Eddie Nketiah’s brace for Arsenal on Tuesday night saw him become the latest teenage sensation and there will surely be calls for him to be given more chances to impress in the Gunners’ first team. To assess his chances of featuring in the Premier League, we’ve analysed every teenage debut in the last decade across the “big five” European leagues to identify which clubs have the best record of turning their young talent into first-team regulars.
Whose youngsters have played the most matches?
Starting with the Premier League, we can see that a young player breaking through at Arsenal has plenty to be optimistic about. No club in the English top flight has given more league appearances to players they brought through as teenagers, with 21 teenage debutants having gone on to make over 900 appearances for the club. There’s a far smaller chance of breaking through at Chelsea or Manchester City, however, where 34 players have racked up just over 250 league appearances between them, compared with almost 1,500 at other clubs once they had moved on.
We also looked at Europe’s top clubs and found that the best of these to come through as a teenager is Lyon, who recently provided Arsenal with one of their graduates in Alexandre Lacazette. The Gunners’ record signing made over 200 Ligue 1 appearances before moving on, with four more of his fellow graduates also getting into triple figures in the last decade. He’d have been lucky to get the same opportunities at somewhere like Juventus, whose 17 teenage debutants have only gone on to feature 60 times in Serie A between them.
Who relies on other clubs’ production lines?
Some clubs’ idea of investing in youth is to spend money on other people’s youth prospects and it won’t surprise many people to see Liverpool’s name mentioned here. While no club has given debuts to more teenagers in the last decade than the Reds’ 24, they’ve also signed the most players who broke through elsewhere. Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City have also snapped up plenty of talent nurtured at the academies of rivals, with stars such as Eden Hazard and Raheem Sterling – who came through at Liverpool – swelling their ranks.
The most successful players who stayed put…
It’s not surprising to see three Arsenal players in the list of teenage debutants who went on to make the most appearances for their first top-flight club. Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all took their first steps in the top flight at the Emirates Stadium, although only Ramsey remains to extend his record of over 200 Premier League appearances since being snapped up from Cardiff. North London rivals Tottenham also have three players on the list but again only one remains. They will be hoping Harry Kane sticks around longer than Kyle Walker and Gareth Bale did, although the latter two still gave Spurs over 300 games’ service between them.
… and those who found the most success elsewhere
It also won’t shock you to learn that Chelsea’s youngsters fare far better away from Stamford Bridge, with three of the 10 Premier League teenagers to have clocked up the most appearances after leaving their first club having started at Stamford Bridge. Franco Di Santo, Romelu Lukaku and Fabio Borini made only 22 league appearances between them for the Blues but over 500 for other sides.
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