Good morning Arsenal fans.
Last night was fun wasn’t it? No just the victory, but the enjoyment of seeing young English lads on the pitch, in Arsenal shirts, and performing.
Yes, it was against a bunch of Ukrainian farmers, playing 200 miles from home who have lost 8 league games this season, but if you used this as a reason to not enjoy the game, well I feel sorry for you.
We ended up with 6 London born players (although Croydon is in Surrey and Goodmayes in Essex) play some part in yesterdays game. add in rob Holding, Carl Jenksinon and Charlie Gilmour and it was 9 English born players. Aaron Ramsey made it 10 British born. It is exciting.
A couple have commented that it does not matter that players are from London or England. Well for a lot of local fans, from London, it does matter. you want to see local boys do good. Fans of the club pulling on that shirt. as long as they are good enough.
Think have the side that came through in the 1980s. The likes of David O’Leary, Tony Adams, Rocky Rocastle, Paul Davis, Michael Thomas, Paul Merson and Martin Hayes. All Londoners, all coming through Arsenal’s academy. People go on about the Class of 92, but these lads were as good, if not better.
What would they have achieved if Liverpool had not got English clubs banned from Europe?
Having players like these. Boys from the estates and streets we grew up in, increases the affinity towards the club.
Look at Ian Wright speak during the 89 film. The estate he grew up on was the same as the one Rocky did. In a poverty stricken, deprived area of London, Rocky starring for Arsenal made it a better place to live. Success for Rocky meant success for every single person living there. This is what football can do.
The group of lads now, the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock are the best group of London born lads to come through at Arsenal since that team of the 1980s. Add Alex Iwobi and Reiss Nelson to the mix and it is likely that 25% of the squad next season will be made up of Londoners (and before you start about Iwobi, he came to London when he was 3. He is a Londoner.)
I have been bashing the drum of the Arsenal academy recently.
It was poor for a few years, but that was in the past. Some fans need to realise it is now 2018, not 2012, and that we have a fantastic crop of youngsters coming through.
Yesterday we saw the 4 academy graduates start. Maitland-Niles, Nketiah, Smith Rowe and Willock. Alongside Iwobi and Nelson these boys will be in the first team squad next season. But on the bench yesterday there was also plenty to get excited about; showing that the Arsenal academy is in good health.
Charlie Gilmour, Zech Medley, Jordi Osei-Tutu, Tyreece John-Jules & Bukayo Saka were all on the bench. That made it 9 academy players in 18 man squad. 12 of the 20 man travelling squad were Arsenal boys.
Of the 11 players to finish the game, 6 were still just teenagers.
Of course, there is still a long way to go for these lads. Some will make it, some won’t. But the 7 who go on the pitch will always be able to say that they played for The Arsenal.
A few people have commented about the failure of Arsenal’s academy “over the last 20 years” and it is a semi-valid argument. However there is a bigger debate to be had. all top sides in England have struggled to produce academy players in the last 20 years.
It is so much easier to buy off the shelf rather than give a kid a go. Manchester City signed Leroy Sane instead of giving a run out to Jadon Sancho. They repeated it this summer; signing Riyad Mahrez instead of showing faith in Phil Foden. It is so hard as an academy player to get a chance. Title chasing sides just won’t give you the chance.
Like with Ashley Cole (passport issues) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (injuries); you need luck to break through at a top side. To get that run in the team.
Have a look at the England team that made it through to the semi-final of the World Cup. Sunderland (2), Sheffield United (2), Leeds United (2) MK Dons, Ipswich Town, Barnsley, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Watford and Sporting were the academies that the vast majority of the squad came from.
Whilst Manchester City and Chelsea have dominated youth football over the last decade, they provided just two players to the England squad. Ruben Loftus Cheeck and Kieran Tripper (who Man City let go after he failed to play a single game).
Playing in the Europa League can bu hugely beneficial for young players.
The likes of Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe & Ainsley Maitalnd-Niles have got their chance in the competition over the last 18 months. Chances they would not get if Arsenal were in the Champions League. they would have been reduced to just League Cup appearances.
Whilst it is frustrating for some not to be in the Champions League, every cloud has a silver lining. And seeing so many London lads involved last night certainly makes up for Arsenal not being in the Champions League.
London is a state at the moment. Knife wielding drug gangs, moped thieves, acid attacks. A lot of young (often black) kids growing up on the estates are struggling for recognition. To define themselves. They have little to be proud of except for how many hits their drill music video gets on YouTube.
The likes of Reiss Nelson (Elephant & Castle), Eddie Nketiah (Lewisham), Emile Smith Rowe (Croydon), Joe Willock (Waltham Forest) & Ainsley Maitland (Goodmayes) come from some of the most deprived areas of London.
If they succeed at Arsenal, they can give other boys from similar backgrounds hope. They can give them something to be proud of, something to celebrate, just like Rocky, Davis and Thomas did back in the 80s.
Up The Arsenal.