Is youth team football now pointless?

So Chelsea recently won their 4th FA Youth Cup in a row. They beat Manchester City in the final for the 3rd time in a row, and have made 7 of the last 8 finals. 

Yet the last player to break through Chelsea’s youth system and become a first team regular is set to leave the club this summer.

John Terry made his Chelsea debut in 1998, 19 years ago. And since then, despite many millions being pumped into the Chelsea youth system, no other player has gone on to become a regular starter for the club. 

It leads me to the conclusion that, for top clubs at least, investment in youth is a waste of time and money.

To have dominated youth football for 7 years and not have developed a player good enough for your own first team supports this conclusion.

The likes of Josh McEachran, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Patrick Bamford, Nathanial Chalobah, Lewis Baker & Islam Feruz have all had plenty of loan spells over the time, but not much game time at Chelsea. 

The majority of the players to have performed for Chelsea youth teams have gone on to have half decent careers in the lower leagues, but it is only really Chalobah and, more recently, Nathan Ake, who have shown they have anywhere near the ability to be in a Chelsea match day squad. Although they are squad players rather than 1st team. 

Time might not yet be up for the likes of Dominic Solanke, Charly Musonda & Jay Dasilva. Whilst the likes of Tammy Abraham and Andreas Christensen have been impressive on loan. But whether any of them are good enough to be the “next John Terry” and go from youth product to 1st team regular is still up for debate. 

The majority of players will end up as journeyman, only to pop up in a lower leagues FA Cup run. 

It is not just Chelsea this criticism is labelled at. Manchester City have been the losing team in the last 3 FA Youth Cup Finals. They do not have a single academy graduate who has played a league game this year. The closest being Kelechi Ihenachu who signed for them at 18. 

The last group of players I remember breaking through at City would have been before the money came in. The likes of Micah Richards, Michael Roberts, Stephen Ireland and Daniel Sturbridge – and even some of these might have been signed to the club. 

Gone are the days of Arsenal winning the FA Youth Cup in the late 80s, then a year later winning the league title with many of the same players. 

Will we ever see a Class of 92 again? A Manchester United youth team winning the 1992 FA Youth Cup, then the majority breaking through into the Manchester United first team, and going on to win the biggest club trophy of them all, the Champions League?

Liverpool of the 90s might not have had Manchester United’s success, but they had a similar level of talented youth products. The likes of Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen.

Not one club can be singled out from the current top 6 as having a successful youth system. 

Over at Manchester United, their recent most successful graduates are the likes of Danny Welbeck and Jesse Lingaard (although Marcus Rashford will be a top player). Before that it was Kieran Richardson, Wes Brown and Johnny Evans. Not exactly Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and the Neville’s is it.

Liverpool have given plenty of youth a chance in recent years. But what has happened to the likes of Martin Kelly, Andre Wisdom, Jay Spearing & Jon Flanaghan? Will Trent Alexander Arnold go the same way?

Is Raheem Sterling a graduate or was he poached from QPR? They have produced little quality since the Carragher / Steven Gerrard days.

A look over at Spurs will have many crying out “that is how it is done” as they challenge for honours with a group of young Englishman. It the fact is only Harry Kane in their current starting XI came from their youth set up. 

Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were signed from Sheffield United and Leeds, whilst Dele Alli was recruited from Milton Keynes Dons. Kieran Trippier was a Manchester City youth product who had already been an ever present in the Premier League for Burnley. And Eric Dier came from Portugal. 

They might have also bought through the likes of Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend and Jake Livermore, and have the likes of Harry Winks and Joshua Onomah, but these are all bottom half of the table / Championship players.

Arsenal are no better. 

Having won the FA Youth Cup in 2009, a lot of high hopes were put on the likes of Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. Wilshere is the only one who has really made it from that group, only injury problems holding him back massively. 

Most probably couldn’t even name where the likes of Frimpong & Emmanuel-Thomas were now playing. The next generation of Chuls Aneke and Benik Afobe have also had to drop down the league. And time is ticking for Chuba Akpom. 

The reality is Chelsea have not produced an England regular since John Terry, Liverpool not since Steven Gerrard, Man City not in living memory. Can you count Jack Wilshere as an England regular? I don’t think so. Arsenal’s last was then Ashley Cole. Spurs can at least. Ow cling to Harry Kane. But before that it was Ledley King (although he only won 21 caps!). 

The big clubs have barely produced an England regular between them since the 1990s. And we wonder why the national team is struggling

John Terry made his England debut on 3rd June 2003. That was 14 years ago. Since that date, only two youth team graduates from England’s current top 6 have made their international debut and gone on to win over 30 caps. Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck. 

The days of sides winning the FA Youth Cup, and the competition being a good predictor for which side was set to bring in the next “future of English football” and dominate the game is over. 

The FA Youth Cup is now a pointless competition. It is worth celebrating as much as you’d celebrate your side winning the women’s Premier League. 

Keenos

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Arsenal top 4 hopes alive despite throw-in fiasco

Well that was a little dull wasn’t it? They say the sign of Champions are a team who wins when playing poorly. Well last night Arsenal played poorly and got a scrappy 1-nil win. Sadly we have not had enough battling performances like last nights this season. It was just our 3rd 1-0 win. And that is one major reason we are not Champions. We have not won enough when playing poorly.

Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the team was announced. 4 changes from the weekends victory against Manchester City at Wembley. But each change was fairly logical.

Out went Rob Holding, in came Kieran Gibbs. We played 120 minutes on Sunday. Holding is a young man. It is only natural that he was taken out of the team. The only interesting point was that it was Gibbs who came in, with Monreal moving to left back, rather than Per Mertesacker. It raises more questions as to why we gave Mertesacker a 1 year contract a month or so ago.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced with Hector Bellerin. Again, not a surprise as reports were the Ox was suffering a bit of muscle fatigue from the weekend. With his poor injury record, he is a player that needs to be looked after.

Moving up the pitch, Francis Coquelin replaced Aaron Ramsey. A bit of a surprise, but again, Ramsey is coming back from injury and has a poor injury record. We would only be moaning if he played again and got injured.

The last change was Olivier Giroud of Theo Walcott. Clearly a tactical ploy as we looked to use pace up top to attempt to exploit Leicester City’s slow defenders. It also allowed our defenders to sit deeper covering the pace of Jamie Vardy.

During the game, Arsene Wenger switched from 3421 to 433. Cue the criticism on Twitter that he had only played the new system for “two and a half games”. This is where I come out and defend Wenger and then get labelled a flip flop by people who are so eaten up by an agenda that they can not admit when a tactical change works.

For years we moaned Wenger would not change things. From game to game and within games, the tactics were the same. Against Leicester, we changed things up tactically during the game and won. Credit where credit was due, it was the right decision and anyone who says otherwise would have whinged, bitched and moaned had we not changed anything and drew 0-0.

When Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey came in, it looked like we were reverting back to 433. “We no have 4 at the back rather than 3 whilst trying to win a game at home” people moaned. This showed their lack of tactical awareness and probably how thick they are.

By taking off Gibbs for Welbeck saw Monreal move to left back. But it did not mean we played with a flat back 4. Monreal and Bellerin still got forward and were still operating like wing backs in the previous system. So what we had done was not change from a back 3 to a back 4, but a back 3 to a back 2. Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel sat back, Monreal and Bellerin bombed forward.

The fact that the goal came from a shot from Nacho Monreal, freed from his defensive duties to get forward, with Olivier Giroud making a nuisance in the box to force the own goal from Robert Huth, highlights how the tactical change worked.

The game finished a little bit unsavoury with Alexis Sanchez having the ball launched into his face by Christian Fuchs, before Sanchez went down like he had been shot. Let’s take the incident in order.

Sanchez did nothing wrong. Let’s look at FIFA regulations.

Sanchez was within 2 metres of the throw. The ref correctly warned him, but what happened next shows the ref did not understand the rules himself. Firstly, the ref should have stopped the player, booked Sanchez, then restarted play with a throw-in to Leicester. I have no idea why he gave a free kick?

Secondly, you can throw the ball directly at an opponent, as lot as it is not ‘careless nor a reckless manner nor using excessive force’. Fuchs did use excessive force. It was violent conduct. Fuchs should have seen red for his actions, but as Sanchez was within 2 metres, play should have restarted with a throw-in to Leicester.

It is the giving of a free kick that baffles me.

Sanchez was within 2 metres, so play should have restarted with a Leicester throw-in. Also when Sanchez ‘dived’ the ball was already out of play. The ball was dead. You can not give a free kick (or penalty) if the ball is dead. Think of how often players get booked (or had a word with by the ref) for pulling before a corner is taken. They do not give a penalty or a free kick as the ball is not in play. The fact is the referee messed up. He should not have given a free kick to Leicester.

Sanchez should have been booked for remaining within 2 metres of the touchline after being warned. Fuch’s should have been sent off for throwing the ball at Alexis Sanchez using excessive force, and play should have restarted with a throw in to Leicester.

1-0 to the Arsenal keeps our top 4 hopes alive. On to that lot away.

Keenos

Moaning Manchester City fans and Spurs still in Arsenal’s shadow

So I have finally sobered after this weekends shenanigans and golly gosh, what a weekend of results it was. And how the fall out has been hilarious.

Arsenal got through. Some will say ‘somehow got through’. Well we outscored Manchester City. We were fitter than Manchester City, and we had better options on our bench. Has Pep Guardiola been found out? Trophyless for the 1st time in his career. He has never had to build a team. Never not been in charge of the best side in the league. He is struggling. But that is a blog for another day.

The response of Manchester City fans to their defeat to Arsenal has made me smile. They have blamed the referee for their defeat. They have blamed Emirates Airlines. If Danny Murphy was commentating, they would have blamed the grass length and death of Ugo Ehiogh for their defeat too.

Arsenal have won a record 12 FA Cups in their history. NONE of which have been won since Emirates became the headline sponsor. This is just the 2nd season of Emirates sponsoring the FA Cup. In their first season, Manchester United lifted the trophy.

Of course, I do not expect a new club like Manchester City Blues to understand the concept of history, afterall, the majority of their fans have only followed the club for less than a decade. Dry your eyes lads.

Then we move onto Tottenham. The gift that keeps on giving. They are apparently planning to rename themselves WonNothing Hotspurs. Because once again, they are set to win nothing. 7 FA Cup semi final defeats in a row.

Over half a century without a league title. More than quarter of a century without an FA Cup. A decade without a trophy. It is laughable.

Their fans keep going on about a ‘power shift’ from one end of the Seven Sisters Road to the other. The fact is in Arsenal’s worst season in 21 years, they are in an FA Cup Final. Spurs best season in 2 decades will see them trophyless.

What I have found hilarious about Spurs fans is they are basically Arsenal fans of 10 years ago:

  • Constantly talking about project youth highlighting their young talented players, to justify lack of success
  • Blaming the stadium move for their failure
  • Top 4 is their everything
  • Bashing on about net spends and lower wages bills

Arsenal fans made these excuses 10 years ago. We were still making the same excuses 5 years ago. 2 FA Cup wins and another final coming up and Arsenal fans are still unhappy. Still looking bigger. Meanwhile Spurs are delighted with an FA Cup Semi Final and finishing 2nd in the league.

The fact is, Arsene Wenger has won more titles in England than Tottenham. He won one of them on Spurs ground. That was 13 years ago today. There will not even be a sniff of a power shift until Spurs start winning things. Talk of ‘top young English talent’ and ‘a new stadium’ means nothing if your trophy cabinet is empty.

After Dele Alli won PFA Young Player of the year for the 2nd season in the row, Spurs fans boasted about how their players had won 5 of the last 6 awards. But individual awards mean nothing if the team wins nothing. Like Gareth Bale, it will not be too long before the likes of Alli, Harry Kane, et al realise that they will never win anything at Won Nothing Hotspur and look for a move elsewhere.

This weekend we play Spurs away. Spurs are going to finish above Arsenal for the 1st time in 22 years. Arsenal have an FA Cup Final to look forward too.

Moaning Manchester City fans and Spurs still in Arsenal’s shadow.

Keenos