Feature: Özyakup Defies Arsenal Academy Myth



The vast majority of Arsenal youngsters looking for first team football very rarely find it at any level that can equate to what could have been at Arsenal. In more recent times, Quincy Owusu-Abeyi, Arturo Lupoli, Fran Merida have seen their impatience in the Arsenal youth set up met with dismal decline in their football careers, despite being originally dubbed the next big thing at Arsenal.

Quincy at 26 has seen his nomadic career take him to inconsistent stints in England, Wales, Russia, Spain, Qatar and Greece. Arturo who was simply scintillated at underage level has rarely if ever experienced a competitive top flight game. Fran failed to get games on loan from Athletico Madrid and has since been moved on to Hercules.

Another talent left the club last summer in search of ever evasive first team football. Oğuzhan Özyakup has began to really find his feet at Beşiktaş. The player has filled in effectively for Manuel Fernandes. Özyakup has started six times in the last seven matches, and Beşiktaş have won the last five matches in which the youngster has played. Two goals and two assists to his name this season have also suggested the positive impact of the player on the starting XI.

Özyakup played a major role in Arsenal’s Under-18s side that won the Premier Academy League title in 2009 and captained the Dutch side to the final of the 2009 Under-17 European Championships before switching allegiances to the Turkish national team. “My dream was to play for Arsenal or Barcelona, Arsenal signed me.”

Having only signed a new deal at the club a year beforehand, reports from the Turkish media unfolded that Özyakup was in talks with Beşiktaş in a deal believed to be somewhat around £600,000. “Leaving Arsenal was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it was really upsetting. However, Beşiktaş made me an offer which was hard to refuse, one of the biggest clubs in Turkey was promising me first team football. I consulted Van Persie and he agreed that it was in my best interests to make the move.”

Beşiktaş surged to a point within league leaders Galatasaray following a 2-1 win over Orduspor and a long range strike to seal the win from Özyakup suggests that the notions that academy products at Arsenal cannot forge a successful career after Arsenal are not true. Furthermore, £600,000 may have been quite a bargain, despite whatever player sell on clause may have been implemented.