There are some weeks when relatively little of note occurs with regards to Arsenal’s crop of youngsters and their development. Then there are others where so much occurs that it is difficult to know what topic to focus on. The past seven days certainly fall into the category of the latter, with the U21s struggling, the U18s progressing in the Youth Cup and Liam Brady announcing that he will leave his position as the club’s head of youth development before the end of next season.
Brady, who has overseen the Academy’s development since 1996, has experienced successes and failures during his long tenure, with the club winning three FA Youth Cup’s under his stewardship and bringing through Ashley Cole, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, but, in recent years, criticism has been levelled at the Irishman for signing too many foreign talents and not developing enough English players capable of playing in the Arsenal first-team.
Brady will certainly be a difficult figure to replace, however, given his extensive knowledge of the club, and several high-profile figures have already been linked with succeeding him, most notably Dennis Bergkamp, who is currently spending time back in his homeland with Ajax. Brady has stated that he will assist in the search for his successor, with a firm decision likely to be made before the end of the season.
His departure didn’t manage to take any of the shine off of Tuesday’s night’s dramatic victory over Fulham in the FA Youth Cup, however. Arsenal took the lead early on through Anthony Jeffrey in a match that finally went ahead after being re-arranged four times due to poor weather, but Muamer Tankovic levelled for the visitors to send the tie into extra-time. Fulham seemed most likely to snatch a winner, but that honour fell to Arsenal substitute Austin Lipman who scored an impressive goal in the 108th minute to set up a home tie against either Port Vale or Everton in the next round.
A day earlier, the U21s struggled against a determined West Ham outfit, eventually losing 2-0 to goals from Wellington Paulista and Matthias Fanimo. Amongst the Arsenal line-up was midfielder Chuks Aneke, who has since returned to Crewe Alexandra on loan for the remainder of the season. The 19 year old has been in impressive form for the Railwaymen this season, and will return to Arsenal in the summer hopeful of impressing in pre-season.
For two other loanees, however, things have not exactly gone to plan. Benik Afobe trained with the first-team squad this morning after seeing his frustrating spell with Bolton Wanderers cut short. The striker scored just three times for the Championship side and struggled to command a regular starting place at the Reebok Stadium. Samuel Galindo, meanwhile, had an even more frustrating time at Lugo, for whom he made just six appearances since joining in August. He is likely to be sent back to Spain shortly.