Daily Archives: March 25, 2013

Quick Focus on Arsenal’s NextGen: The Gunners of Tomorrow

Behind the Numbers - NextGen

Photo via Arsenal.com

Q: Age is no guarantee for efficiency

James Bond: And youth is no guarantee for innovation – Skyfall

While brooding success on the pitch remains a priority in the dealings of running a football club, leading football teams pay a lot of attention, dedication and resources to honing young talent which leads to any of the following scenarios,

  • A. The young lad grows through the ranks, gets a breakthrough in the first-team and leads the line for years to come
  • B. The young lad shows his exceptional talent on the world stage and sniffed away by one of the numerous predators in world football
  • C. The young lad shows what he’s made of in patches, but lacks the abilities on the pitch (and probably off it) before cast away to lower league mediocrity

In many football clubs, the youngsters have fallen into all three categories and Arsenal is no different.

The talismanic Jack Wilshere can be classified as the top of the list in Category A. Despite arriving from PSG’s youth academy, I’ll place a player like Nicolas Anelka in Category B while a lad like Justin Hoyte, unfortunately, would be ranked in Category C.

Arsenal has had its fair share of youngsters that have grown up to become world beaters while others have plummeted into mediocrity. This season, the NextGen Series has offered Arsenal’s kids for the future a chance to strut their stuff under the watchful eyes of football scouts all over the world as well as a certain Arsene Wenger, a manager never afraid to hand a chance to a youngster.

Some of these youngsters have even been honored with exposure to the first team with Jernade Meade getting a run-out in a somewhat dead-rubber match against Olympiakos in Athens, Thomas Eisfeld was a colossus in midfield in the 7-5 thriller against Reading and the exciting Serge Gnabry had a decent pre-season by his standards.

This season, he has gained substitute appearances for his team against Norwich, Schalke 04 as well as some Capital One Cup games. When the German speedster made his Premier League debut in October, he became the club’s third youngest player in its history, after Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas.

While the football world places a keen eye on players in Gnabry’s mold, senior players within the team have voiced their opinions as well, providing positive remarks.

Mikel Arteta is the vice captain of the club and is heralded as one of the most senior players in the team (his age tells the same story too). The lego-haired Spaniard believes that playing at the Emirates will be an unforgettable experience for these lads, and he has tipped them to become important players for the club in the foreseeable future.

Abou Diaby has openly stated his regret for not getting such an opportunity in the days of his youth but I’m pretty sure that even if AJ Auxerre’s Youth Academy had the chance to feature in such an illustrious competition, Diaby wouldn’t have played because he would probably be injured. -___-

The lanky Frenchman stated that the NextGen Series is having an impact in developing Arsenal’s finest. The midfielder has also been afforded the opportunity of playing alongside the youngsters as he had to go through the rout of playing some Under-21 football in his bid to gain full fitness after making a return from one of his trademark injuries.

As expected, Diaby tipped Serge Gnabry alongside Chuba Akpom for great things and we’ll have to wait and see what category they’ll fall into in the coming years.

Akpom as well as defenders Sead Hajrovic and Martun Angha have played the highest amount of games in the NextGen series (7) with Hector Bellerin, Elton Monteiro and Kristoffer Olsson not far off with a game less.

Like Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin was snapped up from Barcelona’s Youth Academy with the promise of first-team football from Arsene Wenger. Funnily enough, Arsenal signed Bellerin in the same season Fabregas was shipped back to Barcelona.

However, this stunning volley against Manchester United’s Under-21s is worth a second view.

After finishing as runners up in a group that had the likes of Olympiakos, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille, Terry Burton’s young lads locked horns against the NextGen defending champions, Internazionale, in a pitch good enough to play Water Polo but captain Nico Yennaris was the difference between both sides as he blasted a 30-yard thunderbolt past the hapless Inter goalie.

The solitary win against Inter has seen the young Gunners book a quarterfinal berth with CSKA Moscow, and a win against the Russian outfit will bring them within sights of a trophy, an unfamiliar sight for Arsenal in recent times…except the magnificent Arsenal Ladies that win quadruples with consummate ease.

I wish the Young Guns the best of luck in their game against CSKA, and we can only hope for better conditions of the pitch, as well as another inspiring performance from the lads.

Here’s to Arsenal’s NextGen, the Gunners of tomorrow.


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