If Arsenal win a football match, who gets the praise? The first port of call would be to single out the goalscorers or key performers, then start lauding the manager for setting the team up accordingly.
After all, they’re the ones in the stadium making those results happen.
Last season was a disaster, by all accounts. Failures from top to bottom played their part in a consecutive eighth place finish. All there was to draw positivity from was the performances of two young men: Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
They saved Arsenal, in many ways, as despite how morbid the feeling was after a trophyless season where the club missed out on European football for the first time in 25 years, one dreads to think how much more lamentable it could have been without those two.
Everyone behind the Arsenal academy at Hale End are the unsung heroes who are saving this football club – we wouldn’t have Saka and Smith Rowe without them
A pair of outstanding talents who are once again fronting this team in the 2021/22 Premier League season and will hopefully do so for many years to come, those who also deserve unbridled acclamation are the ones who brought them to this point: the academy. The ones not in the stadium.
Not one single entity, every person who has poured their heart and soul into developing young players ready for the first team often never receive the external praise they warrant.
From the club’s point of view, the money invested into building an environment where these talents can flourish and implementing a framework where a path to the first team is also in need of commending, as imagining an Arsenal without players like Saka and Smith Rowe more closely resembles some post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Where would this team be otherwise? One dare not think. Not this season or last.
These are players of tremendous ability who Arsenal are immeasurably lucky to have. Thus, while their own natural talents and dedication must be heralded, so too must the club and those behind the scenes who’ve invested extensive time and money into creating an academy where players of their ilk can be nurtured and developed.
The introduction of Per Mertesacker is building on what is already a magnificent establishment and whatever the situation may be in terms of the market and manager, knowing that there is an internal pool of magnificent young men who have more than a chance of breaking into the first team setup is something to be proud of.
Most won’t make it. The vast majority will never touch senior football at Arsenal. But there is belief that more will like Saka and Smith Rowe and those before him. They are the unsung heroes.
Nothing brings a football club together like seeing Arsenal blood make their mark on the pitch. It unearths a unique feeling.
And for that the academy and everything that has gone on to make it what it is deserves highlighting.
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