After a study from the CIES Football Observatory looked at the percentage of minutes played by u21 players at European clubs, let’s look at how Arsenal are doing giving chances to youngsters.
The Football Observatory recently put together a list of the top 10 u21 players in each of Europe’s top five leagues by percentage of league matches played.
Arsenal didn’t have a single entry on the Premier League list, though they weren’t the only top team to miss out. Only Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool made the cut from the ‘big six’ teams.
The closest Arsenal player to the top 10 was Matteo Guendouzi, who has played 49% of Arsenal’s league minutes this season. That puts him just a couple of percentage points below Timothy Fosu-Mensah (51%), who is currently on loan at Fulham. Even then, Guendouzi isn’t an Arsenal-trained player, but a summer signing.
Looking at Arsenal-trained u21 players, the picture is much bleaker. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has played 3% of the club’s Premier League minutes, and that’s it.
Of course, there are some older players from the Arsenal academy, like Alex Iwobi and Hector Bellerin. Plus, academy products tend to get chances in the League Cup and Europa League at first. Even then, the only u21 academy graduates to appear are Emile Smith Rowe (312 minutes) and Julio Pleguezuelo (90 minutes).
As a result, it’s no surprise to see Arsenal’s average squad age (27.17) slightly above the overall average for the Premier League (27.08).
It’s a bit disappointing to see such a small selection of players given a chance after an impressive year from the Arsenal academy in 2017/18. The u23s won the Premier League 2 and finished runners-up in the Premier League International Cup. Meanwhile, the u18s came second only to Chelsea in the u18 Premier League and the FA Youth Cup.
Of the players that led that success, a few have moved on (notably Josh Dasilva and Joao Virginia), and Reiss Nelson is on loan, but those who stayed are mostly still waiting for their first senior minutes on the pitch this campaign. Hopefully, the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Zech Medley will get chances before long. We’ll see.