By Declan Taylor
Fulham are the visitors to Underhill tonight for the 2009/10 Reserve League curtain-raiser, and for manager Neil Banfield, the season’s primary objective is the same as ever.
Although he admits that his side want to win every game, the second-string boss has set his sights on an ultimately more rewarding target.
Last season a host of Arsenal’s youngsters had already illuminated the Carling Cup’s early stages before long-time Reserve team player Kieran Gibbs made his eye-catching step into Arsenal’s senior squad. The left-back seized his opportunity when Gael Clichy picked up an injury, eventually finishing the season with 21 appearances.
Then came Jack Wilshere who was already Arsenal’s youngest Premier League player when he stole the show at this year’s Emirates Cup with two goals and two Man of the Match awards during the showpiece weekend.
The duo join a long list of Academy and second-string graduates. And, during this season, Banfield wants to continue the flow.
“You just need to look at this season’s first-team photo to measure our success,” Banfield told Arsenal.com.
“There was Wojciech Szczesny in there, Fran Merida, Gibbs, Wilshere. Then there are faces like Nicklas Bendtner and Johan Djourou who came up through the Reserves.
“If we can get a couple of these lads into the first team group next season then that is our aim. Our aim has always been to produce young players from all over the world.
“Of course I think when you’re in professional football you want to win every game. I don’t know a top-class player who doesn’t want to win.”
Banfield often employs a similar system to the one used by Wenger’s first-team. So don’t be surprised to see a replica of Arsenal’s new 4-3-3 system at Underhill this evening.
It’s all part of their Arsenal education, Banfield explained: “Results are important but we want to win games in the right way.
“It is the education and development that is important. Everything is set up from the manager, we have regular meetings including myself and [Academy manager] Steve Bould.
“We’re trying to get it right so we can produce more young players for the first team.”
Tonight’s clash is LIVE and exclusive on Arsenal TV Online from 6.50pm.
Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 24 Aug 2009