Big boys play in the Big League, and little kids at home?

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

54 Responses to Big boys play in the Big League, and little kids at home?

  1. 26may1989 says:

    Like it, Arnie. I hadn’t realised Hansen’s infamous quote came after Man U losing an opening game 3-1 to Villa, before marching to a Double the following May – let’s hope there’s some symmetry there!

    There does seem to be a decent balance of experience (Mertesacker, Sagna, Arteta, Vermaelen, Podolski, Cazorla, Rosicky, Flamini etc) and youth (Gibbs, Wilshere, Chamberlain, Szczesny, Jenks, Gnabry, Zelalem, Ryo, Sanogo). And perhaps most importantly, there’s a group in the middle, that is a bit of both: Ozil, Walcott, Ramsey, Giroud, Koscielny, Monreal, Viviano. The current injuries do make things look thin, but as has been said, once those players return, the squad will look distinctly well built.

    Whether it has the quality and the ability to knit together quickly enough, and to avoid further injuries, is an open question, but there’s enough there to offer ammunition to a serial optimist like me.

  2. dandan says:

    Will read your lead later Arnie. This is from today’s times

    A week on from Greg Dyke’s home truths, round two of the latest club-versus-country row could be looming over the management of Jack Wilshere.
    The Arsenal midfielder’s subdued performance in Ukraine provided clear evidence that, as Dyke would put it, something must be done.
    Arsène Wenger had urged caution beforehand regarding Wilshere’s ability to play two internationals in the space of four days, although it would be easier to take his warning seriously if it were not loaded with hypocrisy. The Arsenal manager has repeatedly taken risks with Wilshere’s fitness, rushing him back early from injury and continuing to play him when the warning signs of a potential breakdown were clear.
    Wilshere made 26 appearances for Arsenal in little more than four months immediately after returning from a serious ankle injury on October 27 last year, so it came as little surprise when he broke down again the next March, forcing him to miss England’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro. The 21-year-old underwent his third operation in May, so he was again denied a full pre-season, which goes a long way to explaining his tame start to the campaign.
    Wilshere has conceded privately that he is still three weeks away from full fitness, leaving Wenger and Roy Hodgson caught in a classic Catch-22.
    He needs games to build up his fitness but cannot be expected to influence them in the same way as he did at Wembley against Brazil last February.
    Wilshere said yesterday that the goalless draw in Kiev was the most difficult game of his international career, although he was not helped by his deployment by Hodgson. Despite being a naturally attacking player, Wilshere is far more effective in a deeper role, where he gets more time and space, while his minimal goal threat suggests that he is unlikely to develop into a classic No 10.
    “It was my hardest game for England,” Wilshere said. “It was my biggest international game, my first big one away, and it was a hostile atmosphere.
    “I had a lot of experience around me and it helps when you have that in your team. They have been there and done it and it showed tonight.”
    Hodgson’s desire to play Wilshere in every match is understandable as he is hardly blessed with alternatives, but given the player’s continuing fitness issues, the manager would be advised to liaise closely with Wenger to ensure he is in peak condition for the visits of Montenegro and Poland next month.
    Arsenal’s signing of Mesut Özil could help him, as the Germany midfielder should provide Wilshere with the respite he needs. The new FA chairman will appreciate the irony.

  3. Toofan says:

    most of
    whom have stayed on at the club, and
    a few stars departed for greener
    pastures.” did you believe this statement when you were writing it or are you on a troll?

  4. chas says:

    Cheers, Arnie.
    Loving the optimism.

    We allow the youngsters to gain valuable match time and get pilloried for it.
    We refuse to pay ridiculous prices for English ‘talent’ like Henderson, Downing, Adam and Carroll, preferring to buy players of greater value for money and get pilloried for it.
    We develop players through sickness and health only to see them leave for a bigger pay packet and get pilloried for it.

    As was said this morning, what’s the point?

  5. chas says:

    The very idea of Wenger ensuring Jack is in peak condition for the visits of Montenegro and Poland next month is an execration upon my senses.
    I really don’t give a flying copulation about England next month. The battering from the press Walcott and Wilshere got after Tuesday’s game would put anyone off an England career, surely?

  6. chas says:

    Honda spotted outside Emirates Stadium.

  7. 26may1989 says:

    Ramsey is a failure: nice one, star.

  8. Bïg Räddy says:

    Fine read Arnie.

    Great spot about the AV result. Let us hope we can repeat MU’s success.

  9. arnie says:

    Thanks, guys and gals, good fun. Keep em coming!

    26may: yes, I agree, experience is important and particularly the mix. I had sort of kept thsi in the background, because the focus of the post was on the “kids”. But the experience helps development, and the mix provides the sparkle.

    chas: thanks a lot, mate. This really is the Arsenal way of doing things. In some ways, I think, we have no other choice as well. Having decided not to pay premium prices for scarce home players, the only option is to develop players from scratch. And, why not?

    First, is it not a lovely feeling to see a Wilshere, or a Ramsey, or a Theo, rising through the ranks, for club and country? And going back to the not so distant past, Henry, Fabregas, even van Persie, just to name a illustrious few.

    Second, there is the financial side. It costs less to buy young, because the outcome is uncertain, but if it pulls off, quite spectacular. And then, if at some stage the player wishes to leave, hold on to him as long as possible, and then let him go for a large price. Makes fantastic financial sense, right?

    Third, and coming back to the Dyke issue, is playing kids not the only way to ensure a stream of talent coming into the game at the club level, and the national?

    Fourth, and perhaps equally importantly, this makes us different. Yes, and being different has a lot of value. For some people at least. Not being a follower but a leader, not choosing to follow the bandwagon. Even if everyone else decides to stay away, or worse still spreads vitriol. At Arsenal, there is the Arsenal way of doing things. And it is distinct. And we like this different way.

    We are not alone in this path, but probably the largest club. The other name that crops in mind is Porto, where this method was introduced by the self-proclaimed “special one” some time back. But, their success rate in developing players from the academy is much much lower. If some of us are frustrated about the flow of players from the academy, please have a look at conversion rates elsewhere. This is risky and hard work, and Arsenal do very well in this.

  10. arnie says:

    Toofan: Arsenal has one of the best retention rates in the EPL. I do not have statistics about this, but from what I see around it seems quite clear. This is because players like to play in Arsenal, they value the chances that they get, they like the environment, and they like the way football is played here. I guess the average number of years a player stays at Arsenal would be no less than 5 years. Look around, not many other clubs would beat us. There are some other clubs which do well, ManUre and lately, Chelski as well. But they pay much higher fees.

    Finally, perhaps the former Barca manager did not really understand, or perhaps he wanted to mislead, but the reason why the “kids” get valuable time on the pitch at Arsenal is because Arsenal believes in youth development. They believe in the combination of youth and experience. Despite all our stalwarts in the midfield this year, I think we would still expect to see some of the kids in the mix. Not necessarily because of compulsion, but because this is the way Arsenal play. And we love it, dont we?

    So, on with the optimism!!

  11. arnie says:

    Thanks a lot, Raddy, good fun!!!!

  12. 26may1989 says:

    Hi arnie. I’m not sure I would agree we are the only ones: Man U have done well with their own young players (Welbeck, Cleverley, Giggs, Fletcher) and the ones they’ve brought in (de Gea, Smalling, Jones, Young, Rafael, Zaha, Rooney). And Spurs have brought through Walker, Townsend, Rose etc, and have recruited a fair number of youngsters recently. Liverpool have also brought through the likes of Sterling, plus have a very decent looking academy team.

  13. arnie says:

    26may: Yes, I agree. Got a bit carried away. Mau U have done well in this regard for a long time now. I mentioned in the post, the “kids” from 1995-96. Quite a lineup. Traditionally, in England, the three that had this academy model were Man U, Arsenal and Pool. On Spurs, the verdict I think is still out. And one club that has fallen off somewhat is Everton.

    Arsenal has made the most profits from selling players developed within the system, though I am not sure this is the intention. Even if it were, I do not have any strong views about it. In this sense, they are like Porto, I think. Even if Porto’s performance in the Portuguese league has always been mixed, and at the European stage there was just that one flare, Porto have always made a healthy profit by developing players within their academy and selling them off later.

  14. arnie says:

    I think I give the wrong impression somewhat by bringing in the comparison with Porto. So, to rephrase: I believe Arsenal makes profits in the process of developing players. This is not the only way to obtain value from maintaining a good academy, the other way is to perform well. Arsenal does both equally well. Remember that Arsenal has qualified for the CL consistently for the past 16 years. No mean task, and brings substantial financial returns as well.

  15. arnie says:

    star: not quite. let me give you a few examples, all overlapping with the last 10 years. Henry (1999-2007), Cole (1999-2006), Wilshere (2001 – now), Fabregas (2003-2011), van Persie (2004-2012), Song (2005-2012), Wallcott (2006 – now), Ramsey (2008 – now).

  16. arnie says:

    forgot Gibbs (2004 – now)

  17. star says:

    All these guys were employed by Arsenal, yet they contributed NOTHING to the progress of the team.
    Thats £500k per week of salary these guys got paid for nothing.
    Why has there been no comeback at all for Wenger?
    If anyone in a £240m business literally threw away £25m pa (10%) they would be sacked immediatly.

  18. arnie says:

    star: I will not appoint you as the CEO of my oil company. Just kidding! The point is that it depends on the nature of business. Greenfield investments.are risky. You dig for oil once, find nothing, twice, find nothing, and so on. But if you hit the jackpot even once, you are the hero.

    Not that all clubs or every manager would do this, but Arsene does. Chelski or Shitty, for example, would buy a player already proven valuable. But Arsenal would prefer to produce this player within its cademy.

    The point is, Arsene would be extremely valuable to the club (or £240m business as you put it) if he produced one Henry, or a Fabregas, or a Song, or a van Persie. Because each of those players are so valuable. But Arsenal produced all of them. Yes, a Beckham and a Bale was produced elsewhere, but not with such consistency.

  19. Bïg Räddy says:

    arnie. Star is a troll and just wants to wind you up.

    Ignore him/her

  20. N5Artillery says:

    @star not sure what you are trying to prove with this list.

    Santos – already a starter at Fenerbahce when we got him & Brazil international
    Djourou – good squad player, Swiss international, 4th CB (Knee Injury 2009)
    Denilson – I’ll give you this one, flattered, but didn’t produce consistently.
    Campbell? – do you mean Sol – er DOUBLE DOUBLE DOUBLE…..
    Miyaichi – been out on loan last two years
    Bendtner – did okay, but ego became a speed bump
    Park – You’re right mystery
    Chamakh – top scorer in Ligue 1 when we bought him. 11 Goals in first 4 months, then got pulled by Wenger
    Fabianski – I dispute this one as Flappy did well last year
    Squillaci – top ranked player for Sevilla, admitted he wasn’t fit enough “When I arrived, I played and achieved good matches. I came just after the 2010 World Cup and I had almost no preparation with Sevilla so I paid for it in December.
    I was less good because I was less fit. In the Premier League you immediately pay for that. Then, when you don’t play so well, it’s difficult to come back.”

    Arshavin – already a top player, declined due to fitness requirements

    There are 11 starting positions, 5 places on the bench and another 9 places in the squad depending on the mix of youth teams and development players brought in. So why are you surprised that there are some failures? If you look at other teams there are a lot of players sitting on the bench or leaving after a year which are not or were not suitable for the Premier League.

  21. evonne says:

    N5Artillery – hiya, please pay no attention to star, he is a perverted troll that spoils this site

    Nice comment, by the way

  22. gus says:

    Hi, will the wiggets on the side be back this season. I’ve always liked them

  23. gus says:

    good post by the way

  24. gus says:

    I was just reading Le grove and boy is it nice to be back on AA. The blog itself on Le Grove is actually very good in my opinion, I like to go on their from time to time to temper my optimism. The writers have a different opinions than me on Arsene Wenger but they are fair and reasoned opinions and always support the team.

    Its the comments which I can’t stand. Its a sea of negativity. Its awful, why do they do it? What’s the point of football without joy and fun?

  25. arnie says:

    gus: thanks a lot.

    shhhhh…. please dont speak so loud. it took a lot of effort to send the doomsday ushers on AA into their burrows. And they are not that very far below the surface…..

  26. Joe says:

    With all the goings on about not enough English players playing in the PL so this Is affecting the England and England youth teams.
    A couple of points one how is it that arsenal players who can play for England at all levels are not been picked. These players have the best training in holding the ball and passing which is what international football is all about. I know I said a couple of points but I think the one point is enough if England want to improve they need start picking Arsenal players for england.


    Nice one arnie

    I have never taken Alan Hanen seriously as a pundit. Match of the day pundits are a bunch of jerks who spend there time of air counting there pay packet and indulging a good scratch

    Utd proved Hansen wrong, but in fairness it could go either way, The main thing about young players is that if there managed properly, they tend to have liitle fear or respect for there opponents

    When i was a teen i went on one of them roller coasters, scoffing a candy floss, drinking a lager, performing a headstand, and finaly leaping into the next car to land on some fat mans lap. Great fun

    A couple of years ago with my youngest daughter i went on another. I went as white as a sheet and started crying, and this was before the thing started moving

    When it did move i had a horrendous panic attack forcing me to attempt suicide, but i couldnt undo the safty belt. When it finally stopped, some how my trousers had ended up over my face and i had lost my shoes.

    That was Hansens foolish mistake. Let him, Linekar, and that total tosser Shearer try a roller coaster and see were there trousers end up.

  28. LB says:


    You wont find too many of that ilk on this site, although I know what you mean and can’t help but agree.

  29. Bïg Räddy says:

    Terry. Strange. I had the same experience on a roller coaster last summer. Thankfully it was a sunny day.

    Joe. After Walker’s awful performance Jenkinson must figure in Hodgson’s plans.

    And Gibbs is as good as Baines.

  30. LB says:

    “What’s the point of football without joy and fun?”

    Thank you Gus, you have just summed up my feelings in one sentence.

  31. LB says:

    Oops, didn’t realise that Star was a troll, I feel like one of those naughty school boys who has just been caught feeding something in the zoo that he shouldn’t.

    Sorry, Miss, sorry Miss, I didn’t see the sign.


  32. Joe says:

    Big Raddy less the .. It’s not just senior England team that could do with some Arsenacation.

  33. evonne says:

    LB -you naughty boy!!!

    How many Manu players featured against Ukraine? One? I remember times when half the English team was from Mancunia

  34. Gööner In Exile says:

    Evening all, in the words if Richie Benaud “cracking deyboo Arnie”

    The aim of the youth system is ultimately to provide players for our first team, in Gibbs and Jack we have created two good enough who have Arsenal in their hearts, we have Frimpong and Szczesny too, altho the latter was picked up at an older age he still spent a lot of formative years playing at the club.

    Whilst United have progressed youngsters they are not really the stars of the piece. Wenger trusts our youngsters from a very young age. It is worth reminding ourselves that Cleverly is 24 and Wellbeck is 22 with 157 appearances between them for United.

    Jack and Ramsey are 21 and 22 and have 257 appearances for Arsenal despite season long injuries for both. Therein lies the difference. But then they are just being overused right Mr Dyke?

  35. arnie says:

    Thanks a lot, GiE, and great comment. Unfortunately that seems to be the order of the day. But, we keep our heads high, and live to fight on!!!!!

  36. arnie says:

    Terry: Thanks. Hilarious comedy. I spent a good one minute trying to imagine the scene.

  37. Gööner In Exile says:

    You’ll go blind trying to imagine Terry’s comments 😀

  38. Gööner In Exile says:

    I’m löving him:

    Asked on Thursday if he thought the Gunners could challenge for the title, he responded: “Of course.
    “I know the team, I know that talent we have here and I think every player wants to be successful. It will be difficult because this is the strongest league in the world.”
    Ozil, who is Arsenal’s record signing, could feature for his new team when they face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
    “I have watched a lot of Premier League games,” he said. “It is very physical here but I am really glad to play in the best league in the world.
    “I want to prove myself in England and I look forward to playing here. I know I will prove myself here.”
    He added: “We want to play offensive and good football. To keep clean sheets and play attractive football.
    “I can’t promise to win trophies but I can promise as a team we will give our all to achieve this.”

  39. LB says:

    “Mesut Özil said that he would have happily joined Arsenal to play under Arsène Wenger for nothing.”

    So the Arsenal negotiating team are crap after all as they clearly paid more money that they needed to. lol

  40. chas says:

    What I don’t understand about Bendy is that he was looking for a new club in the summer.
    Did he expect them to take him on even though he wasn’t fit?
    Amazingly some were.

  41. Bïg Räddy says:

    LB lol. Someone is sure to complain!

    Just seen a twitter pic of NB in training. The man must be at least 5kg overweight. How can any professional athlete allow this to happen? (Of course, it could be photoshopped or a poor pic.)

  42. Bïg Räddy says:

    Chas. It was worth a read. Thanks

  43. evonne says:

    LB @ 7:02 – absolutely, rubbish 🙂

    chas @ 7:37 – good interview, but it worries me that Ozil is wearing a winter coat in the middle of a good English summer

    Right at the end of that interview Wenger said something about being surprised that we landed Ozil. How is that? That would mean that he was not the force to drive that transfer, right?

  44. Gööner In Exile says:

    Evonne probably surprised that Madrid would sell him.

    That’s a great article on ESPN, and that one ability of running off the ball is the one thing you really only see at the game,

  45. 26may1989 says:

    Morning all.

    That ESPN article really is excellent, thanks Chas. Movement is precisely the quality we want to see in a striker recruit – that’s why we were right not to pursue the otherwise very good Higuain and why I also think we shouldn’t go for Benzema – both are really good players but, with a hold-up man already in the squad in the form of Giroud, the one we really want to go with our shiny new German is someone with excellent movement. Suarez would’ve done the trick, Rooney might have.

  46. Gööner In Exile says:

    26 I think Oli’s creation of space for others to run into is pretty good, think its a reason we saw more goals from wide players and midfielders last year.

  47. evonne says:

    ha ha ha ha 🙂 Chas, GiE and 26m and I 🙂 We dispose of any negativity re Arsenal in the media as crap, yet anything positive and we take it as a gosspel 🙂 Objective? VERY

  48. dandan says:

    The press prepare to attack AW from a new direction. From today’s Times.

    “It is a very successful club, and young players develop very well here,” he said. “I know about the success the club has had. Players like Henry, Fàbregas. I know the step here is the right one for me because many young players came here, got better and became the best players in the world. This is how I would like my path to go here.”
    If that is how Özil’s Arsenal career turns out, Wenger may find that the questions are gone for good. He will have spent money, brought success. The doubters will melt away. And if not? Perhaps, then, the questions will change. Perhaps the issue will not be why Wenger is not spending money, but whether he should be spending it at all.
    Arsenal’s economic policy has dominated all else for so long that Wenger’s ability as a manager — at picking players, at building teams — has not been assessed for some time.
    Now, with the old questions finished, it is time for some new ones to be asked. He, and Özil, will hope that they have the answers.”

  49. Morning all

    ……. New Post ……………

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