When Arsenal was choosing a loan spell for Eddie Nketiah in the summer, the process went beyond what a club had previously done for a young player.
The truth is that Arsenal already has some of the most wanted children in England. They have the reputation to develop them, and it’s not just Nketia that people have viewed. However, when his name appeared, teams moved quickly. That’s why they had to implement a Dragon’s Den style process.
The competing teams – Leeds, Bristol City and Fortuna Dusseldorf – were invited to the Arsenal training base and asked to pitch why they deserved one of the most coveted young strikers in Europe.
Eddie Nketiah is one of the most impressive young people in the current Arsenal team
Bukayo Saka also broke into the first team at the Emirates Stadium under Mikel Arteta
Gabriel Martinelli celebrates one of his goals – he has had a huge influence lately
Every man had to give a presentation. Manager Lee Johnson spoke for Bristol City, while Leeds’ recruitment director Victor Orta perished. It showed how seriously everyone took it, and how popular this academy graduate was.
Although the Nketiah loan from Leeds did not work in terms of minutes, it shows how surprising his rise to the first team is. To a certain extent, Nketiah is only a symbol of the new generation that comes through in that village in Hertfordshire.
Nketiah is the man to call if you want goals, but Gabriel Martinelli has also shone in recent months. Bukayo Saka is the striking star of the reign of Mikel Arteta so far. At least some of his young attacks will play against Olympiacos in the Europa League on Thursday-evening after he used the competition to break through.
This harvest dates back to the days when Wenger sat down to be Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson to sign new deals.
An old generation of young stars from Arsenal, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (from left to right) sit down to sign new contracts
It speaks for a club that has made smart recruitment at youth level one of the tent poles of their approach.
Take Nketiah for example. He was released by Chelsea in 2015 after seven years in their academy. Their vision was that he was not tall enough.
It took Arsenal just two days to invite him to trial. They signed him shortly afterwards for a scholarship. “I don’t know what happened at Chelsea,” Arsene Wenger said later.
“He has scored goals at youth level and sometimes I don’t know why they let him go. You see that more and more. Young people travel from one club to another. “
Nketiah was broken from Chelsea after they released him and had his moments
Nketiah has worked its way up and has never been overexposed, despite useful goals at various stages under Wenger and Unai Emery.
He may not have played much at Leeds, but it was the perfect club to send him to. Marcelo Bielsa has contributed to the development of a number of top strikers, including Gabriel Batistuta and Fernando Llorente, and improved elements of the game of Nketiah.
The 20-year-old now starts for £ 50 million man Alexandre Lacazette and packs crucial goals against Everton.
Martinelli meanwhile played for Ituano, currently competing in the Series C in Brazil, the third level of the national division.
Martinelli was brought in after impressing last year’s Copa Sao Paulo for Ituano
He appeared on the radar of major parties after scoring six times in four games in the Copa Sao Paulo last year. The competition is the most prestigious for young players in Brazil.
After being called up for the senior, he picked six in 14 to help Ituano in the quarter-finals of the Sao Paulo state championship, winning a best newcomer prize.
It meant that he was asked to train with the Brazilian team for the Copa America.
Arsenal had been watching scout Everton Gushiken, but they were not the only enthusiastic side. Both Manchester United and Barcelona showed interest – as did 25 other teams, according to O Globo. However, they had made a deal in April.
They promised his father that he would not be loaned immediately, which convinced him
Their trick? Promising that he would not be lent, but would work with the first team instead. His father Joao Carlos told Bleacher report: ‘We have an oral agreement with Arsenal that he will not be loaned immediately.
‘They have a plan for him and expect him to reach his peak within one to three seasons.
“It didn’t make sense to choose an offer, for example £ 10 million higher, if he didn’t get a good chance to grow.” I have no doubt that he will develop further training with the first team. “
It has unfolded. Martinelli has had plenty of opportunities this season and scored 10 in 24 games for the Gunners.
Saka provided incredible assistance to Nketiah during the victory over Everton at the weekend
That is a record for an 18-year-old verse in the country, and while Sao Paulo is not exactly a hinterland, finding and bringing in Martinelli shows how far Arsenal will go to secure the right young players.
Saka was simpler. While his brother played for Watford until his teens, there was only one club for him.
He joined Arsenal at the age of seven, so there was no long recruitment process. He just worked his way up to the academy, listened to the warnings about how little it made, and made sure he was in that number.
Speak against Arsenal.com Saka recently said: ‘You can never be sure that you will make it, but what I said to myself is that I would always do my best in every session.
The 18-year-old is celebrating this weekend with Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
“I’ve always wanted to learn how to improve, I’ve always watched a lot of football to see how I could improve.”
There was a smart move by Freddie Ljungberg to move him to the back left, which benefited Arteta, but otherwise it seems like a routine climb up the ladder.
What is fascinating is that while Nketia and Saka were passing through the system, the man who would have been responsible for their signing had recently been canned.
Steve Morrow was the head of youth recruitment until November 2019, when the club separated the company with him and seven other employees.
Per Mertesacker, the head of the Arsenal academy, has restructured it behind the scenes
It was part of the movements of Per Mertesacker as head of the academy, a role he assumed in the summer of 2018. He has clearly tried to restructure how it works.
They have now promoted Lee Herron to become the operational manager of the academy with the responsibility to lead the “Talent ID” department, suggesting that there is a new approach to bringing in children.
It is not a real shock. Edu came as the director of football in the summer and has tried to change the way the club operates as a whole.
However, there are other names that must be used by the older generation. Joe Willock made an impression in flashes when he got a chance from Emery earlier this season. He looks like a solid midfielder who can also play further in the park if there is a wish to break the game in the last third.
Emile Smith Rowe made an impression on his championship loan at Huddersfield
Emile Smith Rowe is also doing well on loan in Huddersfield and assisting Joe’s brother Chris on Tuesday night in beating Bristol City.
Manager Danny Cowley is impressed by a child who regularly played in the Europa League and EFL Cup last season: ‘He looked like a top player, didn’t he?
“He has that ability to find space – he could find space in a telephone booth.
“He speeds up the game for you and draws and commits and I think it would have been a brilliant achievement (against Bristol City) if he had scored.
“I’m always going to demand from him because he’s a Premier League player for me, so I have to treat him like that and demand Premier League standards from him – in training and games, day in day out.”
Tyreece John-Jules has had a good time in Lincoln and has played in League One seven times since his move in January.
Tyreece John-Jules is loaned to Lincoln in League One and has scored one in seven games
The striker was even called man of the match during his home debut at Sincil Bank when he scored for the Imps against Blackpool.
He has not scored since then, but John-Jules has a high rating since a goals cameo in a mid-season friendly last campaign.
From the evidence of those players coming, the future looks good in London Colney.
It is clear that the Arsenal academy is in a good time and plans are being made to make it sing in the future.
Lower league managers may want to start preparing the PowerPoint presentations to sign the next big thing now.