Anthony Jeffrey, an 18-year-old midfielder, had a very brief spell with League One side Stevenage last season but it’s a spell, which he’s admitted opened his eyes to some big problems with Arsenal’s youth team.
The problem seems to relate to the way Arsenal’s younger players train, with Jeffrey stating that he’d never experienced anything like the physical strength and demands he was put through in basic training with the League One club.
It’s a remarkable statement considering Arsenal are one of the best teams in the world and play a brand of football, which many other sides can only dream of but are they really doing something wrong with the way they train younger players?
“I was one of the strongest at Arsenal yet I am a weakling compared to the guys at Stevenage – I will certainly be fitter and stronger when I leave,” he told an Arsenal magazine.
What you have to bear in mind with these comments is the very different nature of the way football is played at Arsenal’s standard and at League One’s general standard.
At Arsenal, a player needs to be much more subtle than someone who can just bully his way around a pitch.
There is nothing wrong with Arsenal’s style of football and the youngsters are brought up along the same lines of pass and move, which have worked so well for Wenger throughout his years at the club.
Arsenal are also a very good indication of where football is going at the top level of the game. Teams are getting smaller as contact becomes more and more restricted, taking that emphasis away from the physical side of the game.
If Arsenal coached their players at a League One standard, they would be at a disadvantage against all of the other top youth teams across England and Europe.
Stevenage need to be more physical because League One is a more physical division. There is a smaller gap in terms of quality between the teams, which means any physical advantage can be very important.
Fitter, bigger and stronger teams can have success in League One because there isn’t that gulf in quality, in terms of football, between the top sides and the side coming up from League Two.
It’s only natural that someone from Arsenal who has been coached in a certain way his whole life, will struggle when he’s thrown into a squad where those players have only ever known the weight room and extreme physical fitness.
Jeffrey is well within his rights to comment on the differences between in the way the two clubs train but his implication that Arsenal’s methods are not as full on or effective as Stevenage’s methods is fundamentally flawed.
What do you make of his comments? Are Arsenal youngsters trained in the right way?