Tag Archives: kids

Our New British Core

The British core remains only as a memory of the image of the group sat at a desk, resplendent in club gear, simultaneously signing their contracts. Overshadowed by Arsene Wenger who had masterminded their presence in the first team, it was meant to represent a new, homegrown dawn for Arsenal.

One by one they fell by the wayside, leaving probably the least likely to remain as the sole representative of this golden generation. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson could have potentially formed the spine of Arsenal for years to come, but thanks to varying reasons – some unlucky and some simply because they lacked the minerals to fight at the very top – they were sold from Arsenal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first to go, expressing an interest to shake off the comfort zone that saw him make 25-30 appearances but never quite hold down a regular spot. His flexibility was one of the reasons that ‘The Ox’ never quite put his stamp on our eleven, and another was his maddening inconsistency. With one game he would slalom past a handful of challenges and succeed with a netbuster. The next game he would lose the ball like it was a personal hobby. He moved to Liverpool to progress but thanks to injury – another frequent blight on his time here – he currently stands in the same spot he had as a Gunner – bit-part utility man.

Jack Wilshere carried perhaps the most expectation as a player. His virtuoso display as a teenager against the best midfield in the world, Barcelona, exhibited the ceiling his talents had, but the diminutive baller never scaled those heights again. Injuries curtailed his ambitions and his time as an Arsenal man, and he is now a Hammer.

The rest, aside from Aaron Ramsey, were ousted from the squad as we found superior replacements. Time had seen us move on but these players didn’t match the step count, and they lagged behind.

Fast forward to the present day and we now have another batch of homegrown players. The majority of these kids have been schooled by the Academy and are steeped in ‘The Arsenal Way.’ There is a big difference between the two groups of players though.

The original gaggle of players had already had a number of seasons under their belt before their talent had shone through to lead people to declare them our core.

The current group? They are just starting on their journey – and they are making waves in the first team ahead of some truly established international stars.

Wilshere, Gibbs etc of course had some truly special players in their midst, but they had their first team spot more or less made theirs whenever they were fit for the most part.

Whereas Jo Willock, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have had some imposing figures in front of them, and have still established themselves as contenders for their respective spots.

British Core

Well, to varying degrees anyway. Jo Willock and Rob Holding are probably the closest to having their spots tied down, and both have serious competition in their way – which makes their progress even more spectacular.

What is evident is that these kids really DO have the chance to become the rigid spine that Arsenal have needed for some time. Time though, is the only true yardstick for this group. It is only as matches and a few seasons go by that we will see if these special talents really are as good as they appear to be – and if they can go on to forge themselves as homegrown Arsenal legends – something that we haven’t had for quite some time.

Over to you boys.

Spotlight on Youth Progress

Freddie Ljungberg’s move to Assistant Manager from his previous role as Under-23’s boss heralds a shift in focus for our club.

The statement that accompanied the Swede’s move to Unai Emery’s bench chose to underline this, mentioning that Ljungberg’s intimate knowledge of our youth system and the products that have rolled off the conveyor belt recently was the reason that Freddie has taken Steve Bould’s role – with Bould going in the opposite direction.

It is this hands-on, daily intel that Ljjungberg possesses, that gives him the best position to determine who can move up from the Academy and bolster our squad.

With our self-sustainability model in full effect, the dream situation for our club hierarchy and our bank balance, would be finding the answers to bolstering our squad within our current ranks – unearthing the latest rough diamond and polishing it in front of our very eyes in the stands.

Freddie is meant to be the conduit between the kids trying to make that step up, to the ear of Unai Emery, who knows that his budget will leave him hindered in his attempt to reclaw our Champions League prospects back, after last season saw us confirm we will miss out for a third consecutive season.

With Champions League omission comes a shrunken budget, so Ljungberg moving up to provide Emery with another eye, perhaps the most important eye amongst our coaching personnel, means that Emery can have a true gauge on whether our prospects can supply the fillip that our first team and squad we so desperately require.

Freddie-Ljungberg-4

Jo Willock and Eddie Nketiah spring immediately to mind in regards to who will make the step up, but there are others who will be in with a shout.

Bukayo Saka and Tyreece John-Jules are others who are in with a shot, and Emile Smith-Rowe, along with Reiss Nelson, are champing at the bit to get the nod.

Much like last season, Emery’s first, we can tell a lot from Emery’s team selection for the supposed ‘friendly games.’ He rotated heavily, and with a hectic warm-up schedule, thanks in part to sponsorship deals, games were thick and fast. That meant plenty of chances for the kids to impress, but what will also help these kids show that Freddie’s testimonials were all true – is squad strength.

There has been talk of Arsenal going in for Keiran Tierney in a bid to boost our defensive strength, and it is obvious that our backline is in dire need of reinforcements.

So, with Freddie swooping in and having Emery’s ear in regards to what kid can help out in our hour of need, or who has what it takes, our kids could well be the salve that eases the burn on our backline.

Freddie is meant to help the transition between the youth and first team sides, and with our defence on its knees last season, Ljungberg will be instrumental in ensuring the likes of Calum Chambers, Zach Medley and Jordi Osei-Tutu, currently on loan, make the big leap from boy to man in terms of football.

Whether the Swede truly has enough sway to ensure Emery listens to him regarding our players is another matter intirely, but it is irrefuteable that our club would enjoy a ‘signing’ that came straight from our youth team.

We can only wait and see if Ljungberg is starting to have an effect on proceedings. With the precociousness’ of youth also means we should remember that they will have to be given a little flex in order to weed out the mistakes their game demands they make in order to learn vital lessons.

Without patience, then those opportunities that Ljungberg will fight so hard for might as well not happen. We need to keep that in mind when these kids light up the pitch.

Nottingham Forest Vs Arsenal – EFL Cup Preview

In recent years, and in its many incarnations, the League Cup has provided our club the opportunity to field our crop of exciting youngsters as in terms of priority, it falls behind other forms of silverware.

The League Cup has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and as such, the percentage of first team players has risen accordingly, but the starlets grabbing the attention of Arsene have still looked upon this competition as their best chance to make a mark on first team plans.

Fans also look forward to seeing the next potential wunderkind take to the pitch, and the lower ticket prices never harm attendances, but this season may see an experience-laden team take on Nottingham Forest in our first outing in the EFL Cup.

This is a double-edged sword. It is to the detriment of our youngsters hoping to get a taste of the limelight – and tougher opposition to gauge their progress – but it also means that our squad is probably healthier and heavier in number than it has been in many a year. 

You cannot have both.

So, the lineup for this fixture should see a raft of more experienced players, rather than a large swathe of Reserve players. 

David Ospina played last week against PSG in the Champions League and did his prospects no harm whatsoever with a virtuoso performance which kept the Gunners in the game. The Colombian should be back in the side for this game.

In terms of defence, Rob Holding is another who can look forward to a return to the team, and alongside the young defender from Bolton, Brazilian Gabriel may make his return from injury – he was crocked in the first game of the season – and could be Holding’s partner in the middle of the backline.

Our depth continues in defence. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal are expected to be rested, so Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs are the able deputies that will get the nod to play, and hopefully send a timely reminder to the Boss that they can be relied upon.

In midfield, there are a myriad of options Wenger can call upon, but Mohamed Elneny, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Gedion Zelalem and Chris Willock will be looking to at least get a sniff of the pitch. 

Many of the youngsters trained with the first team yesterday, and this may give a hint towards who will be at least named on the bench.

Alongside the kids named above, goalkeeper Matt Macey, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf, Stephy Mavididi, Emile Smith-Rowe, Josh DaSilva and Reiss Nelson were the others lucky enough to be included alongside the first team stars. More than a few won’t be named, but the difference in the lineup for this game compared to our 4-1 win over Hull City will be remarkable.

Gooners travelling to the City Ground will not only be viewing Arsenal’s future on the pitch, it appears that they may get a prolonged viewing of new signing Lucas Perez. The Spaniard has been used sparingly, but this seems the perfect time for the former Deportivo man to hit the ground running and attempt to acclimatise himself. Chuba Akpom will be vying with him for the striker slot, and hopefully face off against some former teammates from when he was on loan at the club for a short time in 2015.

In keeping with the theme of returning to former clubs, there will be a very familiar face in the opposition colours. 

‘Lord’ Nicklas Bendtner joined Forest in the last transfer window, and is already off the mark for the season. The big Dane left Arsenal in 2014, and went to VFL Wolfsburg for two years, before finding himself in the Championship. Another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury, could also play against his former side.

We should be more than aware of his strengths, but hopefully he will get a decent reception from the away boys.

Last seasons League Cup exploits need to be exorcised. The 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday still smarts upon recollection, and whilst there are far more important targets this season, this is still a competition that Wenger has not won in his long tenure with Arsenal. 

First thing is first – a win away from home, and some promising displays from the benchwarmers and shining talents on display is highest on the agenda. 

Picking a lineup is difficult, but:

Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Perez, Akpom

Predicted Score – 3-0 Arsenal