The way Arsenal approach the development of their young players has changed in recent years.
As Per Mertesacker continues to implement his vision on the Gunners’ academy, several of the under-23 squad were sent out on loan last season to gain experience at first team level.
Daniel Ballard, Mark McGuinness and Harry Clarke all stood out with successful spells at Blackpool, Ipswich and Oldham respectively, while Zech Medley, Matt Smith, Tyreece John-Jules, Trae Coyle, Jordi Osei-Tutu and James Olayinka also spent time away from the club temporarily.
Despite the new approach already bearing fruit, though, there is an understanding at the club that when it comes to young players there is simply no such thing as one size fits all.
“It’s very individual,” said Mertesacker when describing the club’s approach to bringing through the next set of gems from Hale End.
The focus for the German is not so much now on achieving success at youth level, but rather on working on youngsters with a tailored approach that can help them go on to be successful.
“I am open to winning the FA Youth Cup. I am open to winning the Premier League 2 title and trying to get people winning in life,” he said in 2018.
“That’s a huge task working in football and coming up with that broader idea of what success means for us.”
It’s this new approach with a focus on the individual rather than lumping them in with the collective that is being applied to perhaps one of the Gunners’ most exciting young talents to come out of Hale End in years.
Rather than being sent out on loan next season, football.london understands that Charlie Patino is going to stay in north London and be integrated into Mikel Arteta‘s first team.
The midfielder has grabbed attention this season after making the step up to Arsenal’s under-23 side despite being just 17-years-old and reports suggest that he is already more advanced than Jack Wilshere was at his age.
While it will be interesting to see how many minutes Patino actually gets next season given the reduced number of competitions the Gunners are in, the fact that this decision has been made shows that Mertesacker’s academy are taking his individual needs into account.
There is definitely an argument for the fact that the loan system works – you need only look at how Emile Smith Rowe has burst onto the senior stage this season after spells with Leipzig and Huddersfield – but that doesn’t make it right for everybody.
Some players are ready to go straight into the first team from a young age. Arsenal’s other Hale End star this season Bukayo Saka is perfect proof of this.
After making his Premier League debut in the 2018/19 campaign on New Year’s Day against Fulham, the now England international, went on to impress Unai Emery in pre-season ahead of 2019/20.
The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.
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It would have been easy to send him out on loan at that point to ensure first-team football as per the tried and tested pathway, but there was an understanding that Saka as an individual was ready to contribute already on the biggest stage. It seems the Gunners are looking to repeat this trick with Patino two years down the line.
This is not to undermine the loan system at all. football.london understands that eight Hale Enders, including highly talented Swedish forward Nikolaj Moller, will be made available for a temporary spell away from north London next campaign.
But with the tailored approach to youth development, Arsenal’s academy are making sure they keep up their impressive record of producing high-quality talent for the first team.