It was 20 years ago today ……..

May 4, 2014

Firstly let’s honour the boss and the team for avoiding Spursday for yet another season and allowing Didit and I an opportunity to continue our gastronomic tour of Europe.

I know all the arguments about 4th not being a trophy etc etc, we have done them to death in the blogs. I just ask this – would Everton, Spurs, MU etc like to swap with us? Would Moyes have been sacked had MU finished 4th?

Which brings us onto today and our final home game of the season against a West Brom side who need the points much more than we do. If WBA survive will Pepe Mel keep his job? I hope so. Yesterday’s results must have boosted WBA’s chances.

Who would you like to see relegated?

I am afraid I have never taken to WBA, don’t like their kit, don’t like their ground or their nickname – the Baggies – reminds me of Australians (cricket lovers will understand). In fact since their halcyon days of Big Ron and the 3 Degrees (look it up!) they have become just another Midlands club – sorry WBA fans but that is how it is. That said, I love that the Three Degrees are to honoured with a statue outside the Hawthorns

Then there is Jeff Astle. Let me explain. The year was 1970 and I was football obsessed. England were World Champions having won the Cup in ’66. We had a formidable team but had to travel to Mexico to defend our cup. England were drawn in a group with the favourites and eventual winners Brazil. This is the famous Brazil ’70 side which included Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Carlos Alberto and is known as probably the finest football team ever assembled. Anyway ….. had we won that tie we would have avoided West Germany in the next round and probably gone on to win the thing again. Instead despite Gordon Banks worldie to save from Pele’s header and Bobby Moore’s unforgettable tackle on the great man, we were losing to a Jairzinho goal. As the game entered it’s final phase Astle came on as sub for Franny Lee. We were pushing for an equaliser and then Astle got his chance to become a hero; Terry Cooper knocked in a cross, the ball fell to Astle 5 yards out from an empty net and he scuffed it. The nation wept. We went on to lose to West Germany.


Jeff remains a hero at West Brom; there are the Astle gates into the Hawthorns and the fans still sing his name, but to millions of England football fans his miss heralded the end of England as an International force.

Arsenal: Do we finish the season on a high by sending out a first choice team and playing some risky full out attacking football or give some reserves a run out? Given 17 years of watching Mr Wenger, I will hazard a guess – the former :-D

Confidence must be high, Ozil and Ramsey are fit and firing, we are as injury free as an AFC squad can be, and it should be sunny. WBA have reason for concern.

Bacary must start in what could be his final game at The Emirates. It would be very sad to see him leave as I have a long standing man-love for our braided Frenchman, hopefully he will see the light and signdating. To those lucky enough to attend please sing him name loud and proud – he deserves it after a fine season.

The team almost picks itself. Podolski is playing his best football since his arrival – could it be he is playing for a move or showing AW he doesn’t need to sign another left-sided attacker?

My Team:

a v wb

It would be a surprise to see anyone replacing the above but perhaps Rosicky will be included – he is such a wonderful player and too good to ride the pine.

Sad that Ox and JW are not fit enough to stake a claim for the WC squad but being Arsenal-centric I am delighted. A long beach holiday followed by an uninterrupted pre-seasonshould set them up nicely for our tilt at the title.

20 years ago today a much younger Big Raddy began his day with a pint of lager in an airport pub. It was the start of one the most memorable days of my life. A pre-match drink up in bars all over central Copenhagen, followed by an unforgettable noisy walk to the Parken which is just 400m from where I sit to write these posts. An astonishing defensive display which could have been the pinnacle of the Famous 5’s achievements, and a rare as hen’s teeth Alan Smith goal from outside the area in front of 25,000 very nervous fans led to the lifting of a Euro Cup. It was a magical evening – my first magical Copenhagen evening of many.



Here’s to the Winners of 1994 ….. could the current Arsenal team emulate their predecessors and win a Cup 20 years later?

Written by Big Raddy



Is it time for a reality check?

March 4, 2014

We may not be experts but we all naturally follow our own team extremely closely and to me the top three is already done and dusted,with Spurs, Arsenal and United playing it out for forth.

I read that Arsenal’s total overall wage bill for players and employees will be nearer to 190 million in this current financial year which is over 20% more than two years ago and considerably more than Spurs.

IMO the real reason that we can’t sign really top class players is that Wenger has overall control and the directive from Kroenke is just to finish top 4. None of Kroenke’s USA investments win trophies. He is just in it for the long haul.

There is a growing unrest among fans as we have considerable funds and as van Persie said “the club lack real ambition”.

We are proud of our heritage, have a wonderful stadium, have the highest ticket prices in the league, yet the waiting list for season tickets is still in the tens of thousands.

We have become a business and a money machine for the club.

Take nothing away from what AW did in the first half of his tenure but I am absolutely sure we have seen the best of him.

The scouting network that at one time was second to none has been supereceded by many clubs and our play of pass and move only works against the lesser teams generally.

However the status quo will remain regardless were we finish this season. That is the reality.

This has nothing to do with my support for the club, but just listen to the away fans being interviewed at Stoke, they are all saying the same thing.

Many point out the loss of Walcott has been a major blow and one can’t argue against that but it’s the same old story,we don’t have consistent quality of squad depth when needed.

To have to play Sanogo against Bayern was unbelievable. He may turn out to be a wonderful purchase and to get Kit Kallstrom on loan was to say in the nicest possible way ….strange.

We are going to lose Fabianski, which IMO opinion is wrong as competition for Szczesny won’t come from the third choice, never played, Italian keeper. Vermaelen, our current club captain had one iffy season and in all likelyhood will leave and there is the likely prospect of Sagna leaving too.

Jack needs a long rest but we can’t afford that luxury.

Podolski appears to be out of favour so rarely gets game time.

Arteta has maybe one good season left so the rebuilding may start again.

Realistically we have one good chance of a trophy this season and that is the FA Cup and I hope AW realises this and isn’t tempted to not play our strongest team , which he has done in the past, as his directive is to finish top 4.

The irony is that if Wenger did leave would things change if the directive from the owner remains the same?

Written by kelsey

Gunners to Ruin Graham’s Home Debut?

February 9, 2013

Time to move away from the Young Jack eulogising and onto some proper English PL football, and there are few grounds more suited to a return to earth than the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland is a fine town with a fine history. It has one of the lowest incomes per head in the UK and yet almost 40,000 people go to watch their home games (5k more than Spurs!) They love their team and their football.

Martin O’Neill has had problems getting the Black Cats to gel. Rarely have I seen a more frustrated figure on the sidelines because whatever one thinks of MoN, he is a passionate man and gives his all to his clubs. Many moons ago Gooners were calling for him to replace Mr Wenger – insanity runs deep amongst our fans.

Sadly, Sunderland fans are not getting to see much artistry on the pitch (apart from the opposition). They are struggling for goals and rely more on sweat than inspiration. The huge fee paid for Fletcher  and the signing of Danny Graham is an indication of their need for some fire power and gumption ,though I have long admired both Sessegnon and Larsson. It is always good to see an ex-Gunner who has been Wengered succeed and Larsson has had a fine career – shame he likes to score against us!

After a short injury-free period we have players queuing for the treatment table. Late fitness tests on much of the defence means Raddy’s line-up could be drastically affected. There is also a fear that Theo was limping after the Brazil game.

Runners & Riders:

sunderland v arse

Given the amount of time our Internationals were on the pitch midweek, we may well see some changes.

Diaby could start as his stature is important defensively, but who gets dropped? Dare we play without Pod and have a 4 man midfield with Santi taking the left side attacking berth?

It will be interesting to see how Monreal copes with Adam Johnson who is finally showing some form.

Todays explorer: Sir James Clark Ross (1800 – 1862). You may think it is cold outside, particularly if you are going to the game but today is almost tropical compared to the norm for Sir Ross; an Arctic and Antarctic explorer in the days of wooden ships. As a young man Ross went North with his Uncle, Sir William Parry to search for the fabled North-West Passage and here he fell in love with polar exploration. Upon promotion to Captain he took his ship, the Erebus, to the Antarctic which he surveyed extensively becoming, at that time, the furthest South man had travelled.


I name this picture The Ross Icon

Sir James discovered Ross Bay,  James Ross Island, the Ross Sea, the Ross Ice Shelf, Victoria Island, Mount Erebus & Mt. Terror. He returned to England a hero, dying in Blackheath at the age of 61.

On paper we should win this game. Should the defence stay focussed and disciplined we will be fine, but they will not get the easy game they had vs Stoke. With Danny Graham playing his first game at the SoL, Sunderland will be looking for 3 points. But so will we….


December 10, 2011

125 years! Hell of a long time, so long ago that Spurs title win was in the future and even Kelsey hadn’t been born :-).

And what a tradition our wonderful club has, what history, and always  (apart from Mr. Norris) a club with honour and class. To those lucky enough to be going today the opportunity to share in the celebrations is one not to be missed. Get there early (and smuggle in a Peroni or two)

Would you trust this man? (Henry Norris)

Henry Norris is an interesting man. He appears to have been something of a Harry Redknapp type character. As Arsenal Chairman he was accused of bribing Charlie Buchan (the Messi of his day) to come to Arsenal, he was also known to use the club’s money for a private chauffeur and car. In 1929  an FA investigation found that he had sold the Arsenal team bus for £125 and pocketed the money. He sued the FA and lost, subsequently to be banned for life from football (according to Wikipedia). But he was the man who bought Highbury and the man who kept us in the First Division. Sadly, no statue of Henry nor of George Graham!

The choice of statues was in my opinion controversial; does Thierry Henry mean more to the history of the Arsenal than Frank McLintock? Or David Jack or Wee Alex James or Ted Drake?  I could go on but I really think  that due to our  magnificent history there is a need to put more statues around the ground. Yes, TH is our top scorer and the best player I have seen in an Arsenal shirt, but Frank and his team are such an important part of our history. Still, today is not a day to be churlish, is it?

Onto today’s match, one we have to win to keep up our challenge and to enhance the festivities. The fallout of AW’s controversial decision to play first teamers in Athens is that we lack a left back, Vermaelen can play there but he is such a fantastic CB it is a waste of his talents, plus he lacks the game to be of assistance to Gervinho. We shall see how he fares as there is no obvious alternative.

My Team:

Big game for Arteta, who has been outstanding in recent games. He will want to impress his former colleagues.

Everton have selection problems with Rodwell out (thankfully) but expect a return for Saha. They are  not in a good run of form, nor do Everton have a good record at THOF. Nonetheless, they are a decent team and as Fulham showed, any team that is well organised can cause us problems.

Today’s Gooner: It is fitting to go back into the mists of time and find one of the original fans. One of our earliest fans was a chemist who worked at the Woolwich Arsenal and was involved in the Dial Square team, his name  – Frederick Augustus Abel (1827-1902). Frederick was football nuts but also found time to develop Cordite for which (amongst other inventions) he was rewarded with a Baronetcy. Top Man. Top Gooner.

Fred showing off his fine Facial Hair.

Like all fans of The Arsenal I am proud to be a Gooner, and proud that the club I support is By Far the Greatest Team the World Has Ever Seen.


written by Big Raddy. Arsenalic.

Life in a Northern Town: Wigan Preview

December 3, 2011

Can Arsenal return to winning ways on the road? We have won away at last and once again should be playing in the red and white, so the portents are good. In fact, I have slaughtered, then disembowelled a rare, green resting frog and after studying it’s grizzly entrails I am delighted to tell you that the augurs are well placed (the wife isn’t too pleased about my using her best sabatier vegetable knife, but needs must).

“Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?”

Despite a little blip the atmosphere within the team and amongst the fans is full of confidence, the feeling is that a corner has been turned, and a trip to Wigan holds little to fear – but then so was a home game with Fulham and we only just scraped a draw. Let us hope the team are fully focussed.

Wigan will be delighted to have beaten Sunderland last w/e and gain their first away points. Everyone seems to like Martinez as he struggles to keep a team with limited resources in the PL. In my opinion they will go down this season (hopefully alongside Spurs and Stoke :-) ). In Al Habsi they have a fine GK and with the return to fitness of Di Santos are looking sharper up front, where Rodellaga (an AW target, apparently) has yet to repeat his fine form of last season (not today, please). Much is written of Victor Moses, he seems a bit lightweight to me but without a proper RB  he could cause trouble. Wigan have won only once at home this season – beating QPR in August, but I expect a hard fought game today.

Stats: Wigan’s home results this season DWLLLD. Top goalscorer: Di Santo with 4. They have scored 12 goals in 13 PL games (AFC: 26).  Only 24 yellows this season  (we have 23). Wigan have only scored one headed goal. We have lost and drawn on our last 2 visits to the JJB/DW.

My team: Usual suspects.

It would be wonderful to see Gervinho score, he desperately needs a goal to accompany his excellent buid up play. I like him very much; he is explosive, he works hard, takes up intelligent positions on the pitch and is lightning quick. A fine addition to the squad.  A top bloke and a lifelong Gooner  :-

Inventor from Wigan? I bring you Thomas Highs (1718 – 1803), the genius who invented the Spinning Jenny which revolutionised the cotton industry and brought great wealth to the North of England. No pictures are available of the great man, instead we have a painting of domestic bliss in a Manchester home

“Get on with it woman – I’m waiting for my Tea” (said in gruff Northern accent)

An important three points on offer today. We all know how well our rivals for a CL place are playing and matches against relegation contenders have to be won.


written by Big Raddy

Revenge of the Squid

December 2, 2011

Something rather remarkable happened on Tuesday night. Did you spot it?

No, I don’t mean the FFB (Fat French Benchwarmer) peeing his sky blue pants (size XL) at the very sight of Emmanuel Frimpong.

Nor do I mean two rookie Arsenal midfielders with the amusing acronym of “CoqPong” completely dominating the expensively acquired internationals in the Abu Dhabi City line-up.

Nor even the deafening silence of the Man City supporters (I’ve heard more noise during mime night at a Trappist Monks’ monastic retreat).

I refer instead to the fact that, after our highly creditable defeat at the hands of the Death Star of modern football, the Arsenal faithful were not all grinding their teeth, shaking their fists and muttering “Grrr… Squillaci…. Grrr…”

Sebastien Squillaci – the most maligned member of the current First Team defensive squad (I’m not counting goalkeepers!) – had a pretty decent night.

I read several match reports on different Arsenal blogs and, while no-one was exactly wanting to have his babies, there was a grudging acceptance that the Squid had done pretty well.

I remember writing a post early last season, when we were in great form and looking as if we were on for a real run at the silverware, along the lines of “who needs Vermaelen?”

It was after some excellent performances by our newbies Squillaci and Koscielny, both of whom seemed to settle into the team very quickly (once the Verminator’s Achilles heel developed bubonic plague and dengue fever).

With hindsight it was probably not one of my most prescient posts. It wouldn’t be long before we were praying to The Good Lord Dennis for TV5 to miraculously recover and begging Arsene to buy a burly British CB in the January transfer window.

And poor Sabastien underwent an extraordinary change of phylum, class and order to turn from a squid (loligo vulgaris)into a goat (capra aegagrus hircus). A scapegoat to be precise.

Now, there is no doubt that Squillaci had some poor performances for us last season, and that he and Koscielny did not really shine as a CB pairing.

But I wonder if the experienced Frenchman has copped more flak for our bad season than he ought to have done.

Let’s face it, when things went pear shaped (aka Na$ri shaped) it was the whole team that was at fault, from the captain on down.

With the exception of Prince Robin our strikers and midfielders stopped scoring and they also stopped defending, which left our defenders with a double-edged problem: one, they knew that if we conceded a goal or two our forwards were unlikely to redress the balance at the other end and, two, they weren’t getting the defensive support they should have received from the rest of the team so were shipping more goals.

Along with everyone else, Squillaci cannot have helped being tainted by the lack of confidence and uncertainty that affected even the so-called stars of the team during the final third of the season.

But he just can’t be as a bad a player as he is being painted in some quarters. You don’t get to play hundreds of games at the top level for clubs like Lyon, Monaco and Sevilla unless you’ve got something about you.

And a quick scan through some of the match reports and player analyses from last year shows that he played well in many games for us (and was observed to do so by the AA correspondents writing the reports). Unfortunately those performances were forgotten in the frustration and anger of the late-season collapse and the many mistakes he made during that period.

But this is a different Arsenal now – New Arsenal. Confidence is higher and so is team spirit, so it’s no surprise that he was able to come in and play very well against world class attackers on Tuesday night.

You get the feeling that someone like Vermaelen can impose himself on a game regardless of how his team mates are performing, but not many players have that presence, so in the dismal run-in Squillaci joined in the general dismalness.

But I for one am glad that he had a good run out and played well this week and I am happy to have him in the squad. Of course he’s behind Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Koscielny in the pecking order. He may even be fifth choice behind Djourou. But how many teams can point to a fourth or fifth choice CB with the experience and ability of the Squid?

Let’s support him because there may come a time this year when we need him.

He received too much criticism last year and I hope he takes his revenge in the most effective way that any footballer can: by silencing his critics on the field of play.

Welcome back Squiddy.


Our New Brazilian – Legend or Liability – A Close Shave

December 1, 2011

Written by chas

Andre Clarindo Dos Santos was born on the 8th March 1983 in São Paulo, Brazil. His early career at Figueirense was as a left winger. After loan spells at Flamengo and Athletico Mineiro, he joined Corinthians and was successfully converted into an attacking left back. Fenerbahce signed Andre in 2009 and he soon took over from his compatriot Roberto Carlos at left back. The Turkish club’s removal from the Champions League for 2011/12 due to a match–fixing scandal helped to convince the Brazilian that his career might be best furthered elsewhere. He joined Arsenal on 31st Aug 2011 and was given the highly appropriate number 11 shirt.

When he joined The Gunners, Andre was quick to make the kind of statement guaranteed to ensure he received a warm welcome from the supporters… “All the Brazilians who came to this club spoke wonders about it and I am delighted to be part of the Arsenal family.” Sylvinho, Edu, Gilberto, Baptista, Denilson and Eduardo formed an impressive line of Brazilian nationals to have played in the famous red and white with varying degrees of success. Would Andre Santos emerge as a flying Sylvinho with a valid passport or a lacklustre Beast with faulty dentures?

It has been reported that our new Brazilian was never without a football as a youngster and once he joined a professional club, his appetite for goals was honed with extra shooting practice before training started.

Our new number 11’s first outing came away at Blackburn and was greeted with mixed reviews (his performance largely hidden away by Arsenal’s abject second half display). Being only slightly taller than Kieran Gibbs but ‘several’ pounds heavier led to accusations of being a little bit of a ‘salad dodger’. It now seems amusing that this first impression has not been dispelled. The way he seems to be completely out of breath about ten minutes into each game but is still straining every sinew to give his all for the team after 94 minutes is a joy to behold. Perhaps fish and chips should be a rare treat rather than the cornerstone of a footballer’s diet! (I believe this was an item for Brazilian TV, by the way)

Santos Fish and Chips

After Arsenal’s 3-0 win over the Baggies, Santos again added to his growing ability to raise a smile from Gooners everywhere by tweeting, “Verry good win gays!!! #GoArsenal”, quickly followed by a profuse apology for his unfortunate misspelling. Goals against Olympiakos and in the magnificent humbling of Chelsea at the Bridge have meant that, in less than a dozen games, Andre has equalled Gael Clichy’s glorious 2 goals in 264 Arsenal games record.

Santos likes to wear his socks Thierry style, leading some to assume he wears white tights. The English climate doesn’t seem to have disturbed his Latin rhythms though, and the transition from Turkey to N5 has been a seamless one so far.

With each game our new Brazilian plays, there seem to be a growing number of converts to the Santos fan club. His ability on the ball is difficult to question; quick feet, superb ball control and a passion for rampaging forward all mean that when Santos gets the ball some entertainment will usually follow. His teammates know he’s confident to receive the ball, even under pressure, and his passing stats are reflecting this confidence. Perhaps, Andre’s positional sense isn’t completely suited to the rigours of Premiership football but his ability to win the ball in one-on-one situations is largely down to his superb skills of anticipation and timing. He always seems to have a smile on his face and genuinely wants to play as part of a team.

I intended this post as a discussion of our new Brazilian’s pros and cons but my growing love for his ability on the football pitch has made this a rather one-sided discussion. After all, his love of large round objects is clear for all to see!

Sad Times and Glad Times

November 28, 2011

The death of Gary Speed has in my opinion put the trials and tribulations of supporting a football team into some sort of perspective.

Look back over our posts since the CC final fiasco and see how many AA subscribers were tearing their hair out, demanding immediate changes of all kinds as though the fate of our football team was a matter of life and death. It was not of course and never has been for the average supporter or fan. Football is a game, nothing more, nothing less.

Sure it may be your passion an interest that transcends the everyday dross of a working life, to others it becomes the driving force in their lives, the only intellectual interest they truly have, but nevertheless it remains a game.

Yes there are those who have been driven to suicide by the bounce of an inflated ball that appears to have the capacity to remove logic and reason from minds that would in other circumstances, I am sure, be far more dispassionate about such obvious misfortune.

One only has to read the vitriol that flowed through our: for want of a better word respectable site: to understand the lengths that those supporters would go to enhance their bragging rights.

Some other blogs of course, defy reason and in doing so become a cess pit full of swearing, cursing deluded would be activist, demanding the implementation of bans, marches and strikes. Whilst calling down all manner of disasters, curses and sackings on all and sundry connected with the club who come with in the compass of their hatred.

We know not what activated Gary Speeds decision to end it all. But that a man so respected, liked and admired throughout the game could come to such a decision is a warning to us all, that we must treat the game as the game it is and recognise that life has many more severe challenges than winning football matches.

Read yesterday’s blog, having dropped two points in the evening game, to a team we were actively forecasting we would, figuratively speaking, have for breakfast in the pre-game comments. We greeted the result both then and today with equanimity and calm discussion. Why? Because the position that we find ourselves in today, would have been touted as a miracle in the despair that was the aftermath of the Blackburn game, just a few short weeks ago.

Is it too much to hope that in the light of the changes these few weeks have brought, that we continue to support our super club in so grown up a manner, criticise by all means for without that there would be no discussion. But leave the soul searching and tub thumping to those whose lives revolve solely around footballing success and nothing else.

Written by dandan

On the Sunny Side of the Street

November 26, 2011

Following the International break, we are back in the full swing of club football with Arsenal playing their third game in a week; what with City on Tues, Wigan on Saturday and Olympiakos the following Tues, we are busy. Long may it remain thus because it means we are in all competitions.

Today brings Martin Jol’s Fulham to the Emirates. Fulham are 16th in the PL, and are on a poor run of form (LLDDDWLLWL ). This is unsurprising because Fulham have been hard hit with injuries and despite the return of the OAP Riise, they will be missing Stephen Kelly, Damien Duff,  ex-Gunner Sidwell and Simon Davies. For a squad as small as Fulham’s this is hard to overcome.


We have won our last 2 games following action in the CL.

Fulham have yet to win at our place  –  Pl 25 W22 D3 L0.

Fulham are on a run of 34 away London derbies without a win.

Fulham have yet to score more than one goal at THOF

Fulham have won  only 12 away fixtures out of their last 101. We are 4/9 to win with Ladbrokes.


It has been pointed out that we have played the same team twice running which showed in the way the players connect, I fully expect us to play the same team again. Why change when the players have next week to rest?  That said, perhaps Ramsey could rest his young bones.

We have been finding a rhythm not seen at THOF for sometime and it is this which is so encouraging. This Arsenal team do not have the swagger of The Henry teams, nor the calculated violence of the Adams years, instead the current Gunners team are becoming more than the sum of it’s parts. It bodes well for the future, and should allow players of the quality of Arshavin, Benayoun, Diaby, the Ox, JW, Sagna etc etc etc to slot seamlessly into the team when required.

My Team:

It would be great if Gervinho  got on the scoresheet today. He has been dallying in front of goal which suggests a lack of confidence (wanting to make sure rather than using his instincts).  Theo is also due a goal as is Ramsey, but it would be a fool who bet anyone’s house on RvP not scoring this evening.

To continue the series of famous Gooners,  we go to the Thirtie’s and as luck would have it I have found a Gooner and a great inventor. Alan Blumlein. This is a top bloke. Inventor of stereo and the Radar. Alan was born in Hampstead in 1903 and at the age of  28 he patented Stereophonic Sound whilst working for EMI. His spare time was spent at Highbury where he was a season ticket holder in the East Stand. Blumein died in 1n an aircrash in 1942 whilst testing his newly patented radar.

Mr Blumlein the morning after celebrating the 1936 FA Cup victory (slightly the worse for wear)

All the form guides point to a home victory but we have learned to our cost that application in all games is essential, losing 3 points to relegation fodder like Blackburn, Spurs and Liverpool is proof that no quarter can be given.


Written by Big Raddy

Project Youth – Fact or Fiction?

September 7, 2011

Written by Illybongani

Much has been said about the perceived success (or lack of it), of Wenger’s ‘Project Youth’, particularly since the move to the Emirates. Arsenal Football Club are now seen as standard bearers in the development of young professional footballers. But is this accolade warranted or is it a misnomer?

Let’s look at some facts and make our own minds up.

Prior to the move away from Highbury, Arsène Wenger’s blueprint for success was pretty much orthodox, a high quality team of experienced internationals added to pre-season with one or two further experienced internationals, often French or African. Added to this mix was the occasional high potential youngster, like Fabregas or Anelka.

By anyone’s standards this was successful. Two Doubles and an unbeaten season will be the benchmark we measure ourselves by, and indeed others measure us by, for the foreseeable future.

Then we moved to a new stadium. History shows that this is more often than not a particularly difficult time for the club involved. Look at Coventry, Southampton, Leicester amongst others as examples. Then came a global recession that could not have been anticipated by the Board. A truly perilous position to be in. Therefore we had to cut our cloth accordingly.

We will probably never know the restrictions placed on our expenditure by the move. The Board continued to spout rhetoric that there was money for Arsene if he wanted it. This money never really materialised, instead Arsène went down the line of importing more and more youngsters both from home and around the world. ‘Project Youth’ had truly begun.

However, it was only because of  a catalogue of injuries that became to be the norm season after season that these youngsters were thrown into the mix. Well, that is the perception of most people – but how many kids have we actually moved through the production line and out the other end?

In the early years of Arsène’s tenure, Ashley Cole was probably the only player to be given his debut and to be guaranteed a place in the side. In the last few years there have been more but many of those have been purchased (and stolen) from other clubs. However, you could argue that they have been given the opportunity to learn ‘the Arsenal Way’ before being given their opportunity.

The only ‘true’ Arsenal-bred youngsters grown from embryo to finished article at Hale End have been Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Emmanual Frimpong. Given time, Henri Lansbury may be added to this list. Does this make the ‘project’ successful? Certainly not along the lines of Barcelona, but then who has produced as many, in quantity and quality, as them? But that group may well be the core of the England (or Ghana!) side over the next 5 years – and in anyone’s book, that must be deemed a success.

Other players, thought at one time to be the next big thing, have come and gone – JET, Traore, Merida, Barazite, Aliadiere, Bentley to name but a few. These players and many like them have attracted transfer fees in the region of £80m (boosted by Cesc) since our move to the Emirates. Does that give further credence to the success of the ‘project’ or the further evidence that far too many have not met the standard at Arsenal?

An examination of the current youth set up shows a number of ‘next big things’. The question is, will they be a Fabregas or will they be a Bentley? And if they end up a Bentley, does that make them a failure?


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