Arsenal have confirmed that Pat Holland has replaced Steve Bould as manager of the U18 side. He is joined by former U16 manager Steve Gatting, who has been promoted to assistant professional development coach (essentially Holland's right hand man).
Holland, a West Ham legend, has previous coaching experience with the youth teams of Tottenham (over 20 years ago) and also Leyton Orient. It was the latter who handed him his first managerial job in 1995, although it proved to be unsuccessful and he was sacked the following year. In recent times he has been employed as Chief Scout at Millwall and Milton Keynes Dons.
Former Arsenal player Kwame Ampadu was also introduced, being handed the role of youth development coach. Like Holland, Ampadu has a connection with Leyton Orient, having played for them between 1998-2000. His most recent job was U18 coach at Exeter City.
Arsenal's recent coaching additions are a consequence of the Premier League's new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which ensures youth players receive the necessary time with coaches to maximise their potential in a footballing and academic sense.
The FA realised too few clubs placed the appropriate emphasis on education for their youngsters, and have sought to rectify this (surprisingly proactive by their standards). Manchester City and indeed Arsenal were two of the best in this regard, but many other clubs were not of the same standard.
Not only does the EPPP aim to increase the number of homegrown players appearing for their side's first team, but also aid those who fail to make the grade.
"The Elite Player Performance Plan is a long-term strategy designed to take Premier League youth development to the next level", says Ged Roddy, Director of Youth at the Premier League.
"Widespread consultation has taken place across the game to address how a modernised youth system can be sustained which will provide the best platform to support the aspirations of our Home Grown Players to succeed in the biggest leagues",
"The new system will create greater access to players so that they can receive more time to train and prepare effectively for a career in the Premier League".
The old reserve league format has been completely revamped into a new U21 system, as many will know by now. Clubs are split into categories 1 to 4, with 1 hosting the elite. This is where Arsenal sit, in the same group as Bolton, Blackburn, Everton, West Brom, Reading, West Ham, and Norwich.
Three over-age players are allowed in each side, plus one over-age goalkeeper. This means first team players on their way back from injury can still gain match fitness in the second string, and also provides fringe players with an opportunity to impress.
So far, though, Terry Burton has opted to ignore this concession, leaving out players such as Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond for the likes of Serge Gnabry (17) and Chuba Akpom (16). Burton's faith in his younger players has been vindicated, with the latter pair shining despite still being eligible for Holland's U18 side.
"The new U21 Premier League addresses one of the most critical points - the transition from Academy football to the highest standards in the first team"
- Richard Scudamore, Premier League Chief Executive
It is difficult to judge how successful the change will be at this moment in time, but as the season progresses, assessments can start to be made.
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