Oguzhan Ozyakup: is Arsenal youth policy failing?

When the recent unconfirmed news that Oguzhan Ozyakup had signed for Besiktas broke this week it had me thinking of the many young players that have left arsenal over the years. Arsenal is a club famed for its development of young professionals and it’s rare to find a player who started at Arsenal who did not credit the academy for giving them a great grounding.

The thing about having a great youth set up is it is meant to transpire and develop into an integration of promising youngsters into the first team squad and carry on the traditions and foundations created.Barcelona despite their superstars still manages to successfully integrate youth players into their set up.

Given the way it has worked out at arsenal you could argue that is a flawed strategy as many players have worked their way through the ranks only to become frustrated at not becoming a first team player instantly. Wenger would champion them and talk up their unlimited potential but then their heads would be turned by the first chance of 1st team football elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong not every player that has come through the ranks has been the level of a jack Wilshere but many have had the potential to be as good. Some players develop to that next level of superstardom a little later in the process, not everyone can crack the first team at 17/18. That is one of the main problems, some youngsters choose Arsenal because they saw Fabregas getting his debut at 16 and think they will get the same opportunities. Their development can be different and the coaches in charge of the younger players and Wenger himself can spot those that have that something special that warrants fast tracking to the first team as well as those that may need a bit more time.

Footballers’ egos are one of the hardest things to manage; they go from running rings around opponents their age and being praised no end to then being told they’re not ready just yet for the first team which is something many young players just don’t seem to register with anything but negativity. This is the point to knuckle down, work even harder and earn the right to be a part of Arsenal first team squad. Some players are not prepared to just play reserve football and get the odd run out in the Carling cup, they want more sooner.

The opportunity to go on loan becomes available and most take it. I’m a big fan of young players going on loan; they get a chance to experience the real ins and outs of first team football. It can also be a measure of their potential if they excel at the club they go on loan to. I mean if a player goes out on loan (in this instance a striker) to a league 2 club and doesn’t score his fair share of goals there it can give an indication that maybe he may not ready to dislodge Robin Van Persie just yet. It can be a nice reality check as the goal a game ratio they had at u-18 level was just that.. u-18 level, the real world is not as easy unless your name is Messi.

The players that go out on loan and do have successful spells often return to Arsenal and find it hard to shift back into reserve football and out of the limelight. They taste that idolisation and when they return they struggle to accept being out of the picture again.

This is the stage where Arsenal has lost many a player they were not planning to let go of. If you look back names such as David Bentley, Sebatian Larsson and Steve Sidwell come to mind. I know, you see those names and probably think not good enough players but to me I honestly believe if they stayed at Arsenal and carried on their development they would have made it at Arsenal.

Ok, David Bentley turned out to be a complete sewer rat but he did have the ability to make something of his career. The main problem for David Bentley was David Bentley; he believed his own hype and thought he was a superstar before his time. Honestly with the right mindset and people around him he could have been a massive player for club and country instead he’s deemed a pompous joke that wasted a promising career. Larsson and Sidwell have carved out decent premiership careers for themselves and could have done a job at Arsenal without setting the world alight if they showed a bit more patience but the good times at Reading and Birmingham swayed their heads.

When Arsenal chooses to let a player go they often prove it was the right decision as we tend to hold on to the ones that have the superstar quality required for the top. I guess that must be part of our ‘business model’ to create marketable superstars with massive returns if ever sold.

A player that had the potential to follow in Cesc’s footsteps towards Arsenal 1st XI was Fran Merida. He had amazing technical ability and was slowly integrating into the Arsenal squad before deciding he wanted a lot more a lot sooner. As is the risk you take from obtaining a player from abroad Merida seemed to miss Spain and it was inevitable he would go back, it was just how soon it happened that wasn’t expected.

His career has stagnated after a bright start at Atletico Madrid and is probably another reason that proves moving too soon isn’t always so prosperous. His situation when you look at it hasn’t changed much from his time at Arsenal as he has struggled to get into the team and spent half of last season out on loan to Braga. Was it worth it? He might say it was but deep down he knows the truth.

Ozyakup falls into a similar category as Merida in terms of ability and potential, if channelled correctly a very good player could emerge. The move to Besiktas still hasn’t been confirmed and I hope it is a made up story. There is some weight behind it since Ozyakup has recently swapped national representation from Holland to Turkey; so a move to a leading Turkish team wouldn’t seem so crazy. I actually think Ozyakup is in Wenger’s plans and should have a long hard think before jumping ship.

A loan move would be a more logical career move at this stage of his career, we will have to wait and see how this plays out but if Ozyakup does decide to move on then Arsenal will have to take a long hard look at whether their strategy to grooming youth is working. The time, money and effort put into these young players is not a guarantee but a gamble and its interesting to know how much money is lost when these players move before their time.

P.S Thank you to Oguzhan Ozyakup for breaking my spell checker.


Podolski is here. RVP talks today – AFC

So Lukas Podolski has done some promo for the Arsenal. The official site released some video of the German in his first official interview as an arsenal player. Although the deal was announced a while back you still can’t help but get excited at the thought of Podolski turning out for Arsenal when you catch sight of him wearing the kit.

I mean the actual interview itself was no different from your standard Arsenal interview for a new signing. Lukas proceeded to say all the things we wanted to hear and tick all the boxes to satisfy the fans. This to me is such an important signing and very shrewd piece of business conducted by Arsene and his team.

It goes to show we do have the pulling power and that we can be crafty enough to nip in and get signings of big players. This is not the potential we have become accustomed to signing over the last few years. This is a player for the now, a full international with an impressive record for a major country in world football.

Can this Podolski signing be another piece of evidence to prove the Arsenal strategy for signing players has evolved from future to right here right now? I certainly hope so. Too many times over the past few years heavy resources have been poured into developing the future stars of Arsenal only for their heads to be turned at the very stage when they should be the leading members of the team.

We have lost too many players because of this and have had to reinvest in youth to get back to this stage. On the other side of the coin many players deemed for bright futures have failed to live up to expectation.

Any signing is a gamble at the end of the day but if we continue to add the odd experienced quality to complement the raw potential the right balance will enhance the team growth.

One significant thing to notice with the signing of Podolski is the countries in which the club is targeting for players.

Germany has always been a leading force in world football and currently boasts an envious batch of highly talented young footballers coming to prominence. I am encouraged by the fact that we are targeting players from this country as opposed to the star player from Kazakhstan per say.

Per Mertesacker was the catalyst to us attracting German players to our club.

Of course he offers a lot more to the club than attracting his mates but it always helps attracting foreign players to your club when you already have a countryman on your books.

Eisfeld is on the books, we have long been targeting Mario Gotze. A German core is not a bad thing at all.

Germans are known for their professionalism and winning mentality. The kind of mentality which belongs at big clubs. We are a big club and will return back to where we belong at the top of the table before too long.

I refuse to take notice of anything said by Samir Nasri. The guy is a massive waste of space and I’m ashamed to believe I used to cheer on this guy and sing his name from the stands. Karma will have something planned for him.

Robin Van Persie is set to have his much-anticipated talks with the Arsenal men today; it will be just as nerve-racking to gunners fans as we were on Sunday. This is a massive set of talks that could have repercussions on the whole dynamic of the Arsenal squad. If he were to decide to leave the Arsenal we WILL need a replacement. Podolski should be deemed as an addition of quality to build on our 3rd place finish not a replacement for our golden boot winning, top scoring captain.

This was one of the situations that left us in so much despair at the start of last season. The uncertainty over Fabregas and Nasri left us feeling somewhat underwhelmed when players were linked as they were seen as mere poorly shaped plugs to fill massive holes.

We do not need that for next season, we need to do everything in our power to keep our captain and build. If unfortunately he has already made up his mind to go then we must think long-term and buy a replacement of equal standing and sell RVP as early as possible. We cannot let this drag out; we cannot beg him to see out one last year on his contract.

As much as I love Van Persie if he feels the need to fulfil ambition elsewhere then we need to sell him ASAP. Wenger is a man of honour and will not stand in his way and hold him to ransom. We will need to rebuild as soon as possible.

Dont let go Arsene.

I have a gut feeling Van Persie is staying with the Arsenal. I believe today’s meeting will serve as Wenger and his team convincing our captain that Podolski is just the start. Robin will be assured that we will be bringing silverware back to Arsenal and that he will not regret signing a new contract.

England squad for Euros should be named today. Heavy rumours that The Ox will be included. Will be interesting if true but I will wait until confirmation before passing my views on what impact they may have.

Enjoy your day people

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