David Bentley, Matthew Upson, Fabrice Muamba, Steve Sidwell. What do they all have in common? They were trained at Arsenal and now are at other Premiership clubs. This highlights an issue within Arsenal Football Club. We have arguably the most exciting crop of youngsters in Europe. Youngsters from all over the world are at Arsenal learning their trade. The only problem is that they cannot all make it. This becomes a problem when they decide they will not get a chance. They may want to leave and will end up somewhere else in England or Europe. Other teams benefit from the footballing education we give them and we lose such players.
When we had the problem with width last season, David Bentley was hitting the heights of form with Blackburn and surely would have been in our team if he had the chance. Therefore, is Arsenal more of a finishing school? It does seem that way with past examples. The players mentioned before all learnt at Arsenal and now are elsewhere when maybe they could have had a chance. This was before the group of youngsters reached such a large amount. Surely now we will see more of these players leaving with our education. How many youngsters can get promoted on average per season? Promotion basically involves a regular Carling Cup place. Recently Armand Traore, Kieran Gibbs, Nacer Barazite and Nicklas Bendtner have made the step up. Yet there are plenty of players their age that will not have such luck, so what happens with them? They either go on loan and eventually leave the club to further their careers or are sold much earlier. These players may not be quite good enough to play for Arsenal so it brings up the question as to whether educating these players is worth it or not. There are two sides. The first being the players are not and never will be good enough so there is no harm in losing them.
The second is that the players seem to be getting better and the more there are the more likely they are to hurt us. With Wenger constantly signing such players with the supposed talent I worry that more will gain such talent and we will be forced to sell. Wenger himself claims that the academy players coming through are much better yet he is also signing foreign youngsters. This is creating a squad of youngsters below the first team which is also young. Lots of the first team squad is 23 and under so there will not be too much room in the squad in later years.
Below is a team made up of academy players. ==================Vito Mannone===================== Gavin Hoyte====Paul Rodgers====Havard Nordtveit====Rene Steer ====Mark Randall====Francisco Merida====Henri Lansbury==== =====Rhys Murphy======Carlos Vela=======Jay Simpson=====
Add this to a squad of youngsters in the first team (24 or below currently), and you have a large squad with many not even included.
The team may look like this: =====================Lukasz Fabianski===================== Bakary Sagna====Philippe Senderos====Johan Djourou===Armand Traore Denilson========Cesc Fabregas======Abou Diaby======Kieran Gibbs ==============Theo Walcott====Robin Van Persie===============
These two teams make up 22 players, squads on average are about 25 at most. Therefore what does this mean for the other 15 odd academy players right now. Some will not make it at all but many will have the talent but not the opportunity. My point is that with the standard higher surely we will regret this and other teams will gain quality players from us.
The manager (maybe not Wenger) will sign new players also leaving some players nowhere near the squad. The other argument is that the more players you have, the more selection you have and the more likely you are to get the better players. I understand this because we can select the best players and the others will have learnt well and be granted an opportunity to further careers elsewhere. They wont be able to hurt us as much as we have selected the better players. Look at the record of players who have left young. Matthew Upson is injured and nowhere, Fabrice Muamba is at a relegation battling side and may never get any higher and Steve Sidwell is at Chelsea but by no means a regular. Only David Bentley I would say we could do with now but he left due to problems in London. Like Jermaine Pennant he had drinking problems and the latter even got arrested. Why should Arsenal stick by them once they break their final warnings?
This brings up another point about the English players coming through compared to the foreigners. If players come from abroad they are simply here to learn and get their heads down and concentrate on the football. English players have a very bad reputation for being bad-boys and its not an unfair one. Reports of rape, drink driving and countless affairs are strife. This is because girls are throwing themselves at these young footballers and the youngsters know no better. The temptations are there and it seems the English players dont know how to resist. The ones that do make it, the others find trouble throughout their careers. The current crop I’m sure know any trouble means they are out. So far it seems to be working.
Wenger looks at intelligence in players and Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs are both examples of hard working players who got their heads down and have been rewarded. As for the original debate, I see both sides and will remain on the fence for now and see how it all pans out. One thing is for sure, it will either work brilliant or fail miserably.