Now, admittedly the following thoughts for today are based on opinion, rather than in depth research. I write this blog whilst on my way to work travelling in on the Metropolitan Line tube and occasionally it goes in and out of signal, so the ability for me to undertake lengthy statistical analysis is somewhat mitigated. However, I still wanted to have a look at some of our loan players and how they were doing, so decided to take a look at the snapshot of loanees this morning, via the official website. So if I’m wrong with any of these thoughts and stats can disprove me, please feel free to disagree, or have a chat in the comments.
The reason I felt compelled to write something about the loanees was after Arsène had recently spoken of the improved quality of the Championship, in the wake of the defeat to Sheffield Wednesay. Apologies, as I can’t find a link, but I know that he mentioned how very good players are now finding their way in to England’s second tier because of the money and players that are now being bought by all of the Premier League clubs. When you have players like Payet and Shaquiri joining West Ham and Stoke respectively, I guess you could certainly argue that this is the case to some extent. Would a 17/18 year old Jack Wilshere be given the opportunity to cut his teeth at a Premier League club like he did at Bolton? I’m not so sure any more. But do they need to? Is the quality in the Championship of a significant enough level for them to be able to hone their skills and return to Arsenal to win a spot like Coquelin and Bellerin?
I started to look at the loanees page on the official site to see how our younger players are getting on in this ever improved Championship that Arsène speaks of. Having not frequently visited on the page for a couple of months, I expected to see some positive news about some of our players on loan and in some instances it was good stuff. Jon Toral hit the net for Birmingham and there was a clean sheet for Emiliano Martinez against Burnley. But I also saw plenty of ‘came on as a substitute’ for players like Akpom or Maitland-Niles, whilst Wellington didn’t even get a sniff of action for Bolton. Gnabry may be in the Premier League, but Pulis seems reluctant to use him and has been critical of his level to date.
So why are these players out on loan if they are not – by mid-November – even getting in to their respective teams? What is the value in these players being only slightly closer to a first team than they might be at Arsenal? And what’s the solution?
If Championship teams are getting better, so much so that promising players from the Premier League academies are looked at as players to boost the squad and not the first team, will we start to see the need for these younger players to drop further down the divisions to be assured of more regular football? And if that is the case, would they be ready to make the step up from League One to Premier League when they return to their parent club at the end of a loan spell?
The simple equation here is that the increased money in the game has pushed young players further down the leagues and may push them further still. I don’t like Tony Pulis at all, but it does make you wonder whether he’s correct in his general dislike in the academies. But as I’ve said before in previous blogs, when you can snap up a youngster and send him on loan for a couple of seasons, just so he can be sold on for £1.5million or thereabouts, the academies become a nice little earner for the Premier League clubs. The rich become richer as the big clubs hoard players and then sell them on when they are clearly not going to make the first team.
My first reaction is ‘that’s a real shame’, but as a supporter of one of the teams at the top of the tree, I could equally ask ‘is it?’ Because let’s face it, the clubs lower down the leagues still get good players, plus they don’t need the extensive scouting networks any more. There’s no point; they might as well just scour the Premier League academies for players. Then, if they want to, they can make a loan deal permanent and get themselves a good player who they could potentially sell on for profit when that player is successful. The only down side is the sell on clauses. That gives money back to the Premier League clubs (rich getting richer again), but also probably forces the selling club to think about getting a bigger asking price for a player. Think Benik Afobe at Wolves at the moment. You can bet your bottom dollar we have a sell on clause. So when Norwich come calling, Wolves need to value the player higher to get the money they actually want for him. And the rich become richer because we get a nice chunk for a player who’s hardly played for us at first team level.
It’s a perpetual cycle of money swilling around in football but ultimately, it all goes to the top, so making sure you’re playing the game by being a big club and being part of the cycle is important.
Let’s just not expect the academy system to have an increasing impact on the first team.
Anyway, let’s end on a high note, which is that Arsène won the manager of the month competition. Good for him, although I’m sure he’s not too bothered, given that he doesn’t really care too much for individual accolades.
That’s yer lot from me for today. More tomorrow.