Arsenal Model Too Unrealistic for Clubs to Follow?

Zip ZoolanderCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2009

Arsenal are the envy of most clubs; a strong emphasis in youth development, an extensive scouting network creating world class players while being sensible financially an example to follow but is it too unrealistic a vision for some clubs to adopt?


Two examples come in the case of Lyon and Newcastle United. The French Champions are admirers of the Arsenal model, taking good care of the financial side while investing in youth through their academy and by worldwide scouting. They have identified that they may not be able to hang on to such products of their academy therefore look to make money by selling them for high prices. But while Lyon are in a weaker league with less financial power and are regular Champions League participants Newcastle are in the opposite.

The Premier League has more financially powerful clubs and with this extra wealth makes it more difficult to compete. Owner Mike Ashley is also placing emphasis on his academy, decreasing debt and buying youth however that last point is where they may be going wrong. The competition is high in this area with clubs such as Sevilla (700 scouts), Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea to name a few and although Ashley is putting his money into it it may be too unrealistic a dream.

Mike Ashley on Newcastle

"Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don’t cost the earth.

I am prepared to back large signings for millions of pounds but for a player who is young and has their career in front of them and not for established players at the other end of their careers. There is no other workable way forward for Newcastle. It is in this regard that Dennis and his team have done a first class job in scouting for talent to secure the future of the club. "

The advantage they may have over big clubs is that they have more margin of error as such clubs have to specifically find potential world beaters. But at this age it is harder to determine talent not to mention their lower bargaining power. If a signing doesn’t reach the potential however then will find it hard to offload for a profit. Newcastle admit this will be a long term project but the competition may be too large to make them stand out.

The São Paulo model may be a more realistic option; they develop youth through the academy and have a more than sound financial base but whereas they can’t attract the best youngsters into their league or big transfers they look to sell their current prospects at high price. Some $2.5 millions annually is spent on youth development and club aims to make around $9 million in selling the products of their work.

But with the extra money they look to sign more established players who have not quite made the best impression at their clubs. In São Paulo’s case, workmanlike Brazilians who have made their journey to Europe but not made a big success.

Andriy Voronin failed at Liverpool out after being out with injury and is loaned  but is a very good player. Great movement and tested at a high level. Even Matteo Brighi who was loaned out to Chievo for three years before finally finding his way into the Roma first team at 27 and now fully established after a failing to make an impact at Juventus.

Stability and sustainability is very important while the Arsenal model can be replicated and/or achieved to a lesser or bigger degree but taking care of finance and academy and buying a team of Voronin’s and Brighi’s is surely the more pragmatic option in bringing success.