Given the harsh, finite realities of professional football at the highest level, it’s becoming increasingly hard for youngsters to breakthrough the ranks at top clubs from academy level, especially between the ages of 17-21.
Arsenal’s first [and possibly only] winter acquisition in Cohen Bramall, turns 21 at the start of April. The highly-rated fullback will be playing as part of the u23 squad and Arsène Wenger has publicly revealed that despite the youngster’s “important ingredients”, it’s essential that he proves he’s ready before making the leap into first-team football on a regular basis.
Having impressed during a two-day trial, it’s very rare for non-league players to join clubs of Arsenal’s quality, but this signing is a smart one once you delve deeper into the story.
Wenger is keen to give plenty of youngsters their chance to prove themselves, regardless of age. Alex Iwobi (20), Chuba Akpom (21) and goalkeeper Matt Macey (22) are all first-team players but it’s common knowledge that the latter two hardly ever feature in the matchday squad, let alone in the starting line-up.
It’s beneficial for young players to train with their more experienced counterparts, and isn’t a surprise that the likes of Ben Sheaf, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Chris Willock remain on the fringes between youth development and first-team recognition, due to the progress they’ve made in recent years.
Wenger had this to say as quoted by the club’s official website, “First [he has] to show at youth level that he can quickly make the first-team. [He has] to prepare, to challenge the first-team players as quickly as he can. That could be in a very short period of time.”
“He was an athlete before and he came late to the game and that’s why I believe in him. Can he manage the tactical aspect and the technical aspect? Physically, he will be top level.”
In Bramall’s own case, it’s sure to be a culture shock for him on a personal level.
Having played at a semi-pro level for a few years already, it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts accordingly to his new surroundings although early signs suggest he’ll be ready for a tough challenge on his hands.
When describing the qualities he has seen from the youngster in further detail he continued by explaining, “He has the ingredients: the timing of his runs is very good, he has decent technique and exceptional pace. These are very important ingredients today.”
It’s always refreshing for the manager to have faith in your ability at a young age, not least when you’ve come from the rigours of non-league football and have earned your first professional contract. Bramall will be keen to repay Wenger’s belief with consistent performances at youth level, which could see him involved with the senior side at some stage before the end of the current campaign.