Date:Wednesday September 3 2008
Arsene Wenger is, without question, a pioneer when it comes to developing young footballers. No other manager in the game has the same ability to spot and nurture talent to quite the same extent. You could argue that Ferguson has done the same over the years at Manchester United, and that may have been true in the Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Neville era, but it certainly is not the case now.
Almunia/ Sagna/ Toure/ Gallas/ Clichy/ Nasri/ Cesc/ Denilson/ Rosicky/ Adebayor/ RVP
That team is arguably our strongest XI for this season; and of that XI only Gallas, Rosicky and possibly Nasri can be classed as having been top class, joining us as well known world players. The rest are all products of the scouting system that Wenger has developed during his time at Arsenal. Players that today would walk into most sides in the world.
Van Der Sar/ Neville/ Ferdinand/ Vidic/ Evra/ Hargeaves/ Carrick/ Ronaldo/ Rooney/ Tevez/Berbatov
In comparison, how many of the current Manchester United team can be classed as having been 'discovered' by Ferguson? Only Gary Neville, every other player has had big money paid out for them, and all of them were global superstars when they arrived.
It's clear that Arsenal and Manchester United have very different policies when it comes to building a team. Manchester United have undeniably more spending power than Arsenal have had over the last few years, and as a result they have been able to build a squad of superstars who will challenge for all competitions this season. Arsenal on the other hand have spent less money on their team than United did on Rooney and Berbatov, and yet are expected to challenge on the same level. By spotting their talent young, and then moulding them into the type of player that they want Arsenal and Wenger have managed to put together a side that is only going to improve with time. Every player in that team, with the exception of Gallas and Rosicky, has yet to hit their peak. Experienced players have slowly been weaned out over the last few years and been replaced by a younger model. Henry with Adebayor, Vieira with Fabregas, Adams with Toure, etc. Any player deemed to be past his prime is cut out of the fold.
The problem is where does this end? The squad has been getting younger and younger every year, and one begins to grow concerned as to when this process will end. How long can we keep going making ourselves younger?
Wenger takes great joy in seeing players that he discovers becoming superstars. Is the joy he takes from discovering a star greater than that he gets from winning the Premiership? Will his pride stop him ever getting a side together that will stay together for some years and grow into something truly special? I don't think it will, but it does seem to be the concern of many Arsenal fans at the moment.
Our current squad is only going to get better. That is a fact. If the current crop of players really want it, and develop as well as they are doing currently I think we will see something very, very special. Not just a few titles and maybe a Champions League, but I think this team could become one of the all time great sides. But only with patience - and faith.
Fans are getting impatient and think that Wenger won't ever let the cycle stop, will continue to replace players with younger ones, until we have a nursery on the pitch. Many are asking for his head if we don't win something this season. Looking for the short term fix if you will. Maybe Alonso was that short term fix on transfer deadline day?
In the short term it does appear that Wenger has allowed his pride to halt the progress of the club...but in the long run it looks as if he's ensured big, big things for this team and our club. If this team is supported and believed in they will produce great football for a long, long time. Although this season may be to early for the team (we'll see if that's the case in 10months) is it worth jeopardising the chance of dominating European football, something that this squad have the chance to do over the next 5-10 years, just for the sake of one title this season?
I think not.
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Date:Wednesday September 3 2008
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