Pep Guardiola’s comment last Friday that the Premier League Clubs should introduce ‘B’ teams, irrelevant of City’s recent poor run of form, was in fact incredibly thought-provoking.
According to Pep, English football has a “real problem” because the academy set-up fails to adequately prepare aspiring young players for the pressures of the Premier League. It is no secret that for many, the current Under 23 set up frustrates: a catch-22 whereby the players want to graduate to the first team but senior coaches don’t trust the system to equip their players well enough to make the step-up. It is further magnified by the high pressure and commercial behemoth that is the English Premier League.
It is not for nothing that two of the Premier League’s best English talents, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana found their feet playing Championship Football at MK Dons and Southampton respectively. Many Premiership clubs will openly suggest it takes young players around 50/60 senior matches to come to terms with the speed, physicality, mental strength and technical ability to succeed at the highest level. This makes sense and mirrors most professions, where often it will take 12-18 months for people to truly find their feet, feel comfortable and succeed at the very highest level.
There are always exceptional talents who will make their way to the top, but perhaps the suggestion is the system does not support the athlete who needs greater exposure. The footballer with a different maturation or psychological development speed who may need a more gradual and sustained transition to elite senior football that cannot be effectively created in the current set-up.
We were fortunate enough to watch Manchester City U18s play Liverpool U18s last week, in a game City won 3-1. They played some outstanding football in the process too, and the Manchester City DNA was very evident. City have an outstanding Academy, incredibly well led with an excellent philosophy and track record of their graduates enjoying successful senior football careers. Could there be more players graduating into their 1st team squad? Potentially, but bear in mind the highly pressurised short-termism of the Premier League and that this is a club that, except for potentially a few players, have the economic clout to purchase almost anybody in world football.
Mark Allen, Director of the Academy at Manchester City will be joining us and presenting at the Football Innovation Summit at Wembley Stadium this March (22/23rd). He will be speaking on the philosophy of the club and how the Academy strives to create excellence across the board, giving the players every opportunity to be successful.
Mark is limited in his ability to change the league structure, the standard of teams his players play against, or how many people turn up to watch their matches. It will be fascinating however to compare the differences between the pathway at Manchester City and then at PSV Eindhoven where we will hear from Academy Director Art Langeler. Dutch football applies a ‘B’ team much in the manner suggested by Guardiola, and it will be captivating to understand the relative pros and cons of each environment.
To attend the Football Innovation Summit, follow this link to register your place http://www.football-innovations-uk.com/booking/