Youth Policy: Help Or Hindrance?

Youth Policy: Help Or Hindrance?

What is the point of a youth policy? Why bother when they all leave anyway and all we do is groom superstars for other clubs. We can’t keep our players not the decent ones anyway. Plus it is always next year, the one after the season 5 years from now. I want trophies and the youth policy Wenger has put in place is holding that back, for what? Trophies that never come. I don’t pay my money for this, I pay it to bask in glory and gloat at Trevor the cubicle over when we win stuff,  every year. The failure of this plan is most evident now with the transfer window open, it is too much to take. It is an insult that we don’t at least get informed of what has happened before it happens. Every other team strengthens, well manure did, but they bought kids didn’t they, more muppets with a youth policy. Like that will do them any good, a lost cause from Giggs to Ronaldo. The yids invested though didn’t they, getting better, just like the summer. If they  buy we should buy, it doesn’t matter if no money is there, other teams buy FFS. Look at Leeds, splashed the cash and next season a CL semi-final – it can work! We are the Arsenal,  are supposed to be a big club, so what with all the kids?
I don’t agree with the caricature above by the way. Maybe the cubicle and Leeds bit is pushing the analogy, but it really isn’t far off what many people think. This state of mind is only exacerbated by the open transfer window that indulges wild flights of fancy, very unrealistic wish-lists and produces added vitriol to be tarred on our young squad. But what is wrong with that view above? Clubs do operate to win trophies, certainly at our level, so surely you cannot permanently prioritise the future over the present? I think primarily it is that this view misstates reality and is predicated upon three misconceptions: that very few young players make it through or are good enough early enough, we sell them when we do, and that other big sides are doing things differently.  That and the idea that money equals success, but anyone who cannot see the holes in that logic when stood up against reality just doesn’t want to, so I wont waste my time there.
I read someone “wonder if the boss will ever see that apart from Cesc Fabregas/Clichy has anyone made the grade at Arsenal before they got to 24?” Ignore the clumsy writing, you get the question or point depending on how you read it, “I think the answer is no” was the summation. I had always assumed that people who slagged off this current team as a matter of course and see fifth as a crisis weren’t around pre-Wenger to see what came before. However it appears they actually have no concept of anything before 2004…the season we went undefeated…I suppose the hunters come with the glory.
I am going to be lazy with my research here, so off the top of my head, players under Wenger who have made the grade before the age of 24: Ashley Cole; Toure, U24 when we went unbeaten for gods sake;  Djourou at 22 is a regular now and has solidified the defence; Patrick fucking Vieira, how can you forget his debut; Ljungberg, a debut goal against manure, a regular for seasons, then a double at 24; Henry was a regular U24 then winning his first title at that age; Nicholas Anelka, a wanker yes, but a phenom as a youth. On top of these clear cut cases you can add Senderos and Eboue, yes they tailed away, ironically being best as kids, but both were U24 when they formed half the defence that took Arsenal to its first CL final setting a record for most consecutive minutes without conceding. Nasri looks pretty good to, at 21 and in his first season of English football. Walcott is 19 and already hugely influential and a first choice player. RVP would make  that list but for his injuries the last 2 years, bought the same summer as Rooney for £27.5 mil less he is just a year older and now fit showing he is just as good.  That is all minus Cesc and Clichy of course.
It is simply farcical to suggest that the Arsenal academy has been unproductive in the last few years. Just make a list of the players in the PL who were trained at Arsenal and now play regularly elsewhere, we DO produce a huge amount of talent. By signing players at young ages, either as teens or in their early twenties, we HAVE created world class players.  But why operate on this long term method, why develop an RVP and not purchase a Wayne Rooney? In recent years the obvious reason has been that the stadium has necessarily drained funds, but this is not the sole reason. By getting players younger and letting them develop together you can produce a more coherent team, players who fight for one another, and a squad that is loyal to the club that made them and educated in its style and traditions.  For years certain teams have tried to buy success and invariably failed when money is not combined with any greater strategic planning.  Totters, Inter through the 1990’s, Athletico Madrid, Leeds famously,  Newcastle – the list is long.
But what happens when these flash Harrys, all cash and no hardware, come knocking on our door? The suggestion that we are a selling club bears no resemblance to reality. Since wenger has been at Arsenal only Anelka, Cole, and Hleb have managed to engineer moves away when we didn’t want to sell and each of those deals hinged on the players desire to leave, not the clout of the buying club.  (Petit and Overmars is a grey area) Flamini left on a free because we refused him a contract extension the summer before, a mistake probably,  but not us having our top talent lured away. Wenger fought for years to resist being a selling club, fending off interest in Vieira and Henry year after year until he was ready to sell. There aren’t many cases of our boys going on to help out other clubs in a big way, not at the top level anyway.  In light of this, whilst it may well be the case that Cesc would want to go home at some stage, history would suggest we should  be more robust in our optimism.
Finally, the belief that what Arsenal is doing is a unique occurrence across Europe is wrong. Other clubs are not disregarding youth in favour of outlandish spending to create success, in fact the opposite: the most successful club sides are intimately associated with a history of excellent youth academies. We have certainly put more faith in our kids than most do at present, but this is not entirely unfounded.  As mentioned above, the stadium has drained finances so it was pragmatic within the constraints of the business, but not a concession that has greatly diminished our quality. In addition to this, it is harder to acquire top level talent from elsewhere, especially as we don’t have 20/30 mil to drop on one player. Clubs all over the world are permanently scouring the globe for the next big thing, this should be obvious to all, we are simply at the forefront of this in terms of success. Once a player establishes himself at one of Europe’s biggest sides he is hard to acquire, so clubs are looking to pick the players up younger.  Everyone wants the next Messi or Fabregas, but they can’t be got once the name is made.
We are following the ideal type for a well run modern club, financially self sustainable, excellent domestic academy that is just starting to produce the first graduates completely schooled in Wenger’s methods, and a global scouting network that is the envy of everyone else. To build a truly great team, to honestly respect the standards Wenger has introduced to this club, is not necessarily to try and buy single pots. We are looking for genius, a dynasty, so that the players we produce now will become synonymous with the club for the rest of its history. As much as I hate to say it, like Fergies batch, or Maldini is seen at Milan, or perhaps Raul, Guti, Hierro were at Madrid. Su re every club needs to add things someti mes and I hope we still do this transfer window, but that must coexist with a stable foundation of loyal, internally educated players who share a common goal. Wanting us to sign more players is one thing, but to arrive at a point where we  resent or are sceptical about our entire youth system is lunacy. It is a brilliant thing, the envy of Europe, and what will make this club the best in Europe very soon.
 

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