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Here, the budding talents of the academy teams take their first steps on the path to the first team. Hale End serves as the foundation where players hone their skills and embrace a comprehensive approach to growth.
Upon earning a coveted scholarship, players transition to the esteemed London Colney, Arsenal's main training ground, marking a pivotal step in their development as they navigate the professional landscape.
A strong legacy at the Arsenal Academy
The legacy of Arsenal's academy is rich with the names of iconic players who emerged from its ranks. From Tony Adams to Jack Wilshere, the Hale End system has consistently produced footballing stars. Recent attention has centred around rising stars like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
Arsenal U21s play the majority of their home fixtures at Boreham Wood FC's Meadow Park stadium, while Arsenal U18s generally host teams at the club's Hale End training ground.
Arsenal Hale End Academy: The heart of the Gunners
Hale End takes players on a journey from the U9s to the U16s, with those ready to step up graduating as scholars at London Colney. The academy places immense emphasis on nurturing talent, providing a high-performance environment to prepare players for both football and life challenges.
Inside Hale End
Hale End boasts several full-size pitches, among them an exhibition pitch mirroring the Desso surface and dimensions of Emirates Stadium. Each pitch is named after the original four stands at Highbury, paying homage to Arsenal's enduring commitment to nurturing local talent. The central building encompasses a gymnasium, an analysts' suite, a restaurant area, changing rooms, classrooms, offices, and medical facilities.
Notably, the David Rocastle indoor sports hall features a 3G surface and a wrap-around design that the club says immerses players in an environment reminiscent of playing at the Emirates Stadium.
Hale End serves as the cradle for emerging talents, guiding youngsters on a developmental journey from U9s to U16s. Those demonstrating readiness for the next level ascend to become paid scholars at London Colney. Meanwhile, those not selected are released to explore opportunities elsewhere.
The U15s undergo training four times a week, complemented by matches. Structured training programmes spanning six weeks, broken into two-week blocks, are a norm across various age groups. The U16s have sessions meticulously recorded, with footage sent to analysts for insightful pre-match presentations. Remarkably, even at the U9s level, players gain access to session videos, fostering a keen desire for improvement..
The academy's legacy is on display in the canteen, where players pass the Arsenal Academy Debutants board during mealtimes. Established in 1954, this board is adorned with small gold plaques, each commemorating a graduate's first-team debut.
Former Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker, the current academy manager, has steered the academy towards a new development model. Mertesacker emphasises four pillars crucial for player development:
- Lifelong Learner – Education First: Balancing football and education to mould well-rounded individuals.
- Most Efficient Mover: Focusing on physical development and efficiency in movement.
- Champion Mentality: Instilling resilience and a winning mindset by learning from challenges.
- Effective Team Player: Nurturing the ability to contribute positively to team dynamics.
Upon earning a scholarship, players transition to a more full-time model at Arsenal's main training ground, the Arsenal Training Centre or London Colney.
From Hale End to London Colney
At the pinnacle of Arsenal's youth setup is the Under-21 squad, honing their skills at the Arsenal Training Centre in London Colney, Hertfordshire.
Where do Arsenal U21s play?
The majority of their home games are played at Meadow Park, the home ground of Boreham Wood FC. Here, a new North Bank terrace was opened in 2019, sharing the name of one of the stands from Arsenal's former home, Highbury.
Where is London Colney training ground?
Located around 17 miles from Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, the London Colney facility, inaugurated in October 1999 under Arsene Wenger's oversight, stands as a testament to the club's commitment to excellence.
The state-of-the-art facility boasts ten full-size pitches, each equipped with undersoil draining and an automated sprinkler system. Notably, undersoil heating has been installed for two of the pitches.
Where do Arsenal Academy play?
Three pitches are dedicated to the Arsenal youth team, three for the reserves, and three for the first team. The tenth pitch is where first team friendlies and Under-18 league fixtures take place. Importantly, each pitch is designed and maintained to mirror the standard of the Emirates Stadium pitch.
Arsenal's commitment to nurturing young talent at Hale End and developing them into well-rounded individuals is a testament to the club's vision for sustained success. The journey from the iconic Hale End to the cutting-edge Training Centre at London Colney exemplifies the holistic approach Arsenal adopts in shaping the future stars of football.
Inside Hale End documentary
If you want to know more about Arsenal's Hale End Academy, a fantastic documentary was released in 2022 by Arsenal and Adidas called Inside Hale End.
With six episodes freely available on YouTube, cameras follow Per Mertesacker (Academy manager) and the club's U15s and U16s coaches as they work with the next generation at the London club.