Arsenal’s missing youth in the youth policy

WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan

Ever since we started investing seriously in our youth academy, there has always been an excitement about our young graduates becoming the ‘next big thing’ in Arsenal’s first-team. While the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Szczsney and Frimpong have become valuable members of the squad, the one who is conspicuously missing from that list is Henri Lansbury.

Having been at Arsenal ever since he was nine, Henri Lansbury is quite a familiar face among Arsenal fans. He signed a contract extension a fortnight ago and it indicates that Arsene Wenger still believes in him despite being shipped out on another season-long loan, this time to Championship favourites West Ham United.

But the biggest concern is, apart from his performance against Tottenham in last year’s League Cup, Lansbury is yet to showcase his true potential in the red and white of Arsenal. And he’ll be 21 this October. His loan spells at Norwich and Scunthorpe were solid at best and this age being a crucial period of any footballer’s career, Lansbury’s future at Ashburton Grove isn’t going to be a bed of roses.

Like all our young players, Lansbury has a good technique, good ball control and passing abilities. He’s extremely versatile with the ability to play anywhere across the midfield and this is his biggest strength. From what I’ve seen of him, I think he would make a solid central midfielder, the box-to-box type, with the ability to make late runs into the penalty area using his pace though we’ve seen that Wenger has preferred to use him out wide in his few matches for Arsenal.

But, I think his days at Arsenal are numbered. I certainly hope I am wrong but I see two reasons for me believing so. The first is the grim situation around the Emirates. With Wenger under pressure to deliver, I am sure there will be very little experimenting with young players, at least for the foreseeable future. Arsenal are no longer in a situation to groom young players in the first team unless it is the Carling Cup and with the likes of Arteta and Benayoun coming in, Lansbury will find first-team opportunities hard to come by next season.

The second reason is his loan spell at West Ham. I mean no disrespect but for youngsters to establish themselves in big clubs like Arsenal or Chelsea, it is important to perform in the Premier League than in the Championship. Wilshere did it. And, this season Welbeck and Sturridge have shown what playing regularly at the highest level can do to your confidence. It also allows clubs to analyse their youngsters at the top level and I am sure Norwich were interested in Lansbury after his loan spell last season. Why Wenger didn’t work out a deal with Norwich is hard to understand.

I think Wenger sees a future for Lansbury but that depends hugely on Arsenal’s fortunes this season. As a matter of fact so does the future of Arsenal’s youth policy. If we end the season the same way as we’ve begun, I think Lansbury will be one among the many Arsenal youngsters who will go through the exit doors of the Emirates as ‘wasted talent’. The same way the likes of Jay Emanuel Thomas, Gilles Sunu and Mark Randall went.


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4 Responses to Arsenal’s missing youth in the youth policy

  1. [email protected] September 28, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Lansbury has hardly been given a chance at Arsenal and he is not alone in that. It seems if Wenger does not think you are TECHNICALLY good enough then that is it. There are however other factors apart from technique … as calendar 2011 has emphasized only too well. Like strength and bottle. By contrast Walcott has been given chance after chance for 5 or 6 years. Against Bolton … yes he made a goal for RVP but … his own finishing was pathetic. I suppose Wenger has his own credibility tied up in Walcott but not in Lansbury ?

  2. CharlieGooner September 28, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I think Lansbury might have gotten loaned out to West Ham because it's being coached by Fat Sam, a man who I dislike completely, but has had lots of experience of a different kind of football at the top level. This will give him the box to box scrappiness Wenger will want. We'll send out a technically gifted player and get back a pitbull!

  3. TwoLeftFeet September 28, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    I concur with the views of the author in that Arsenal do not make the best use of the loan system. A lot of our youngsters go out and get great first-team experience through the loan system and very often that experience comes in the top-tier of foreign leagues or in the championship or league 1 in England. There are very few, however, who are loaned out to Premiership clubs and therein lies the flaw.

    I believe that 2-3 of our most promising and talented youngsters should be loaned out to premier league clubs. This is not just because of the quality of the league itself but more importantly because it allows these players to get accustomed to the pace, physicality and pressure of the Premier League and makes it easier for the club to evaluate his suitability to Arsenal as well. Also, these players can hit the ground running since a lot of their 'early errors' if you will have already been done and learnt from.

    As the author pointed out, a number of youngsters in the last 2-3 years have benefitted from this including Wilshere, Welbeck, Cleverly and Sturridge. If the likes of Lansbury, Coquelin and Ryo are unlikely to get many first-team opportunities then they definitely have enough quality to get into another premier league side.

  4. [email protected] September 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    @TwoLeftFeet and a stunted brain. You are assuming PL clubs are fighting over our youngsters, when they no doubt have their own youngsters they want to encourage and develop.

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