Per Mertesacker says Arsenal thought youth star had “no chance whatsoever” of making it

The former German international is now head of the Gunners academy and has since revealed how the Arsenal bosses let one talent go who has since gone on to enjoy Premier League success

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  • 13:59, 14 Oct 2021
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Arsenal academy boss Per Mertesacker has revealed that Gunners coaches believed Leeds United star Luke Ayling had "no chance whatsoever" of making it in the Premier League.

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Now a fan favourite at Elland Road, Ayling was once part of the Arsenal academy – having joined at the age of eight and spending a decade with the club before leaving in 2010 to join Yeovil Town.

Ayling struggled to make the grade in terms of first-team football at Arsenal, failing to make a single appearance for the senior side before his eventual release at the end of his contract.

The 30-year-old has now established himself as a regular under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds, making 187 league appearances since he joined in 2016 from Bristol City.

Luke Ayling, once of the Arsenal academy, has spent the last five years at Leeds United
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Image:
Pool via REUTERS)

Ayling played a crucial part in Leeds promotion to the top-flight in 2020 but has been highlighted by Mertesacker as an example of a player slipping through the net of a big academy.

"Only one per cent of academy players will make it in professional football and two thirds of them are no longer involved in the game at any level by the age of 20," Mertesacker explained.

"There are only so many spaces you can facilitate in the senior squad but it’s always been a narrative at Arsenal to give young players a chance to play at the top."

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"For example, Luke Ayling was on our books as a schoolboy and if you speak to the academy managers from that time they would have said he’s got no chance whatsoever.

"But six or seven years on he is playing in the Premier League for Leeds and even if boys don’t make it with Arsenal we are giving them the tools to succeed with someone else."

The ex-Arsenal star has earned rave reviews for his time overseeing youth development for the Gunners and went on to reveal what is required of young players looking to make it at the highest level.

"It’s all about the motivation and intensity to keep up at the highest level.

"It’s all very well to excel in one training session, but can you do it on a consistent basis?

"Having the commitment to do that is what separates the best from the average. Because the average will not make it to the highest level."

HAVE YOUR SAY! Do Arsenal have the best academy in the Premier League? Comment below.

Per Mertesacker has claimed Arsenal coaches thought Luke Ayling had "no chance whatsoever" of making it at the highest level

Arsenal's academy set-up is arguably the finest in the entire league, having produced a number of stars who have gone on to either done the famous red and white shirt, or played in the Premier League elsewhere.

Academy graduates Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are currently two of the first names on the Gunners team-sheet – with both scoring in the recent North London derby victory over Spurs.

Fellow former Arsenal youth prospects Joe Willock and Alex Iwobi have earned the club a combined £62m in transfer fees after they were sold to Newcastle and Everton respectively.

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