Was Arsène Right?

Before I begin, can I ask that if anyone reads this who really knows about player development to kindly leave a comment, because this post is a question as much as an observation, and I suspect that like myself, most regulars on this site would be guessing.

We all heard terms such as Project Youth during the Wenger years, and we also noted that very few players emerged through the Arsenal ranks to have top flight careers, whether at Arsenal or anywhere else.

We now appear to be on the threshold of seeing a very good looking bunch possibly breaking through, with the likes of M-N, Iwobi, Nelson, Eddie and Smith Rowe.

One of my criticisms of the way the project unfolded under Arsène was that most of these players appeared during their sporadic appearances in a variety of positions, while I always believed they should be developed in specific positions.

I’m beginning to think I was wrong. Here’s why.

It strikes me that our homegrown players are relatively late developers, but perhaps there is good reason for this. I’ll expand this thought with a few questions/observations:

  • playing them in a variety of positions could simply be to give them game time when opportunities open up through injuries
  • or, could this have been a deliberate strategy to make them more complete players?
  • examples: we’ve seen Iwobi left, central and right midfield, likewise, M-N left and right back as well as defensive and attacking midfield
  • I get the impression Unai has a more structured approach to positional duties, but will he, and the players, have benefited from Arsene’s more fluid approach?



23 Responses to Was Arsène Right?

  1. chas says:

    Interesting, Micky.

    I was thinking something similar recently about how Unai will get the credit for bringing the young lads on if they establish themselves.

    Maybe RC78 could give us an insight into Emery’s track record with developing the youth.

    Here’s an old clip,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  2. mickydidit89 says:

    Way too early for all that crap….Up The Hammers, i say 🙂

  3. LBG says:

    Interesting concept Micky, and certainly one that it would be a delight to ask Arsene about over a few pints pre match.
    The Barcelona way. All players are to be developed with the same high level of skill which enables them to play the system in what ever position we put them in. Certainly AW often had his own ideas where a young player should end up positionally. Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Kolo Toure spring to mind. If you can have these players on your books from eight or nine however, perhaps you can make them into whatever you want!
    My question is however, does this work quite so well in the high, every-week, intensity of the Premier League? Don’t you need, in order to be a Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, to have slogged away at the specific skills of, for instance defending, to know truly how to play there at the top level?
    Dick is, it seems benefitting from some relatively late developing, very skilful, long time Academy players, but will they be able to find a positional cubbyhole at the Club that allows them to go to the top and stay there? I worry that the Jack of all trades for, for instance, A M-N would be wasting him in the end.
    I prefer what I think you are suggesting might be Dick’s approach, and wait with bated breath to see the potential development of truly talented players over the next 2/3 seasons.

  4. mickydidit89 says:


    It’s still way too early for all this, but, you mentioned the Barca model and of course we’ve just signed up Raul Sanllehi from Barca to head up on the field activities

    Apart from all that inter-positional stuff over there in Catalonia, they’re also strong on youth development, and not bad at it either

  5. LBG says:

    Certainly agree, Micky.
    Perhaps however, they also lose their way occasionally by not giving very young players enough of a chance to feel they “belong” somewhere positionally, reference Cesc and Hector.

  6. LBG says:

    It’s never too early for good quality footie debate!

  7. mickydidit89 says:


    Re Barca and yoof… here’s the biggie

    They have Barcelona B.

    It has it’s own 15k stadium and plays in our equivalent of The Championship or what I call the 2nd Division

    This makes so much sense, as apart from anything else, it probably helps fund the project youth. Imagine in England if Arsenal B played at home on alternate weekends when the grown ups were away, in their own little stadium. I reckon it’d fill up

  8. LB says:

    My quick view on history.

    Manager manager arrives hungry as ever; Arsene’s brief is to bring success back to THOF (makes sense)

    Sorry for keeping on referring to Chelsea but I think it gives more objectivity. Anyway, the same is true of what has happened this season over there; Sarri has been brought in with the same brief. I don’t believe that anyone thinks for a minute that when Sarri was appointed that he was told to prioritise bringing youth through.

    Of course not, the same is true when Arsene arrived. Arsene then goes on to have great success only Manu are close but we all know who the top dogs really were.

    Right, then Arsene starts getting criticised for having success by only buying foreign and not bringing youth through. You will find flaws in that but that was the criticism at the time.

    Arsene responds to this buys players like Walcott and if you look back you will notice that I think we had the best youth team around Wilshere was in there.

    He then puts too much focus on this and it costs, by contrast, Manu have almost given up on bringing youth through by that time and focus on buying the best players there were in the EPL, reference BSR.

    Even when this gets glaringly obvious he doesn’t stop, the fans don’t help with dumb criticism of the club for not re-signing Wilshere earlier.

    Players like Iwobi are sent out with whats seems like a brief of: go and do your best son.

    We are now up to date and he is sent out and told exactly what to do. I don’t think Emery gives any more priority to youth than anyone else, I don’t see it as a pet project or project youth its just that being more precise is having better results.

    I am riding to Brighton at 9.30 so this has been very hastily written.

  9. mickydidit89 says:

    Interesting LB

    ps maybe just move to Brighton 🙂

  10. LBG says:

    On another topic! Wild, vague rumours this week that other Middle Eastern states interested in buying out Glazers this week.
    Sheikh Fahad, 29 year old member of ruling Al Thani family of Qatar, married to an American wife, is an Arsenal supporter, plays six-a-side in the third division of a League in Newmarket, and is “excited about the post- Arsene Wenger era”.
    Hope we are not going to become another Oilers in the future, although would it be worse than Kroenke?

  11. GunnerN5 says:

    Hi Micky, thanks for the post and opening up the discussion. I posted this comment a week ago on the subject of Iwobi. My personal experience from both playing, coaching and observing is that players mature and improve when they play in the same position.


    GunnerN5 says:
    October 14, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Morning all, thank you for a great read Chas.

    IMHO the main change is that he now (appears) to have a specific position and he’s concentrating on what is needed and instructed. I always found that playing in a set position allowed me to more fully understand my role and improved my teamwork. As the game progressed my knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition also increased.

    Under AW players were expected to interchange positions frequently during the game – which is far more difficult than one might expect.

  12. chas says:

    chavs v mancs was quite good fun.

    chavs could have lost their unbeaten record but a draw was probablty best for us overall

  13. LBG says:

    How good to watch too Clubs with no class, kick chunks out of each other.

  14. chas says:

  15. chas says:

  16. LB says:

    Moving to Germany is looking like an inspired choice.

  17. omgarsenal says:

    I know that Wenger used his youth prospects in multiple positions for two good reasons;

    1) he wanted them to become polyvalent like his transfers often were and,

    2) He often found out which were their best positions, saving him making mistakes when he brought them up to the first team.

    Emery seems to be more focused on developing a positionally secure and hard pressing team and he does have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the midfield and the attack.

  18. chas says:

  19. mickydidit89 says:


    Are you the official expert I was looking for?

    If so, I’d better go look up polyvalent 🙂

  20. mickydidit89 says:

    Mmmm, not bad results yesterday as I reckon if two teams around you drop points it’s a good day ie Utd and Chavs

    4-0 tomorrow and we’re 3rd 🙂

  21. chas says:

    I presume polyvalent means ‘can be shoehorned in anywhere’.

  22. chas says:


  23. mickydidit89 says:

    polyvalent | Definition of polyvalent in English by Oxford Dictionaries

    Definition of polyvalent – having a valency of three or more., active against several toxins or strains of pathogen, having many different functions, forms

    ie shoehorning as you say 🙂

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