Arsenal’s missing youth in the youth policy

Ever since we started investing seriously in our youth academy, there has always been an excitement about our young graduates becoming the ‘next big thing’ in Arsenal’s first-team. While the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Szczsney and Frimpong have become valuable members of the squad, the one who is conspicuously missing from that list is Henri Lansbury.

Having been at Arsenal ever since he was nine, Henri Lansbury is quite a familiar face among Arsenal fans. He signed a contract extension a fortnight ago and it indicates that Arsene Wenger still believes in him despite being shipped out on another season-long loan, this time to Championship favourites West Ham United.

But the biggest concern is, apart from his performance against Tottenham in last year’s League Cup, Lansbury is yet to showcase his true potential in the red and white of Arsenal. And he’ll be 21 this October. His loan spells at Norwich and Scunthorpe were solid at best and this age being a crucial period of any footballer’s career, Lansbury’s future at Ashburton Grove isn’t going to be a bed of roses.

Like all our young players, Lansbury has a good technique, good ball control and passing abilities. He’s extremely versatile with the ability to play anywhere across the midfield and this is his biggest strength. From what I’ve seen of him, I think he would make a solid central midfielder, the box-to-box type, with the ability to make late runs into the penalty area using his pace though we’ve seen that Wenger has preferred to use him out wide in his few matches for Arsenal.

But, I think his days at Arsenal are numbered. I certainly hope I am wrong but I see two reasons for me believing so. The first is the grim situation around the Emirates. With Wenger under pressure to deliver, I am sure there will be very little experimenting with young players, at least for the foreseeable future. Arsenal are no longer in a situation to groom young players in the first team unless it is the Carling Cup and with the likes of Arteta and Benayoun coming in, Lansbury will find first-team opportunities hard to come by next season.

The second reason is his loan spell at West Ham. I mean no disrespect but for youngsters to establish themselves in big clubs like Arsenal or Chelsea, it is important to perform in the Premier League than in the Championship. Wilshere did it. And, this season Welbeck and Sturridge have shown what playing regularly at the highest level can do to your confidence. It also allows clubs to analyse their youngsters at the top level and I am sure Norwich were interested in Lansbury after his loan spell last season. Why Wenger didn’t work out a deal with Norwich is hard to understand.

I think Wenger sees a future for Lansbury but that depends hugely on Arsenal’s fortunes this season. As a matter of fact so does the future of Arsenal’s youth policy. If we end the season the same way as we’ve begun, I think Lansbury will be one among the many Arsenal youngsters who will go through the exit doors of the Emirates as ‘wasted talent’. The same way the likes of Jay Emanuel Thomas, Gilles Sunu and Mark Randall went.

WTTGT Writer: Vivek Arulnathan

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