• Jack Wilshere is one of the most recent graduates from Arsenal’s academy
  • Arsene Wenger has been focused on keeping the Gunners competitive
  • Some people have concerns over the quality of coaching at Hale End
  • Key academy staff have very different ideas about player development
  • Arsenal are spending more to keep up with Chelsea and Manchester City 

Neil Ashton for the Daily Mail

At the last meeting of all 20 managers in the Barclays Premier League, Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal were openly critical of the standards of coaching in academy football.

It has taken Wenger a while to get to this point, but the failure of Arsenal’s fabled Hale End academy to bring through a recent first-team regular has prompted action.

Jack Wilshere (signed from Luton), Kieran Gibbs (Wimbledon) and Francis Coquelin (Stade Lavallois) are the last group of players from the academy to go on to play regularly for the senior side.

Arsenal youngsters Alex Iwobi, Ben Sheaf, Kaylen Hinds and Marc Bola (L-R) prepare for an Under 19 game

Arsenal youngsters Alex Iwobi, Ben Sheaf, Kaylen Hinds and Marc Bola (L-R) prepare for an Under 19 game

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has concentrated on his first team in order to keep up in the Premier League

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has concentrated on his first team in order to keep up in the Premier League

Jack Wilshere (left) was one of the last first team players to come through Arsenal's Hale End academy

Jack Wilshere (left) was one of the last first team players to come through Arsenal’s Hale End academy

It has led to rising tensions at junior level, with an increased presence from senior members of the Arsenal hierarchy turning up to monitor the performance of the coaching staff in recent weeks.

Academy manager Andries Jonker, Under 18 coach Frans de Kat and Under 16 coach Jan van Loon all arrived in July 2014 to great hullabaloo. They had worked with the Dutch FA at various times during their careers and promised to tailor some of their principles to suit the young stars at Arsenal.

Instead a division is emerging, with the trio having very different ideas on player development than head of scouting Steve Morrow and Shaun O’Connor, who has returned as recruitment co-ordinator.

In recent weeks there have been mutterings from some parents about the quality of the coaching, with various complaints being made about the lack of game-time for their children.

Van Loon’s habit of addressing the youngsters in a stern, uncompromising manner during the club’s nightly sessions has also led to grumblings from players and their parents. Arsenal have taken steps to address these issues, reassuring academy recruits that they will continue to improve the structure at Hale End.

For years the academy operated on a shoestring at youth level, relying on Wenger’s name and reputation around the world to convince young, raw talent to move to the club.

Julio Pleguezuelo (centre) and his team-mates warm up prior to a UEFA Youth League match in September

Julio Pleguezuelo (centre) and his team-mates warm up prior to a UEFA Youth League match in September

Academy manager Andries Jonker
Under 18 coach Frans de Kat

Academy manager Andries Jonker (left) and Under 18 coach Frans de Kat have different views to other staff

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (fourth from right) has begun coaching the club's Under 19 side this season

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (fourth from right) has begun coaching the club’s Under 19 side this season

That changed when the investors at Chelsea and Manchester City began to outbid them, paying premiums for the players they knew Arsenal were interested in.

It has led to a rethink, a change in financial planning after Chelsea won the FA Youth Cup for the third time in four years last season. They also won the UEFA Youth League.

When Chelsea baulked in the summer at the demands of Ajax forward Donyell Malen, who wanted a contract worth £1.8million over three years, Arsenal stepped in.

Wenger still spoke to his former player Dennis Bergkamp, now assistant boss at Ajax, about the young talent, but Arsenal were unexpected front-runners. They know that there is significant ground to make up and there is a sense of regret that most of their resources and energy has been channelled into the first team in recent seasons.

Manchester City spent £200million to build their City Football Academy, which opened late last year

Manchester City spent £200million to build their City Football Academy, which opened late last year

Arsenal stepped in to sign young forward Donyell Malen from Ajax after Chelsea baulked at his demands

Arsenal stepped in to sign young forward Donyell Malen from Ajax after Chelsea baulked at his demands

To stay in the top four of the Premier League, with the aggressive recruitment strategy of both Manchester clubs, plus Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea, Wenger had to focus on the first team.

With the financial security of Stan Kroenke and the income generated from the Emirates Stadium, along with numerous other commercial benefits, Arsenal are turning to their academy project once again.

Arsenal’s Under 21 team are top of the Premier League Division Two with five straight wins, but a club of their standing should be in the top division. The Under 18s are fifth, behind Chelsea, Reading, Leicester and Aston Villa.

Arsenal know improvements have to be made, with recruitment and coaching at the core of their strategy. After that, they can start to think about the next generation.

TRUTH BEHIND THE CRAZY GANG 

Jonny Owen’s film I Believe in Miracles — the story of Nottingham Forest’s success under Brian Clough — has been received to critical acclaim, but on Friday night there will be a celebration of another remarkable run to the top of English football.

Many players from the Crazy Gang era will join generations of Wimbledon supporters at a special dinner for the launch of Dave Bassett and Wally Downes’ book The Crazy Gang about the club’s journey from the Southern League to the old First Division.

Wimbledon's players celebrate at Wembley after beating favourites Liverpool 1-0 to win the FA Cup in 1988

Wimbledon’s players celebrate at Wembley after beating favourites Liverpool 1-0 to win the FA Cup in 1988

Bassett was partially motivated to write a complete record of their astonishing rise by the club’s portrayal in a documentary of the same name earlier this year.

The film, screened by BT Sport, was dramatised by the colourful contributions of former Dons midfielder Vinnie Jones and striker John Fashanu.

Friday night’s dinner will be held in Wimbledon’s new home at Kingstonian Football Club.

WHAT I’M HEARING…

1. Everton youngster Brendan Galloway was left out of Gareth Southgate’s England Under 21 squad to face Kazakhstan at the Ricoh Arena, but it has not stopped interest in him developing elsewhere.

The defender, who has made a handful of appearances for Everton since his move from MK Dons in 2014, is still on the wanted list of Premier League rivals Tottenham.

Brendan Galloway (left) has impressed since breaking into the Everton team at the end of last season

Brendan Galloway (left) has impressed since breaking into the Everton team at the end of last season

2. Manchester United’s players have complained about training methods under Louis van Gaal and they have come to dread Thursday’s sessions with their Dutch coach.

That is the one day of the week when United’s players arrive for training expecting to be run into the ground by their demanding manager. So far, it has had mixed results.

Ashley Young, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger in training

Ashley Young, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger in training

3. Michael Emenalo has a wide-ranging brief as technical director at Chelsea, but like most football club employees he has gravitated towards the first team.

Emenalo, who sits on the bench behind the Chelsea substitutes at Stamford Bridge on matchdays, is among a multitude of people in blue jackets who now watch first team training at Cobham.

Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo (left, wearing glasses) watches Jose Mourinho's side in action

Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo (left, wearing glasses) watches Jose Mourinho’s side in action


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