ARSENAL YOUTH ACADEMY PLAYERS
SCOUTING REPORTS ON THE BEST U18, U21 AND U23 PLAYERS FROM HALE END
Arsenal’s Hale End academy is intrinsic to the football club. Since its inception, Arsenal’s greatest teams have always featured home-grown academy players, including Rocky Rocastle, Tony Adams and Ashley Cole. As the club rebuilds, there’s an increased emphasis on academy players – with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe the stars of the new generation. Here are brief profiles on the next generation coming through. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.
After a difficult spell, Hale End is back to producing first-team quality for Arsenal and Charlie Patino feels next on that conveyor belt. People behind-the-scenes have even spoken about him being the ‘best ever graduate’ which, considering the company, is a mouth-watering idea.
Despite training with the first-team, he is yet to sign professional terms with Arsenal although those talks are considered a formality with his high standing in the club.
Charlie Patino's left foot is very good. He executes every type of pass with it – crisp line-breaker, direct ball into depth, big switch of play, clever touch around the box. Uses every part of his foot too. A really talented passer.— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) September 28, 2021
STYLE OF PLAY
There is something wonderfully ‘Arsenal’ about the way Patino plays. He is most natural as a six or eight in midfield and boasts technical quality to make the difficult things look easy. For the Under-23s this season, he has been tasked with conducting play when collecting the ball from his defenders, where he can either dribble through pressure or distribute with laser-like accuracy.
The 18-year-old is left footed – almost in the mould of David Silva – and glides across the pitch with ease, displaying great control and body perception. He can breeze past players with body feints and shoulder drops, making him extremely press-resistant in midfield. His awareness of when to drive forward, when to stay and when to pass is very mature, and he likes playing close to teammates where he can eliminate opposition defenders with give-and-go’s.
Confidence in his own ability can lead to him getting caught in possession but those lapses are becoming more infrequent. He is an honest worker, will never shirk away from challenges and is used to being kicked – but could be stronger in duels – something which will hopefully arrive as he bulks up. Patino, like many left footed players, should also aim to improve his weaker right side.
After going viral on YouTube with the F2Freestylers as a 12-year-old, it would have been easy for Omari Hutchinson to fall away like others before him – swallowed up by hype unfairly whipped up around him. But his development has continued steadily to the point of him signing professional terms at Arsenal after impressing at every youth level.
Hutchinson is now an integral part of the Gunners’ Under-23 side and has caught the eye of manager Mikel Arteta after being included in first team training sessions.
STYLE OF PLAY
Typically playing off the right wing, Hutchinson is extremely quick, direct and will always look to challenge his opposite number. Stylistically he resembles Ajax winger Antony, who is slight but boasts impressive close control and agility, meaning he can burst to the byline or drift inside and link play. He is also competent on his right foot – crediting futsal for helping him improve both feet.
One promising facet to his game is that Hutchinson does not fall into the ‘selfish winger’ bracket. He carries for the ball for long stretches but is very aware of his surroundings and gets his head up in promising areas. The 18-year-old can also hold his own physically – there have been multiple occasions of his shirt being pulled, or him being tripped up, only to battle on and score or assist anyway.
In recent months, the teenager has also shown a willingness to drop deep and collect the ball. He’s sharp on the turn and can open play with clever body movements. However, despite his goalscoring becoming more consistent, there are still occasions where Hutchinson delays shooting to take an extra touch or set himself, which can lead to opportunities slipping away.
Arsenal have signed a number of La Masia players since the turn of the century, a trend started by the signing of Cesc Fàbregas almost twenty years ago. Joel López is the latest and possibly the last, given the Brexit-induced changes to work permit rules.
López initially joined up with the under-18 squad before establishing himself as a starter with the under-23 group last season. He’s playing to a high level under recently-appointed head coach, Kevin Betsy.
STYLE OF PLAY
Joel López is a left-back of good size with a fairly athletic frame. Not particularly tall or short, he measures up at average in terms of what you want a full-back to be.
He provides a dynamic presence down Arsenal’s left-hand side, covering a lot of space from back to front, and front to back. He’s a good mover in general: pretty quick across most distances and quite agile when changing direction, his flighty running style enables him to be the end-to-end runner that he is. He has the stamina to sustain his fairly high-tempo style throughout full matches too.
His frame lacks a bit of physicality, but he makes up for it with his speed. López is a proacive defender. He reads play pretty well and is quick to react to situation, pressing up to intercept a pass or pressure a touch.
That proactivity is even more evident in attack. The 19-year-old is a good overlapping runner, timing them well to attack space with decent intensity. He’s a dangerous crosser on the move as well, and is comfortable operating in the inside channel as a passer and ball-carrier.
López will need to find senior minutes elsewhere given Arsenal’s strength at left-back.
Kido Taylor-Hart has been at Arsenal since the age of seven. His development at the club has almost spanned 13 years, and it kicked into gear in the past year. Last season saw him impress with the under-18 side before being integrated into the under-23 group. He eventually signed professional terms at his boyhood club last summer, allaying fears that he may move on elsewhere.
STYLE OF PLAY
Predominantly a wide player at youth level, Taylor-Hart cuts a fairly peculiar profile on the pitch. He’s pretty tall and is a very upright runner, almost rigid. He isn’t explosive but he can shift through the gears smoothly.
The 19-year-old is a high-volume dribbler – his first instinct, for better or worse, is to get on the ball and carry it. He has good close control in smaller spaces which enables him to beat defenders by manipulating the ball and is adept at rolling out of pressure to drive into open space, but he is prone to doing too much too often.
Taylor-Hart’s decision-making on the ball leaves quite a bit to be desired in general. He doesn’t release possession quickly enough in quite a few attacking situations. After a eat bit of dribbling to break open the game, he would be better served to move the ball on quickly to exploit the space he creates. Instead, he often carries the ball into dead-ends and turns possession over with poor shots.
That said, his potential as a dribbler and ball-carrier is obvious – and it would fit well in a more central role.
Arsenal’s academy has provided he club with a number of high-level players over the decades – from Rocky Rocastle in the 80s and early 90s, to Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in the current generation. In terms of overall quality, it’s difficult to look past Tony Adams and Ashley Cole as the standouts.
Beyond Saka and Smith Rowe, there’s a new crop of impressive Hale End products coming through. Folarin Balogun is dominating in under-23 football, Charlie Patino is a standout, as is Omari Hutchinson. Reuell Walters is another one to watch.