Arsenal are currently the best team in England.
Arsene Wenger’s men sit at the summit of the Barclays Premier League after 13 games having surprised many spectators with their flowing football and consistent results so far this season.
The same can’t be said for the Gunners’ under 18’s squad, however.
Carl Laraman’s side are at the bottom of the under-18 league and haven’t won a game since their opening day success against Liverpool.
In a recent match against Southampton’s youngsters, Arsenal’s defence went to pieces as they conceded twice in just 78 seconds.
Here are a few reasons why we think Arsenal’s younger generation, specifically the under-18s, haven’t been as impressive as their senior counterparts this season.
In house politics
Carl Laraman joined the Arsenal staff in 2005 from Charlton Athletic and was originally responsible for coaching the Gunners’ under-9’s to under 13’s squads.
Many inside the club believe he always had his sights set on a bigger job within the Hale End academy system and earlier last year he was appointed Under-18’s coach after Steve Gatting’s promotion to the Under-21’s.
Laraman’s arrival at Arsenal has coincided with the departures of many respected academy figures at Hale End including scout Mark Hayman, Head of Youth scouting Sean O’Connor (now at Brentford) and highly regarded goalkeeping coach Alex Welsh (now at Spurs).
O’Connor’s departure in particular came as an even bigger blow to Arsenal due to the Irishman’s vast range of contacts within school sides and youth teams around England which has proved crucial to the north Londoners over the years.
Many of those who left the club were said to be upset with Laraman’s alleged cronyism which saw him ‘help’ bring in former Charlton colleagues Lee Smelt and the aforementioned Gatting, both of whom were officially appointed by Head of Youth development Liam Brady whose tenure at Arsenal ends next May.
Thrown in at the deep end?
Another key reason as to why Arsenal’s under 18’s have been so poor this season is because many of the players are between 15 and 17 years old.
The increased focus on the Barclays Premier Youth League has seen potential first team prospects Chuba Akpom and Issac Hayden involved in the competition, meaning much of the under 18’s squad is filled with greatly inexperienced second year scholars.
Arsenal U18s are currently languishing at the bottom of their group having secured one win all season and conceded 27 goals in 14 games. In contrast, the under 21’s are sixth place in the U21 Premier League and have four games in hand over leaders West Ham.
Indeed, results at youth level are not particularly important, but if performances such as this one against Southampton continue to happen, questions will quite rightly begin to arise.
Manchester City 2-0 Arsenal (October)– A goal conceded in each half left Laraman’s side with just six points from their first 10 games.
Tottenham 4-2 Arsenal (November) – Spurs went into the break with a 2-0 lead. Jack Jebb and Jamal Raage’s consolation goals mean that Arsenal go 11 games without a win.
Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea (November) – Jeremie Boga’s first-half hat trick condemned the Gunners to another loss in their U-18s group.
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