This has been a hot topic for many years and it will still be talked about if we don’t perform well at next year’s World Cup. But from what I can see, the recent finals of the young lions this year is just papering over the cracks.
The difference in ideology between English and European clubs is that young players in are given a better chance to play in La Liga and the Bundesliga. A report from the Guardian stated that England under-21 players had spent more than 20,000 fewer minutes on the pitch in their domestic league than their Spanish counterparts. This is extremely concerning as players like, Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea), Lewis Baker (Chelsea) and Matt Targett (Southampton) are not getting enough game time in the Premier League. Whereas in Spain, players such as Saúl Ñíguez (Atlético Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) and Dani Ceballos (Real Betis) are getting regular top-flight football. It is the same story in Germany and France as their young players continue to get better and better. They are not getting left to rot away and be forgotten about. It is a certainty that if they were English, they would not get as many opportunities as they do in Spain, or Germany, or France.
The continuing problem that surrounds academies is that there is no longer a direct route into the first team at the top clubs anymore. The cut-throat manner that clubs go through with academy players is quite concerning. Last season, there were 37 Chelsea players out on loan, and they would be lucky to find one player who will be a first team regular next season or the season after. It’s financially effective for Roman Abramovich as he’ll make constant small profits on these players. Most recently, Dutch defender Nathan Aké joined Chelsea aged 16 from Feyenoord, and six years later has been sold to Bournemouth for £20million which showed that they were not interested in fully developing the centre back. The Blues have been interested in various centre backs in the summer transfer window with interest in Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus) and Kostas Manolas (Roma). Many Chelsea loaned out players have come out saying that they have no future at Stamford Bridge. This is not just happening at Chelsea, it is happening at the top clubs in England including the Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Arsenal to mention a few.
These young players are too nurtured at Premier League clubs and they are not challenged enough at their respected academies. We talk about these expansions of academies and the amount of money being put into developing young talent, but what has been the success of it if clubs are constantly buying foreign mediocrity. Manchester City have claimed to have the best academy in the world, beating the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Benfica. But statistics have clearly shown that no player from the academy has gone through the ranks and playing for the first team in 10 years. This is shamefully painful because they are signing average players from across the world. I cannot see how Joe Hart, who was an established goalkeeper at Manchester City, was replaced by Claudio Bravo, who in the end, only made three saves all season in the Premier League. What I commend of Joe Hart was that he tried to stay at the club but he knew he was not going to get a run-in, so he travelled to Italy and went on-loan at Torino. Some would say that he had a good season considering of their defensive frailties.
British players need to be bolder and try playing abroad because they will be given a better opportunity to play at the top level. Last season, Scottish Winger, Oliver Burke signed for RB Leipzig and made 17 appearances for the German side. Also, this summer, West Ham defender Reece Oxford will go out on a one-year loan to another German side in Borussia Mönchengladbach. Arsenal winger, Chris Willock, has been linked with the Portuguese side, Benfica. This shows some promise as this could snowball into more players will look even further to play their football. Manchester City have a loan deal with Dutch side, NAC Breda, where they will loan out four to six players (between the age of 18-21) every season for the next five years. If it is proven to be a success, this could lead to a spurt of English young talent coming through, providing they are the ones going out on loan.
With the Under-20s winning the World Cup in South Korea earlier this year, will they become the next golden generation? At the moment, it is hard to tell. The main priority is for them to find regular first team football. None of those players were getting regular football. They will have to drop down to the Championship where they’ll get more chances as there are more games in the lower tiers. The only signing from that team was Dominic Solanke, who moved from Chelsea to Liverpool on a free transfer, but might have to move on loan if he stands any chance of progressing as a player.
The problem is that Premier League clubs are not willing to risk playing young players. West Ham joint chairman, David Gold, said that they are looking for a striker. But when asked whether he would go for 19-year-old, Tammy Abraham, Gold declined saying that we want an experienced Premier League striker. Clubs that are constantly towards the foot of the table don’t like to risk the chance of playing younger players. The average age of West Bromwich Albion’s team was 30 and it is doubtful whether that will change next season.
Another discussion that has been made is whether there should be B-teams entering the football league with Pep Guardiola wildly in favour of that happening. Some Premier League clubs have accepted an invitation into the Checkatrade Trophy, where their u-23 teams will play in the competition. If ‘B’ teams do enter the English Football League, this will stop clubs sending as many players on loan but whether they then go onto the first team is a whole different story.
There are many different areas that the English game can improve on, but the academy system must change as English players aren’t given the chance and it is becoming a detriment to how successful we can be at major tournaments.