Arsenal manager Unai Emery has shown plenty of faith in young players since taking over at the Emirates Stadium last summer. Youngsters such as Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have been handed game time by the Spanish coach.
The likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have also been given a taste of first team action. Academy starlets such as Zech Medley and Tyreece John-Jules are also impressing at youth level, and may well see their efforts rewarded with some first team exposure this season.
Sky Sports pundit and former Arsenal forward Charlie Nicholas has explained the reasons behind this investment in youth at the Emirates Stadium. He said, “with [Per] Mertesacker moving in, [Freddie] Ljungberg’s been promoted from the youth team up to the first team, all that is starting to come into play. The essence of this though is the disaster they’ve had with the contracts, letting [Aaron] Ramsey run down the clock, [Alexis] Sanchez having to go”.
The loss of senior players such as Ramsey and Sanchez has certainly had an impact at Arsenal. To an extent, replacements for these established, departing stars have been recruited from the academy. For instance, Willock has gone some way towards replacing Ramsey in the first team.
Whilst Emery’s reliance on youth may partly be a consequence of past transfer market mistakes, it is still a very positive development for the Gunners. It is exciting for the fans to see these youngsters progress and take their chances. It also makes sense from a business perspective, as it saves on transfer fees as the club are recruiting from within.