Arsenal youth exits explained as Reuell Walters the latest to leave amid Mikel Arteta criticism

Reuell Walters is expected to leave Arsenal as questions resurface over youth integration.

Reuell Walters is expected to leave the club this summer after turning down a contract proposal from Arsenal, understands. Walters is still yet to make his senior competitive debut despite a handful of friendly appearances and squad inclusions under Mikel Arteta but it looks like he will be leaving with Amario Cozier-Duberry's future also uncertain.

The latest in a line of hyper-up starlets who have failed to make it in North London as Walters joins the likes of Miguel Azeez, Bradley Ibrahim, Marcelo Flores, Zech Medley, Cohan Bramall, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chuba Akpom and the list goes on.

The aforementioned players among many others have either only just started life away from the club or had a variety of successes and failures after leaving North London. The news of Walters' exit initially broken by The Athletic however sparked plenty of frustration again and reopened the discussion of youth promotion under Arteta.

It is a topic I’ve tackled before and certainly, I agree that more could arguably be done but in reality, there appear plenty of contradictions in the arguments criticising the club as well as some lack of context. Arteta could have given players more chances like when 5-0 up at home to RC Lens or snubbing then-substitute Cozier-Duberry on the final day of last season in a dead-rubber high-scoring win over Wolves.

However, as Arsenal have risen up the table and established themselves as successive title challengers, the question remains where and how do you give more of these kids chances? The second half of the season in particular has been far better from a fitness perspective so senior players have flooded the bench as opposed to previous campaigns.

Specifically related to Walters, the Arsenal senior defenders are, with respect, considerable levels above the youngster in terms of quality. Throwing him into a Premier League game for the sake of saying he’d been given a debut could have proven costly for him and the team – not worth the risk.

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A fairer scrutiny of the Arsenal youth system has been the quality level has not necessarily produced enough players to give chances to. Ethan Nwaneri stands out among his peers with Myles Lewis-Skelly another hopeful – there is also 16-year-old striker Chido Obi-Martin and 14-year-old Max Dowman getting plenty of attention but both remain far too young to consider thrusting them into the senior set-up.

However, the chances that a youth academy graduate makes it at the elite clubs in the country are exceptionally slim and Arsenal currently have four in Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah in the squad. Arsenal gave chances to the likes of Alex Iwobi, Joe Willock, Folarin Balogun and provided loan moves for the latter pair which aided in the trio earning the club more than £80million.

Further sales are expected this summer with more pure profit to be made as a result. This will open up more slots in the squad which will be filled to a larger degree by summer transfers but there will also be scope to promote from within.

There are two more key points specifically related to the opportunities and loans. There is always clamour for some players to get a loan and get senior experience but a point that is rarely talked about is the biggest youth successes like Saka, Phil Foden, Trent Alexander-Arnold and so on never went on loans.

They were promoted straight into the first team side and the other side links nicely into this too which is regarding what staying in the under-21s or under-18s does for a player which is to learn the way of your existing club. Understand the philosophy, and what’s expected of you.

Frankly, going down to the lower leagues might give you some valuable experience and help you acclimatise somewhat to the rigours of senior football but it won’t prepare you in any way for the step-up to playing with the Arsenal first team from a stylistic standpoint.

Then there is always the chance that a loan fails and looking at Charlie Patino at Blackpool and then Swansea City and there is little evidence to suggest he can make the step up. That said, Serge Gnabry didn’t have a nice time at West Brom and now look, so there are always potential anomalies but very rarely is this the case.

Arsenal are however now in the best position, with further recruitment and strengthening in the summer expected, to give more chances to their top talents. Next season will be a year of evaluation of the youth progression as the club is even taking more strides from a transfer perspective to improve the roster and did so recently with the acquisition of Brayden Clarke with more expected to come in.