Pedro Losa is nowadays facing the same problem for the Ladies’ side as Arsene Wenger does regarding the promotion of youngsters that went through the centre of excellence youth system.
It is difficult to compete at the highest level, which Arsenal Ladies are finally back to, and be able to promote players from the youth system at the same time.
This is a not a new problem. Vic Akers had a very successful side for a decade and all the products from the Arsenal Academy ended up in different places. For example, the girls born in 1991-1992 have really flourished in other FA WSL sides: Flaherty and Coombs (Chelsea), Spencer (Birmingham), Victoria Williams (Sunderland), Lauren Williams (Gillingham), Wiltshire (Yeovil), Osborne-Ricketts and Haines (Oxford) .
From the older years, we can name Davison (Chelsea), James (Bristol), Lawley, Linnett and Ayisi (Birmingham), and Perry and Gurr (Brighton),, who ended up moving away from the club in search for first team football.
It has to be said, the other teams fighting for the Champions League places in the FA WSL are facing the same problems. Chelsea have three talented girls born in 1996 (Ayane, Brett and Dear) who didn’t have much playing time last season and are likely to leave or have already left the Blues.
As Arsene would say, only exceptional players can make it through the first team, and it looks like the same thing is happening for the Ladies’ side at the moment. The club is clearly looking to win every competition they enter and qualify for the Champions League after missing out for the last three seasons. Therefore the recruitment of quality English and foreign players has been ramped up.
The u17 sides have been very successful in the last three seasons as well as the development team but for most of the players a ceiling has been reached. If we look at the girls born in the years 1995-98, they are at an age where they have to play regularly as they need to kick-start their career and develop from youngsters with potential to fully fledged first team players. There are only four players from those three years in the first team now: Bailey, Sampson, Williamson and Humphrey.
The 1998 generation that is transitioning from youth football to senior is currently playing with the development team and has seen many of those players make their first team debut in the Continental cup with seven of them given game time while many senior players were injured or rested straight after the World Cup.
There is certainly food for thought because training so many quality youngsters to see them reinforce competitors is a bit of a bummer. The FA has also started to regulate the number of non-EU players allowed per FA WSL team, as well as a home grown player rule.
It is not easy at all to give young players a chance as they are more likely to make mistakes. But giving them game time and experience to prepare for tomorrow when players will not be available due to injury or suspension is also needed.
It is obvious that an exceptional talent like Williamson will make it through and will be a mainstay for many years in the side, but it could become more difficult for top quality youngsters like Sampson, Bailey and Humphrey who are developing a little slower but have huge potential and could be superb assets to the team in two or three seasons if given the chance to prove themselves. Otherwise like many others, they will end up leaving the club, and that would be a disappointing news, and the club would have to have to go outside to get new players rather than those they nurtured through the years.