Monday, 29 August 2011

Young, Talented, and Hungry for Titles

From the title, most you would've had 'Arsenal' on the top of your heads. But no, the team I'm actually referring it to is Manchester United.
Pic 1. Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal
How could this all come to this? United the other day just outclassed Arsenal with an 8-2 scoreline. You would argue that Arsenal were playing with a young team if this was 2007, but its 2011. They are not actually "kids" anymore and United were playing a relatively young team as well.

Lets go back to the beginning, shall we?
Pic 2. Arsenal 2003/2004
Arsenal has just won their 13th League title in 2004 after going the whole season unbeaten. The team had the likes of Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, and Dennis Bergkamp. After seeing how successful his "Invincibles" was, Wenger decided to take a whole different approach and start developing youth with the old players slowly being removed from the team.

Wenger started this project in 2004 as he signed young players from other teams such as Gael Clichy, Jose Reyes, Johan Djourou, Phillipe Senderos, and most notable a young Catalan in Francesc Fabregas. During that period as well, he started developing players from his own academy like Sebastian Larsson, David Bentley and Justin Hoyte.

Wenger believed that if he sticked to young players for a course of at least 5 seasons, these players would become amazing and will be legends for Arsenal. He believed this young team will learn by experience and will one day win most of the trophies there is to be won. In other words, Wenger wanted to build his version of another "Invincibles".

Fastforward to August 2011. What has happened? The only silverware they have won was an FA Cup in 2005 with most of their older players in the team. They did though come close to a Champions League in 2006 only being beaten by Barcelona 2-1 in the final. But besides that, they havent won anything after that.

You could argue thats because Arsenal used a young team, but its 2011 now. 7 years of first team experience should've at least bring back 1 medal. And all those 18 year olds are now 25. Not so young now, are they?

Where did all those young players mentioned above go?
Pic 3. Johan Djorou and Phillipe Senderos
Gael Clichy is now an established leftback for France, but he moved to oil kings Manchester City earlier this season. Jose Reyes never lived up to his potential at Arsenal, but now he is a regular starter for Atletico Madrid. Johan Djorou is still at Arsenal, while his Swiss compatriot Phillipe Senderos went to Milan on loan once but now is at Fulham.

David Bentley, who was once touted as "The Next David Beckham", is now struggling to get a game at a packed midfield in Tottenham Hotspur. Justin Hoyte had a nice run at Arsenal but now is playing in England's 2nd tier with Middlesbrough, and Sebastian Larsson now shows up each week for Sunderland.

Pic 4. Francesc Fabregas
The best of the 2004 and 2005 signings was Cesc Fabregas. He eventually became Arsenal's captain and star player. But the lure of coming back to his boyhood club Barcelona was to big to handle, he eventually moved and Arsenal is now without a leader.

Lets rewind it a little, shall we? Lets say... February 2011? Arsenal was challenging for the 4 major trophies and looked likely to win at least one of them. It looked like the "Wenger project" was about to pay off, but it all came to an abrupt end.

Arsenal failed to win the Carling Cup after a mixup between young Goallie Wojciech Szczesny and young defender Laurent Koscielny allowed Obafemi Martins to slot in the winner for Birmingham in 2nd half injury time. Inexperience in finals showed for both players and blew it for Wenger because he knew that this cup was the most realistic one to win.
Pic 5. The probable nature of the Mixup (
By March 2011, after winning against a strong Barcelona in the 1st leg, they eventually got knocked out of the Champions League, and Arsenal got taught a lesson by a weird looking Manchester United line-up in the FA Cup. By the end of the season, Arsenal finished 4th in the Barclays Premier League and ended up with no trophies. Stars players such as Fabregas, Clichy, and Samir Nasri switched clubs at the end of the season. Fabregas moved to fullfil his dream, Clichy moved because he wanted to win stuff, while Nasri moved for the money.

Where did it all go wrong?
It wasn't wrong to trust on the kids, but Arsene was just to cheap to invest. He had tons of money from the sales of Henry, Reyes, Vieira, even from the sales of Kolo Toure and Adebayor (not to mention money from Arsenal's own bank), yet he only used small portions of them. He did though bring in quality players like Andrei Arshavin, Eduardo, Samir Nasri, and the recent signing of Gervinho, but they are no where near the "Invicibles". Also, Wenger has refused to spend heavily on Blackburn defender Phil Jones and ended up signing unproven Charlton's half-Finn defender Carl Jenkinson.
Pic 6. Kolo Toure & Emmanuel Adebayor at ManCity
Also, Wenger has always been unkeen to invest in positions he knew needed improving. Everyone knew they needed a new goalkeeper when Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski keep fumbling balls. He got lucky when he struck gold with Szczesny which he had to use because both Almunia and Fabianski were injured, but reinforcements is well needed in defence and in midfield, which until now Wenger hasn't bought anyone.

Is there any bright light?
Pic 7. Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott
Of course there is. Alongside *slighty* veteran Robin van Persie, there is much promise in Theo Walcott who seems to be the real deal now. Thomas Vermaelen is one of the best defenders in the league, while Tomas Rosicky will add experience. "Handsome" Bacary Sagna is also France's best rightback and he will add consistency.
Pic 8. Kieran Gibbs, Henri Lansbury, Jack Wilshere
Arsenal also have a new wave of exciting youngsters in the form of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury, Kieran Gibbs, and Wojciech Szczesny. Add these players  with the players I mentioned in the paragraph above, its not actually that bad of a team. Besides, this club has always played beautiful football, so even without their star players, it's an enjoyable team to watch.

What should Wenger do now? and who to buy?
Despite yesterday's horrific defensive display against ManUtd, Arsene is closing in on Korean Park ChuYoung, which is a striker. Personally, I think they are already stocked up front and scoring twice against a strong United defense yesterday seems to me look like a strong enough attack.

What they really need is cover in defense. With Vermaelen, Gibbs, and Sagna injured yesterday, they conceded 8 from United. It could've been more if United took their chances and Szczesny saving a couple of other shots. Carl Jenkinson simply isn't good enough yet, while Koscielny and Djourou needs more coordination. They need someone who has been consistent in defence and has the ability to cut it at a big team like Arsenal. Presumably English. 3 names though come to mind: Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, and Michael Dawson. The latter might not want to move because he's at rivals Tottenham, while Jagielka stated hes more than happy to stay at Everton. Gary Cahill was offered £6M by Wenger but Bolton refused because it was too low of an offer. Wenger of course being the cheap Frenchman that he is thought he could sign him that much.
Pic 9. Gary Cahill
With more or less £70M in the pocket for transfers, he of course needs someone to replace both Nasri and Fabregas and he needs to spend fast. He needs someone who can lead from the middle and another one who has flair to ignite the whole team. Age not a factor this time. Sadly the only ones that come to mind are Scott Parker, Yoann Gourcuff, Wesley Sneijder, and Juan Mata. The latter just moved to Chelsea and scoring on his debut, while Sneijder's situation is more like "move to Manchester United or no move at all" type. Yoann Gourcuff would cost a lot, while Arsene will not like to gamble on someone like Scott Parker. Wenger might just stick with the players he has, but most of his players are prone to injuries so he obviously needs more bodies in the team.

Arsenal needs to be more patient and needs to minimalise injuries. Having said that, even a blind man can see that Arsenal needs more players in the squad, and hopefully signings that changes the whole squad to become better. It is alright to put faith on youth, but be sure to also put faith on winning. After all, this is Arsenal right?

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