It’s no secret that great club dynasties are often paralleled by a prevalence of home-grown, youth academy graduate players in the first team.
We are witnessing another example with this generation. The Barcelona first team consists of no fewer than eight players who graduated from the famous La Masia academy.
In the 1990s and extending into the 2000s, domestic and European football was dominated by two teams whose respective bases were founded on home-grown, locally trained players.
The other was the oft-overlooked AC Milan team of the early-to-mid 90s, which boasted a foundation of Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, and Fillipo Galli.
Interestingly enough, Arsenal has never really etched a similarly homegrown team into the proverbial coffers of footballing history, despite now holding something of a reputation in footballing circles for having one of the best youth academies in the world.
In a stark reminder of the realities of being a footballer, the list of Arsenal youth academy graduates who have played international football beholds a measly 60 players, dating back to pre-1970.
The fact of the matter is, it is incredibly unlikely that a single year—or even several consecutive years—will produce more than one or two outstanding players. Teams like Barca and United are exceptions to the rule.
Expecting a club to build their success solely on the metronomic production of star players is both unrealistic and foolhardy—a recipe for disappointment.
That being said, I thought it would be interesting to compile an all-time Arsenal XI comprised solely of players who graduated from the youth academy.
The rationale I had for this was simple: the players had to have played for the club while they were youth players, and if they were bought in—like Cesc, for example—they had to have been bought for less than £1 million.
The basis for their future footballing glory had to have come as a result of their training at Arsenal, and thus a number of prominent names can’t make the list—Henry, Toure, Theo Walcott and Ljungberg all miss out for this reason.
The names may surprise you!
Read on, and comment with your take on the matter.