Arsene Wenger has called on Premier League clubs to offer greater support to younger players with mental health issues. Adding that the clubs should have a duty of care to young players that do not progress through their academy. Wenger, spoke exclusively with beIN SPORTS on World Mental Health Day to highlight the plight of young players.
“The pressure on the young boys in academies is huge. We prepare them to be football players, we know even in the top academies, only 1% will become premier league players. Which means up to 99% of players don’t become Premier League players.”
Whilst the former Arsenal supremo broke down the numbers of academy prospects who don’t make it all the way to the top, suggesting that clubs need to do more to encourage these young players into a career in football, not just give up the game completely.
“What I was amazed is when you look at the percentage of people, 67% of people who had a contract in the top clubs between 16-20 don’t play football anymore at the age of 21. Can you believe that? It’s absolutely unbelievable.”
“We have a job to do to keep these people alive. What is terrible, that 1%, for example, 20 players of 17 years of age that means basically that 15 know already they will not get a chance, 5 have hope but the majority of people in there know that they will not make it and have to live with this dream that doesn’t happen and that’s where the problem lies.”
It certainly seems to be a point that Wenger has pondered recently as football, like all aspects of society has had to deal with a greater awareness of mental health issues in recent years. The question of young player’s mental wellbeing is an important one, which hasn’t quite yet been solved according to the French coach.
“How do we help these people not to lose their passion and their hope for the future but knowing that it will not completely happen the way they wanted it to happen.”
Wenger, who down the years developed the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry and Bayern Munich star Serge Gnabry also identified that the pressure to succeed is not only from the young player, but often comes from home and his family.
“The pressure these young boys have from their families, most of the time these players come from low-income families, they carry the hope of the family. There is a subconscious pressure that isn’t expressed but they don’t want to disappoint their environment.”
Despite the current taboo of talking about mental health in football, Wenger believes that Premier League Clubs should be educating players away from the football pitch, to help them adapt to the real world, should they fail to make the grade.
“I believe where we can improve is give them a better education, not just football education. That’s the first part that is easy for football clubs to achieve.”
You can hear more from Wenger in the video above.