After Arsenal’s first League Cup match of the season against Doncaster Rovers, we’re looking at whether the Gunners really do have such a good record bringing through youth.
Against Doncaster a number of young players were involved from the Arsenal youth academy. Reiss Nelson got his first competitive start and Joe Willock made his competitive debut from the bench, as did Josh Dasilva.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles made his twelfth appearance for the Gunners, and Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi also played a part. Chuba Akpom, Matt Macey and Eddie Nketiah were all named on the bench. So nine players in the squad were from the Arsenal academy, and six of the players who actually appeared in the match.
It’s all well and good playing academy boys in the third round of the League Cup against Doncaster Rovers, but what about the rest of the season?
Do Arsenal really give academy graduates first-team chances in general?
Perhaps more than you think.
Arsenal gave minutes to six academy graduates last season in the Premier League, according to a Press Association Sport study (via Mirror).
United gave more players opportunities, with 10 making appearances, but Arsenal actually had the greatest percentage of top-flight minutes played by academy graduates of all Premier League clubs, with 19.4 per cent.
Since so many of Arsenal’s academy graduates aren’t English internationals, they sometimes get forgotten when you tally up their game time. Hector Bellerín, Francis Coquelin and Alex Iwobi all played large parts last season, and all came through the Arsenal academy, but none represent England.
Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere wasn’t even with the Gunners for most of last season, so he should increase the percentage this year.
On the other hand, Kieran Gibbs has gone the other way.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the only other player who has chosen to represent England. He played for Arsenal in the league last season and is available again for the Gunners this year.
Reiss Nelson has already appeared in three different competitions this season, and Maitland-Niles has been handed starts in two, so there’s plenty of potential for the pair to push on this year again.
Right now, at least, Arsenal are doing well with the academy graduates.
We’ll have to see if this continues as the season goes on.