Why doesn’t the Arsenal Academy produce any defenders?

Where Are Our Academy Defenders? by AI

Arsenal youth are highly regarded across the continent. We have produced, and continue to produce, some of the best attackers and midfielders plying their trade in high-level football. Every other year, an exciting new midfielder bursts onto the scene, threatening to potentially become the next Cesc Fabregas. At other times, it’s a winger or a striker with wonderful ability. And that’s all good and great. It was fantastic to watch our youth under our instruction grow into capable senior professionals with family and responsibilities. We can only hope that this new generation continues the trend.

But where are our youth defenders?

Hale End seem to never produce defenders of the same quality as the midfielders or strikers. The last great one was Hector Bellerin and that’s more than half a decade ago. In that space of time, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock (all midfielders by training) have sprung up. Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka have also appeared within that period (all forwards by training). An entire new generation devoid of defensive presence.

Why is it that the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and City can produce defenders as much as players from other positions on the field and we can barely produce one?

How is the recruitment like at the young ages? Is it deliberate on the part of our trainers, seeing that defenders are cheaper to acquire for the senior team more than midfielders and strikers? Have they concluded at Hale End that the risk involved in giving young central defenders chances in the senior squad is greater than that of players further up the pitch? Or is it all a fluke and we will be producing defensive equivalents of Ramsey and Chamberlain in the nearest future?

Unless we get some direct information from staff involved with the academy, we won’t know. All we have to live by is what we can see on the field, and going by that, it is legitimately a good question to ask where our youth defenders are going.

Agboola Israel


  1. BFG once said if a player doesn’t make it as a pro at Arsenal from the academy, but goes on to be a success in another walk of life (and he listed some very high profile professions), it gives him EQUAL pleasure.

    Admirable, but not what you’re employed by Arsenal Football Club for.

    Could go some way in answering the question.

    Are we driven and ruthless enough at ALL levels within our football club ?

    P.S. And of course Per was a ………………defender !

    1. “Per was a…………. defender” Yes , of sorts but being so freakishly slow, he was a mediocre one in our Prem, despite what he achieved for GERMANY. And I much agree with AJ’s post.

  2. Jordi Osei-Tutu is an excellent fullback on loan at VfL Bochum.
    Daniel Ballard, young promising defender on loan at Swindon.
    Pray tell what defenders have the teams you mentioned brought through their academies? I can’t think of any at the moment.

    1. I was about to ask the same question.. you could make a stretch to say Chelsea developed Christiansen but United’s defence is fully bought, as is City’s.. thinking about it, us having Saka and Bellerin make us the closest to having developed their own defenders.

      1. Yes Paul, I wish I had made that point too. I’ve asked the article writer the question but he’s not answered other questions before so I don’t expect any examples from him.

  3. What young academy produced defenders are currently first team picks at Chelsea, Man City or Man Utd?

  4. BFG ;

    “A first-team player at Arsenal or, just for the sake of argument, a doctor in America would give me similar reward; that we have impacted a young kid’s life positively and that he would come back and say: ‘Yeah, this has made me a better person.”

    1. The issue is that top class defenders take longer to devope. The instances of the Tony Adams of this world playing first team football at 19 are few and far between. As GB states Ballard and Medley show promise and are still young.

      1. @Ozzigunner
        I know you are a big fan of Rugani. Reports ftom the Mirror are that he has Coronavirus!

  5. It is all a matter of priorities and the bosses at AFC do not see defending as a priority since George Graham left. I for one would hire Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Martin Keown and if possible Nigel Winterburn to form a proper scouting team and coaching squad for the next 5 years.

    1. @gunnerpete.

      Now you’re talking !

      Seriously, the defensive savvy we could potentially tap into.

      1. Steve Bould was assistant to Wenger and Emery and did what exactly ?? This is bearing in mind he coached all the youth teams prior to being promoted by Wenger to replace………Pat Rice.Another ex Arsenal Player who knew a thing about defending back in the day.
        It’s about the level of quality of the player that is bought into the club as much as the coaching. You can only coach a player so far.If the ability isn’t there to begin with then Cm how will they ever be good enough.
        I haven’t done this but it would be an interesting statistic to see how many first choice Premiere League first choice defenders are British.Liverpool with TAA, Gomez and Robertson are likely to be the exception with Sheffield Utd.

        1. @ Phil

          A kid can be brought into the academy at nine years of age.

          At our place we have “development groups” for even younger children.

          My point being, the “quality” of player brought in at this level (which is the thrust of the article) is purely based on potential.

          The required quality (via potential) is ether developed and yes coached in, or bought in at higher (older) levels.

          Been there, witnessed it.

          We are talking nippers here.

          Of course I agree with you 100% that as the years pass, a player either “has it or not” with certain elements of his (her) make up being beyond coaching.

        2. Phil
          It’s easy to answer your question!
          They sat next to Wenger and said and did absolutely nothing

          1. As i understood Sue, they were not allowed to have defensive input into the team. I remember either Parlour or Merson, cant remember which one, saying they never did defensive training as such, only attacking. The culture under wenger wasn’t to do with defending, just playing football and i presume that culture is still in the club to a degree. We haven’t been know as a team or club that is good at defending for years and years. All of that will take time to change.

        3. Phil, Ah Yes, Steve Bould , that “extrovert personality” who was a natural as a childrens TV presenter! Or possibly NOT. Don’t think he did “personality” as a coach. He would have not been out of place in MADAME TUSSAUDS MUSEUM. I often wondered whether he was even alive at all when sat, stone faced, next to Wenger. Communication and Bould were strangers, when he coached. He even made Emery look like a natural communicator, by comparison.

          Great player, way back when. Shame he stayed on though.

      2. @gunnerpete, rather than add them to the coaching staff, I’d add them to the team and am sure they would do better than what we currently have!

        1. @ GB

          Brilliant mate !

          I add McNab McKlintock Simpson Rice


  6. Osei-tutu, Ballard, Clarke, medley, To name a few all coming through hopefully in 1 or 2 seasons they might be ready to take one step into the 1st team and slowly integrate them

  7. When the scouts look at school district games they immediate!y notice the midfielders running around like headless chickens or forwards banging in goals. They don’t notice good solid defenders that just get on with the job. Recruit some scouts to just look at young defenders – they will be found

  8. When was the last time we’ve even given one a chance? Aresnal has always been way more focused on attacking than defending since AW era. (thats not a dig at him btw, it’s just a fact that we used to be a more defensive side under Graham)

  9. Think folks may have thought I had lost the plot in my reply to @Phil above spouting on about nine years olds and “nippers”.

    Perhaps I took the title of this article too literally, apologies.

    ARSENAL ACADEMY U9 U10 U11 U12 U13 U14

    These kids are a long, long, long way from the likes of Stevie Bould cited above (currently U23’s).

    My laboured point being, such experience doesn’t touch these kids until much later on in their journey with the club.

    I thought the debate would be based purely on academy level, of which I have a worrying over BFG’s influence (very much an Arsene disciple – good or bad thing ? As usual I have a view on the particular point !).

    Also comments geared to kids wanting to play the “blue ribbon” positions (striker/ wingers) and not wanting to / be taught the art of defending , and indeed enjoying it.

    For me . the art of “proper” defending is sadly a dying art.

    Anyway, the title of this topic seems to have got me barking up the wrong tree – or has it.

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