Arsenal U21s kick-off new campaign with Hayden looking to push on


The landscape concerning Arsenal’s youth development set-up has changed considerably over the summer, with Dutchman Andries Jonker now having formally started work as the club’s new Academy Manager. Over an extended period of time it will be intriguing to see how his tenure compares to that of Liam Brady, who helped oversee the development of many players, although only three of the many home-grown products, Ashley Cole, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, went on to have sustained careers in the first-team having progressed through the club’s various youth sides.

Tonight another U21 league season gets underway as Arsenal travel to Basingstoke to take on Reading. As always with the second-string squad there are players at various points in their development, with winger Chris Willock, for example, set to be a key part of the team at just 16 years of age.

At the other end of the spectrum, Isaac Hayden has already amassed 30 appearances at U21 level over the past couple of seasons and the 19 year old will be hoping to gain more experience of the professional game during 2014/15. He impressed at centre-back during the couple of opportunities he was afforded for the first-team during pre-season, but still seems more suited to a defensive-midfield position.

Regardless of where he plays, Hayden will be hoping to experience a loan spell at some point this season. A tigerish tackler with a good passing range, he also possesses impressive leadership qualities. Quite how far he can take his talent is yet to be determined but a temporary stint elsewhere would provide a suitable gauge to assess his current level.

Other U21 players to watch out for include wingers Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi, who were key figures as the U18s reached the Semi-Finals of the FA Youth Cup last season. Dan Crowley, provided he steers clear of further injuries, should establish himself as a regular for the U21s, whilst it is hoped that Gedion Zelalem will start to show some consistency befitting his immense talent.

Having struggled for form last season, the U21s find themselves in the second tier this campaign, meaning they will miss out on playing the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Following the individual development of each player should still be interesting, however, and Jonker will be seeking to add more names to the rather short list of Cole, Wilshere and Gibbs.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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8 Comments on "Arsenal U21s kick-off new campaign with Hayden looking to push on"

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Indian Gooner

Why are we so below the likes of United,City,Chelsea and others when it comes to academy football. Could anybody enlighten me?


If you caught the post about Brady on the blog recently he mentioned that Chelsea have the best crop as they can just throw money at a player. It’s less about what the club can offer in the future these days and players can make enough money to be set for life just in the youth ranks. That’s tough to compete with.

I think we also step some of our players up a little earlier often and have lots going out on loan so the team becomes very disjointed across a season giving poor finishes.

In terms of purely end product we’ve done much better than any of those teams you listed which is what counts. We’ve got Wilshere and Gibbs who’ve come through plus others we pulled from other clubs and educated here like Szczesny and so on. Those are first team players with a level in them that’s a cut above the likes of Cleverly and Welbeck which is the best those clubs have had.


We’re not. Who has broken through the City and Chelsea academies in the last 10/15 years? JT at Chelsea and thats literally it. So to have three players break through (Cole, Gibbs, Wilshere – although I’d argue Sczcz too) is more impressive than it seems – although I’d love to see us improve on that immensely.

Even at Utd not THAT many players have broken through since the ‘Class of 92’.. In the current squad can you really see Welbeck, Cleverley et al establishing themselves at United long term?


It’s a problem for all top clubs to “produce” top-level footballer. They all got a talent in academies but it’s not enough, eg. frimpong. I very much would like to see them become a pro – not necessarily at Arsenal. Question is: is it fault of the system or them being not good enough (English players)? Certainly money spoil them & U21 league is a laughing stock, they just play for another 2 years of non-competitive football. I would rather see 2nd teams introduced or at least get rid of U21 league & just loan them as long as they’r not eligible to play for U18’s. Who’s gonna make it will make it, right?


Well that’s a bonus, staying with my brother in Basingstoke for a few days. That’s tonight sorted.


Isaac Hayden is an awesome player, I really hope he gets some more first team chances this years. Personally I think A.M Niles, Crowley, Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, and perhaps Akpom will be part of the core for the future IMO (Along with the British core Chamberlain/Wilshere/Chambers/etc). And I hope Jonker can have the same results with this youth team as he did with Bayern’s, because the list of players that came up while he was in charge is incredibly impressive! Thomas Muller/Mats Hummels/Badstuber/Alaba.

There’s more talent like Willock, Zelalem, that can make the first team of course so we’ll see.


I wish he goes on to captain Arsenal one day.

Rohith J

We’ve seen so many people let go in recent times. So I take good news about our youth players with a pinch of salt. How realistic is it to expect someone like Hayden to be an Arsenal regular? We know there’s a spot for CB/CDM even if we sign a CB and we have a very talented Calum Chambers.