Was Arsène Right?

October 20, 2018

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?

mickydidit89

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Should AFC follow the Chelsea model?

October 12, 2018

LB recently wrote (briefly) about the efficiency of the Chelsea model i.e. buying every youngster from anywhere, lending them out all over Europe, and not using their Academy to develop players.

Arsenal, however, choose to take a different path; bringing young players through the ranks at the Hale End Academy with the intention of giving youth a chance. So far we have some exciting players who have come through – Smith Rowe (Lab), Iwobi, Nketiah, Nelson and Maitland-Niles (Cons) have all been with the club since childhood. Add in Catwalk who arrived as a 16 year-old and we can see this appears to work.

But will it bring us the Title?

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The Chavs sign world class players as men and they have delivered the PL. Does it matter that they are mercenaries with no Chelsea connection? There is no JT or Butch Wilkins. Even the very best of their imported youth doesn’t get a sniff (Christensen the Danish CB is a wonderful player – are you listening Unai?)

Man City are hoovering up the best of the World’s academy players and lending them out but I expect City to use some of these Wonderkids, and they have promoted Foden into the first team squad which is good for Ingerlund and City. However, it does not stop them from having €30m+ players in every position.

Liverpool are interesting. €70m+ for a CB and Gk, shitloads on strikers and MF’s yet 3 players from the yoof and lower leagues in defence. But they have spent hundreds of millions to get where they are and have yet to win any silverware.

Spurs? Who cares?

In my opinion, the days of a club winning the PL with homegrowns is well gone. We must hope that the mix of Academy players plus World Class imports like Terrier, PEA and Laca brought in, will bring us a title. Though sadly, I doubt it.

written by Big Raddy


Ok, your turn. Be Arsene – How do you play the rest of the season?

March 3, 2018

Obviously, full focus on The Europa.

Moi? I’d use the league games to discover who I wanted in next season’s first team squad so that I knew exactly who would be surplus to requirements before the summer window opens.

I’d want to see more action from Iwobi, M-N, Nelson and Nketiah.

Out of those, I reckon it’s time to really nail down M-N’s ideal position

Finally, that brings me to a dedicated Holding Midfielder/DM. Do we have one?

Written by MickyDidIt89


If Maitland-Niles is the answer….what the hell is the question?

January 16, 2018

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