Much has been said this week about the infamous proclamation by one Alan Hansen in 1995: “You can’t win anything with kids”. The context was a 1-3 loss by Manchester United to Aston Villa. Mr Pompous Pundit Pool-dweller Hansen was subsequently proved wrong. ManUre went on to win a famous double that year. But, BBC says, “those “kids” were an exceptional bunch like David Beckham, Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs”.
However, Hansen continued to maintain his position, most persistently about an young Arsenal side, arguing why Arsene Wenger’s strategy was a recipe for disaster. Apparently the justification came from the failure to win silverware over a period of time. At the same time, Arsene continued to show his faith in his “kids”. In the process, Arsenal became a preferred destination for young players, who consistently received the opportunity to play with, and against, the big boys. And learn the game at the highest level under the tutelege of Arsene and his gang. Concurrently, the doomsday brigade continued to spread vitriol and negativity all round, spelling doom on Arsenal and satisfying their own petty egos.
As a result, Arsenal developed an impressive string of players, most of whom have stayed on at the club, and a few stars departed for greener pastures. The astute transfer architect that Arsene is, he managed to manufacture a win-win situation in (almost) every case – for Arsenal and for the matured “kid”. The player was happy to find a new challenge, and in most cases (except perhaps the case of a certain Dutchman) had outlived his utility for Arsenal, and in the process Arsenal made a healthy bit of profit in the transfer market. This, in turn, contributed towards maintaining a competititive position in the Premiership, qualifying for Champions League consistently, and progressing well in all competitions, against the backdrop of considerable financial challenges for the club. Extremely creditably it has to be said, even if we did not earn silverware, to the immense frustration of all fans. All of this came together with maintaining immense faith in the academy and developing a fine set of young players in the process.
The immense success in developing young talent has come dramatically home to us in a different way last week. The laments of new FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, as to the lack of English (and Welsh) talent in the EPL, raises once again the important question as to how national football can stay competitive against the backdrop of financial power and alleged excesses of the major clubs. How else would one do this, other than offering the opportunity for “kids” to play in the big league.
Perhaps most importantly, this promotes the fantastic brand of football that Arsenal produces on the field, including a unique mix of youth and experience, and lively football produced by an extremely talented pool of young and fast players. At 25 years of average age, Arsenal had one of the youngest teams in the first few games of the current season in EPL. Surely, with the arrival of one 24 year old Mesut Özil, a complete package of youth and experience, the average age is going to decrease even further. So, what now? Surely, for us fans, the stage is set for a fantastic experience where we are ready to win all, trophies, admirers and envy, while at the same time upholding the highest traditions of playing an attractive attacking game, and promoting young talent.
The question really is not when Arsenal is going to start flying again, but how beautiful the flight will be! A historical coincidence is that, the “can’t win anything with kids” comment came against ManUre’s 1-3 loss to Aston Villa in 1995. For Arsenal, having started the season with a 1-3 loss to Villa, surely now is the time! Surely, our young brigade is comparable, if not better, than the young kids of ManUre back in 1995. Equally young, and more experienced at this level. What a wonderful prospect! Thanks a lot, Arsene and Arsenal!
Go on The Arsenal!!!!
Written by Arnie