In an interview with Dutch football magazine Voetbal International [paywalled], published in September, Andries Jonker has claimed that Arsenal must overhaul their entire scouting network if they are to turn the club’s Academy into the best in the world.
The Dutchman was appointed head of the Academy this summer and has wasted no time auditing the entire set-up and reshuffling personnel recruiting compatriots Frans de Kat and Jan van Loon to take over the under-18 and under-16 squads.
Speaking passionately about Arsenal’s youth project the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona coach outlined the changes he thinks the Gunners must make.
“Arsenal want more talented players to come through, because that has been lacking. They want me to develop the players from the academy much better than it was done before.
“At this moment, considering the investments the club have made, players have hardly been developed properly. This is why they wanted me, a man who can guide the coaches and who can influence the other coaches.
“Ivan Gazidis wants Arsenal to be the best academy in the world. He realises that will cost money and will take time, but that is his ambition.
“The scouting must be restructured all over again. It needs to be brought to a level so that we can bring in the absolute best talents from abroad and from England at an age that Wenger can immediately work with them.
“My chief scout at the academy, Steve Morrow, came and asked me what kind of players I wanted him to look for. So I said, the best player I have worked on, Xavi.
Revealing Arsene Wenger tried to bring him to Arsenal after Euro 2012 (he instead became Felix Magath’s assistant at Wolfsburg) Jonker opened up on how his relationship with the Frenchman has strengthened thanks to a mutual respect for technically astute football.
“Almost every day Wenger and I go through a number of things. He is approachable, but I do have to show him what we are doing. We must not go behind his back.
“It is important that Wenger and I work closely together. What I do see is that everybody at the club has the feeling that they need to have the green light from Wenger before they do anything. But maybe that is not the case.
“I have a very good feeling about the way Wenger and I are working together. We both think the technical side of the game is very important.
“But there are a lot of things in the academy which can be improved or should be done different.”
In a separate interview, also appearing in the Dutch press, Jonker made clear that there’s no point bothering with a youth academy if you don’t have a manager who wants to promote homegrown talent. Interestingly he also confirmed the club have assured him that this is a long-term ambition that’ll long outlast Arsene Wenger.
“I think it is very important to pay attention to youth, that’s why it’s good that we’ve a manager like Arsene.
“If you have a first team coach who doesn’t believe in young player you have to question why you even have a youth academy. I’m glad that he’s extended his contract but the club have told me that when or if he leaves, that a similar kind of manager will be appointed. I also found this important.”
On the issue of restructuring the scouting network it appears Jonker has already started putting plans in place. Shaun O’Connor (the man who discovered Jack Wilshere) has already returned to the Emirates after a spell at Brentford and former Reading and Leeds United boss (and ex-Gooner) Brian McDermott is also thought to have been signed up to work with Steve Rowley.
Thanks to @AlwinKelderman for getting us through Voetbal International’s paywall!