Ok that headline is pure click bait, and I predict we will see a number of comments from people who haven’t read the post telling me that I should leave our homegrown talent alone and that he is a wonder kid in the making. Let me be clear I won’t disagree with any of that and that is why I am writing this.
I’m sure I cannot be alone in being a tad discontented with Arsenal performances of late (understatement of the decade), what have I had to get excited about? Well in all honesty three things give me faint hope that we could still turn this slump round and become a force to be reckoned with again….step forward Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Jack Wilshere. Homegrown, super talented, unphased by the game at this level and the hysteria that sometimes surrounds our club.
These three have been at Arsenal for much of their life, combined they have 40 years big club experience, and 15 years international experience at their respective levels. They have seen the good times and bad at the club, they have experience of what it’s like to play for a club that the minnows want to beat (even if that’s in youth leagues and cups). I’m sure there are plenty of others through our ranks with similar attitude. The biggest compliment I can pay Maitland-Niles is that his teammates never worry about giving him the ball, compare that to when they look at some of their other teammates and turn away to find a safer option.
Whats my point? Look at some of our recent signings for what is frankly silly money these days (insert your own choices here) can you honestly say you wouldn’t rather be watching homegrown talent in those positions……yet still the only solution offered by many fans and pundits to our current malaise is sign more players, where exactly has that got us in recent seasons? As far as I can see more discontent on the terraces and more disjointed performances on the pitch.
I have often speculated that not all of our recent signings have been purely football related, I think there is such a clamour to sign players that the club has got itself into a belief that any signing is better than none, keep the fans and media off their back, “there you go we are spending some f***ing money”.
We need a change of mindset, we need to get back to what made us different but also led to enjoyable attacking football that the supporters enjoyed watching with a team that played with freedom and without fear.
As depressing as the League Cup Final defeat to Birmingham was that side was better to watch than this current team, and if we could have kept it together had more chance of winning titles. Perhaps most importantly it had one player who was a star when we signed him, and he was already on the wane for us. Over the four years leading up to that final we had a transfer net income of £31m.
The team that started against Birmingham….Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Nasri, Song, Wilshere, Rosicky, Arshavin, BSR. (Cesc and Theo both injured).
Ok not home grown but assembled for very little money, Jack was the first to emerge from a youth setup that had been given a root and branch overhaul on the type of players it valued and the style of play. Arsene had bought cleverly in the post stadium move/Abramovich/Sheikh era when the big hitters left for big money he assembled a side for relatively little money still able to compete. No they didn’t win titles, but neither is the current side, that over the three years preceding and including this season has cost £165m to assemble (without managing to get £30m plus for Ox that could have been nearly £195m). Has it been well spent? Is spending more now going to bring us any more chance of success or bring better football? Won’t we be throwing good money after bad chasing the elusive final piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately our jigsaw seems to have been spread far and wide with many bits lost down the sofa. You may also need to consider what our competition has spent in that time….City £479m, United £438m, Liverpool £75.5m (helped by recouping £108m for Coutinho), Chavs £36.2m (their youth acquisition policy very helpful) and Spuds £9m. Probably explains why we are lagging behind City and Untied, not so much why we are lagging behind Chavs, and obviously Spuds benefited hugely from discovering a £50m striker in their youth setup.
I hate to look across at Spuds and say I wish we could be like that, but they have a side more akin to our 2010/11 team than ours is now, they play uninhibited football and work bloody hard and even their best player hasn’t yet got too big for his boots that he is demanding the club buy players to match his ambitions, they have been able to build that side because their fans have been beaten into submission by years of abject failure that expectation or entitlement to be challenging for titles is not present in the fan base, they are enjoying the ride and why shouldn’t they.
What have we as a club really achieved in recent years that leads to such high expectations? High expectations that when you look at the spending of United and City is more often than not going to be kicked in the b******ks.
I think it’s time for the club to reset, and get back to basics, whether under new management or current, give the kids some game time and forget about superstars for a while until we find our identity again. I’ll have much more fun watching Maitland-Niles and friends bring some joy back to watching Arsenal than sitting there eternally disappointed that the last £40m midfielder we signed can’t actually track a runner from midfield and has worse attack and defence stats than a £12m midfielder bought 4 years earlier, or a £47m striker has as good a goal to shot ratio as the much maligned £12m striker from a few seasons previous who in my opinion actually brought more to the overall play of the team.
If our support was influenced only by titles there would be many bloggers that frequent this site that would have given up in the 60’s and again in the 80’s. They didn’t because football isn’t all about the trophies, first and foremost it should be enjoyable to go to or watch, to achieve that you need to reset your expectations.
Gooner in Exile