It’s the worst kept secret in football that the purse strings at Arsenal are comically tight this summer.
A limited transfer budget, rumoured to be around the £40million mark, has sent the cost-cutting machine at the Emirates into overdrive and indirectly signalled the start of a new era at Arsenal.
An era of youth fronted by the familiar face of Freddie Ljungberg.
The current under-23’s manager will assume a new role from next season working as an assistant first-team coach alongside Unai Emery, with Steve Bould stepping into the shoes left by the former Invincible.
It is hoped that having spent the past season at the helm of the under-23’s – a successful tenure in which he guided the side to 2nd place in the PL2, Ljungberg will act as the perfect intermediary between the first team and youth team, advising Emery on the strengths and weaknesses of the hottest prospects from the club’s academy.
With resources so stretched, there’s little disguise surrounding this sudden shift towards youth and there’s no denying it’s one borne out of necessity.
The sheer extent of the surgery required on Arsenal’s ageing squad makes it almost impossible for the rebuild job to be done all in one summer.
The most-promising youngsters at the club are set to be promoted to the first team to help keep things ticking over during a transition period in which a number of senior players will depart.
Emery’s track record of handling young talent makes it obvious that this is not a model the Spaniard would have backed had the club’s financial affairs been in better order.
During his infancy in north London, Emery made it clear he would continue the tradition of Arsene Wenger in cherry-picking the best academy prospects and exposing them to first-team football.
However, fans will tell you this hasn’t been the case, with the likes of Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah not given the opportunities they deserved last season and the pair effectively wasted a year of their respective careers.
If Emery had his way, such a distinct link from the youth team to his squad wouldn’t have been forged.
However, the club’s current financial state is such that youth is the only viable option, prompting an academy-focused model that Managing Director Raul Sanllehi previously labelled as “financially efficient.”
In an ideal world, you would slowly phase youth into your starting XI, a luxury that Arsenal can seldom afford.
Pressure will now be placed on the youngsters to hit the ground running and act almost as new signings for the first team.
The Gunners undoubtedly have an exciting crop of talent coming through the ranks and, in future, the move could transpire to be a blessing in disguise.
Fans will be encouraged that the likes of Xavier Amaechi, Bukayo Saka and Zech Medley will finally see the light of day in the first team, not to mention the returning Reiss Nelson and Krystian Bielik from their successful loans.
All of the above have experience working under Ljungberg and that could play a decisive factor in convincing them to commit their long-term futures to Arsenal – at a time when numerous clubs abroad hold a strong interest.
Of the current crop to have cut their teeth at Arsenal’s Hale End academy, only Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi and Ainsley-Maitland Niles have made the step-up to the first team.
While fans always want to see academy graduates succeed, the Emirates faithful have often found themselves frustrated with the inconsistency of Iwobi and Maitland-Niles.
An even greater level of patience will be required from supporters if a further influx of youth is to arrive in the first team ranks in the coming months.
Arsenal have found themselves at the start of a new era and you can’t help but get the impression it’s either going to be a accidental masterstroke or a complete disaster.
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