and team success.

Enough has been said and written about our lack of team success the last 10-12 years in the competitions that really matter; The PL and the Champions League. At least enough about AW’s lack of tactical capability etc. and enough about the owners’ insufficient investment in class players.

I would like to focus on the player development, or rather, the lack of player development. We used to be a club, which could develop players. Not only a few young talents coming through and becoming stars, but also fairly established players bought at reasonable prices, were developed and turned into superstars.

There may be an odd exception or two, although I can’t name any right off the top of my head, but over the last few years, this may not have happened at all. Who were the latest young players from our academy coming through and becoming stars, either still playing for us or sold off as a real star? Help me, I don’t really know.

Who were the latest decent/established players acquired, who became superstars playing for Arsenal?

In fact, it may actually be that all of the established players, who today play for us (or are on loan to another club) and who also played for us 3-4 years ago, are no better than they were 3-4 years ago. Several may be considered worse today than 3-4 years ago, and that is excluding those, who because of age, might be seen as naturally worse.

Do we have any players, maybe except Özil and Aubameyang, that the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid would pay large sums for? Or an English top club would pay large sums for? I think the answer is no.

I also think this can not just be put down to the players not being good enough in the first place. I see a clear pattern. Many players actually seem to have gone backwards after joining Arsenal.

This is combined with the lack of young players from the academy, actually fulfilling their promise. It is already 2-3 seasons ago the likes of Reine Adelaide, Akpom, Zelalem showed a lot of promise. But are they better now? It doesn’t really look like it to me.

This is a big worry. For what about Reiss Nelson, Maitland Niles, Nketiah and Willock, who all have played some this year? How will they turn out. Although there is obvious talent there, they honestly haven’t really convinced me, that they will be future stars.
There are things they seem to lack. First of all they seem more like phlegmatic young boys to me, than young unstoppable footballers ready to clear everything on their way to stardom. They also seem to have a big lack of both skill and desire/discipline to work hard on winning the ball back from opponents.

I hope player development will be hugely improved in the future. Not only the club deserve it, the players deserve it, and if they don’t see they can improve at Arsenal we will struggle. How can we hope for improved results, if we can’t improve the players?

But what can be done exactly? I hope the new manager will be able to do something also in that area.

Kind regards



  1. John0711 says:

    Simple the manager played players out of position killed their confidence end of story

    1. Rob says:


      I cannot understand how any real AFC fan could constantly seek to berate Wenger and blame the guy for every issue. I don’t think it conflicts with any netiqutte policy when I say, as a human being, as a lifelong gooner and as a respecter of all that this guy did, what he brought to our club and the British game, using football parlance, you are not fit to lace the guys boots @john0711.

      1. Phil says:

        John 0711 has called this right.Nelson is not a WB.AMN is more versatile but until he plays regular games as a CDM what good does it actually do him?Did Wenger ever play Cesc as a WB.RVP as a midfielder?Why then play these kids out of position?There are enough games in a season to bring these players on in their natural positions so why were they not given that chance?

      2. Ken 1945 says:

        Agree with you completely, especially the lacing of the boot section!
        It is easy to say that a young player is this or that, but until one explores the capabilities of the person involved who knows what talent he/she has?
        We have the classic example of this at our own club with a guy called Thierry Henry. The only manager who saw his goalscoring capabilities and combined them with his natural speed was a man called Arsene Wenger.
        So he played him “out of position and killed his confidence”…end of story.

        Admin: as you can see, I have sorted out the problem regarding getting on to the site. Something to do with my pc.
        Has much happened while I’ve been away?????????????????????????????????

  2. Pablo Picasso says:

    Other clubs around Europe copied it and improved on it.

    Unfortunately like so many good things Wenger initiated, not much was done to improve or support the system. Whose to blame for this, Wenger, Ivan, Kroenke? I believe we will soon know, I Arsene will open up on a lot of things after he leaves especially if he was forced out as hinted in the press conference.

    Cant wait for his book

  3. Arsene is Out says:

    It really depends on the manager’s priorities. Look at Spurs and the British youth they have. I think we have a handful of players that – if played consistently – can make the cut. AMN, Nelson, Nketiah seem to be ready to push the first team. If our next manager sees team building as a priority instead of short term success, I think we can bring in these and maybe a couple more players to the first team.

  4. Ray says:

    Good article and one that raises questions that have irked me for a while now..

    The comment about players being played out of position by John0711 is valid. More than valid in fact. I’m not sure if Wenger had a longer definitive plan that would require years of patience only to be told there was no time and he had to leave? I can’t think for the life of me why he did that to almost half the team?!

    Then there were the tactics, or, lack of! Playing players out of position was one thing but to constantly do it with no positive effect for so long just seemed insane! Substitutions were always beyond the 75 minute mark and rarely before.

    His constant support for the team has been fantastic but, at the same time it was his downfall I think. As the saying goes, “give an inch and they’ll take a mile” and allot of this team have performed in a manner that most top managers would have long since taken action against. We all know who they are, right?!

    The simple truth is, he was a fantastic manager in his early years only to caught up by what he taught the footballing world. For that he revolutionised modern football but ultimately failed to reinvent the wheel for Arsenal which, is what he needed to do. Changing the tactics and positions were simply the wrong avenue. He was destined to fail eventually. That’s life!

    1. Rob says:

      Deep perspective. So youth and academy development simply revolves around using players in ‘their’ position and making sure the ‘tactics’ are not Wengers? Great analysis.

      Wonder if you know how many of the worlds top footballers started in one position then evolved? Doubt it.

      For info: 2016/2017 AFC were the most active with players coming through from the academies and playing in the first team.

      ‘Arsenal gave their academy players more minutes in the first team last season than any other Premier League club, a study into youth football productivity has determined’.

      Graduates from the club’s Hale End academy — collectively racked up 6,628 minutes of Premier League football last season, according to the Press Association Sport study.

      Over the course of the campaign, the graduates accounted for 19.4 per cent of the Guners’ top flight minutes.

      Manchester United actually played more academy graduates, with 10 picked for first team action by manager Jose Mourinho, but they only appeared in 17.1 per cent of minutes in United’s campaign.

      Just to put in context where this really is, Manchester United’s academy includes Pogba bought back for £90m (after being let go…surely only someone like Wenger could make that sort of FU??) who played over 2600 of their total minutes!

      For sure the academy has not produced the likes of past footballing talent, but Maitland-Niles and Nelson look the real deal and are progressing well and others like Willock, Martinez, Nketiah and a whole host of young defenders/defensive mids are coming.

      Results clearly make the balance hard and many clubs are effectively developing talent by sending out the kids..Chelsea in particular.

      Think more than most, we have a good balance. We give the kids a chance and they are getting the experience. Our under 23’s just won the PL2 title (Utd we’re bottom and presumably relegated to div 2) whilst our under 18’s came second to Chelsea.

  5. Phil says:

    Anders S-a very good topic to discuss.We all like to give young players a chance.I believe most Arsenal fans would like nothing better than to see the players come through the ranks and into the first team but it just does not seem to happen nowadays as much as it used to.We are continually told of the youth players who are coming through but they seem to disappear before we get to see them.The problem is that with the demands of the Premier League and the pressure on the Manager to deliver he can’t just take a chance to see if things work out for a young player.We the fans would soon be on his back if results suffered.
    Lets take the recent players.Iwobi looked a great prospect when introduced two years ago but most wouldn’t have him anywhere near the team after his poor performances this season.Bellerin although brought to the club from Barca was the last player to actually win and hold a first team place.However he has been very inconsistent this year and it remains to be seen if he is around too much longer.Other than those two there’s nobody other than Holding and Chambers who could have a future but will the new manager go with youth or insist on experience at the back.What we must do is play these young players in their right positions.Nelson is not a wing back and neither is AMN.While it gives them a game it does not do them any good if they perform badly.Eddie N is a striker.Lets not play him out wide just to give him minutes on the pitch.Het him on as a central striker and let’s see what the kid can do.
    The Carabao Cup next season is an ideal opportunity to see how these youngsters have come on or will they just simply go the same way as Dan Crowley and all the other supposed next best things?

  6. Counsel says:

    Youth development is not an Arsenal problem only because in Europe it’s only Monaco and maybe schalke that are consistently developing young talents who are then poached by the big clubs.Barca,Real,Arsenal,Ajax,Southampton and other reputable acadamies have not been able to produce a world class player from the academy for a long time.So this is not a Question of Arsenal alone many small have started investing in academies youngsters get man offers,they have options. Time to invest mostly in proven players #merciwenger

  7. Anu says:

    One of you English saying is that you can’t eat your cake and have it. You blogger and none-blogger fans want big names, big buys and instant result. In the last few years, the club has actually been forced to move away from youth and development to buying ready made. Each of these approaches is work in the opposite direction.
    In fact, you should expect youth development to be wiped out completely under the in-coming coaches if you expect them to “win all the trophies wenger could not win”.

  8. Ozziegunner says:

    The important thing about developing young players is to allow to develop by playing in youth teams, appropriate loans to other clubs in lower divisions and introducing them into the first team by giving them opportunities in competitions such as the Carabo Cup. The problem arises when too many move to the first team at once, with insufficient experienced professionals to mentor them.
    As most have said it is important to get the balance right, because it appears rational that a player who comes through the system should be more loyal and have more heart to play for the club.

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