Buidling Dreams Together


Trouble Down Hale End

What explains the lack of new players emerging from Arsenal’s academy?

Arteta’s Arsenal continue to go from strength to strength since his arrival in December 2019. From 8th place finishes in consecutive seasons to now being among to top challengers for the league and a first champions league quarter-final since 2010.

The Gunners return to the top has been underpinned by the emergence of young players now taking centre stage. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba are just some of the impressive contingent helping the side compete on multiple fronts. Their squad is rich in young talent with Saka’s fellow academy graduates Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah all playing their part from the bench in recent seasons.

Saka and Smith-Rowe are the among the last graduates to have had a first-team impact

However, none of these players were given their debut by Arteta. In fact, not a single player who has graduated from the academy since his arrival has played more than? minutes. While Arteta’s management comes under less and less criticism as results improves, perhaps questions about other parts of the club need to be asked.

Is there something going wrong with Hale End, Arsenal’s famed academy, or is Arteta just not interested in what they are producing despite existing talent?


Minutes played by graduates with under 25 club appearances this season

The academy forms a significant part of the Gunner’s identity, it is ‘in the club’s blood’ according to under 15s coach Adam Pilling. Its graduates rank among some of the best in the country. The likes of David O’Leary, Tony Adams, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry are just a few who have emerged in recent years

The executives are all too aware of its being interwoven into the club’s fabric, as they have attempted to cash in on this reputation with content appearing on social media. Two documentaries on Youtube about Hale End have come out in the past couple of years, with one covering Jack Wilshere’s return to the club as manager of the u18s as he guided them to an FA Youth Cup final last season (they were beaten 5-1 by West Ham).

Wilshere is the current u18s manager

The Amazon documentary ‘All or Nothing’ featured a few players in the academy at the time, yet as we will explore later on, not one can be said to have made an impact at the club since.


The argument that you cannot risk youth when attempting to win trophies is one that does not pass muster. Fans will look north with a tinge of envy as both Manchester City and Liverpool continue to push on multiple fronts with the help of academy products.

City have used Rico Lewis and Oscar Bobb to great effect to support a squad already brimming with talent, including another graduate in Phil Foden. This season they have already given debuts to four players.

Liverpool’s belief in the strength of their own academy this season is even more impressive. Quansah and Bradley are cementing their place in the first-team as Kelleher continues to perform as Alison’s deputy as they formed part of ‘Klopp’s Kids’ who beat Chelsea to win the Carabao Cup this season. Lesser known graduates Bobby Clark, Jayden Danns and James McConnell all played a big part in compensating for the absence of the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mo Salah, Jota and Alisson.

So where are Arsenal’s equivalents?

Perhaps the emergence of the likes Saka and Smith-Rowe were once in a blue moon events and the past few crops of graduates do not possess the same ability?

His need to revitalise the side on short notice following his arrival midway through the season might explain why he failed to hand out a debut in his first season.

The manager would hand out three the following year with Ben Cottrell, Miguel Azeez and Florian Balogun all making their first appearances for the club. However, only Balogun has reached 10 appearances and was sent out on loan twice before finally being sold to Monaco for a healthy £35m. The other two were never able to build on their 13 and 7 respective minutes against Dundalk in the Europa League.

Number of debuts given each season

In the two following seasons only Charlie Patino, Karl Hein and, then 15 year old Ethan Nwaneri made the jump. Combined, they now combine to make a total of 5 appearances.

Only Charles Sagoe Jr. from the academy made his debut this season, he has since joined Patino at Swansea where he is struggling for game time.

The lack of success of these players at the club so far (Nwaneri not included) or away from it might be another vindication for his decision to rely on players out-with the academy.


It is easy to forget that Saliba, still only 22, was made to take 3 loan spells at Nice and Marseille. Arsenal fans were perplexed as to why their struggling defence featuring the likes of David Luiz and Rob Holding were being denied such an obvious talent. Yet Arteta held firm before allowing him into the side from which he become an indispensable player for the side. So much so that his absence is seen to be part of the reason Arsenal’s 8 point lead collapsed towards the end of the season.

So are those coming through lacking in quality or are they just not given the confidence of their managers? Maybe the fact that none of the academy products now feature in the Premier League despite most being around and over the age of 20 is yet another sign that Arteta will not give players an opportunity if he does not deem them to be ready.

Ethan Nwaneri is Arsenal’s brightest prospect

What is puzzling though, is the amount of players given fractions of a games to prove themselves. How could Arteta decide that Azeez was not ready after only 7 minutes at the end of a game already won against Dundalk?

If he already knew the player was not cut out what does he gain by putting him on. Is it to please the fans, the player, the player’s family or the staff at the academy?

If Klopp is giving youngsters minutes in crucial moments of games like the EFL Cup final, then Arteta’s limited and often meaningless minutes for his club’s graduates might cause players to think twice about which academy they choose.

Amount of appearances made by debutants in first and following seasons


Recently Omari Hutchinson revealed he had left Arsenal to join Chelsea as he did not see a pathway to the first team. He might only be first of talented players to make the switch for better opportunities elsewhere as players like Nwaneri and Myles Lewis-Skelly approaching critical points in their careers.

Yet if Arteta is resolved to play only those of a suitable ability, then it brings into question the work being done at Hale End if no capable players have emerged since 2020. With these big investments and their own media coverage shining a light on their academy, headed by former player Per Mertersacker, only time will tell if it marks the start of a new crop of first-team quality players, or if Arteta’s preferred style of management does not lend itself to allowing players to develop.

Either way, the future of those working at the academy will come under scrutiny in a way it has not for a long time.