Manuel Pellegrini has said that for his game against Chelsea today he will be using some of the youngsters in his squad, as he is running out of players.
How could that be?
Now of course Arsenal used some youngsters yesterday, most notably with Iwobi getting a run out along with Chambers. But the Man City scenario is different. They were not talking about trying out one of their superstars of the future, but of using younger players with limited experience… because they had to.
For us, Iowbi, like Jeff Reine Adelaide and Gedeon Zelalem could well be a significant part of the Arsenal scenario in the near future, but they are each at different moments in their trajectory. Zelalem is battling it out in the aggressive “be a man” world of the Scottish Championship playing for Rangers – his loan extended for the whole season. Jeff has done his bench sitting time, and is playing for France under 18s and for various Arsenal youth teams in different competitions.
But Man City are not thinking along these lines. As the Man City manager said,
“We always like to put out a strong team in all competitions and my priority is always the next game. But maybe this time will be an exception. There are some moments when you have to make an intelligent decision about what is best for the team. Getting the team selection right for this match has given me a big problem. It would not have been quite so difficult had we been able to play on the Saturday. We told the fans one week ago that we are going to play with a young team. That’s all we can do, I hope they understand. If they choose not to pay for the ticket because it is not a real game any longer I understand that too.”
Obviously Man City want to get into the last eight of the Champs League for the first time ever, so they are emphasising that. But even so to be short of players seems a bit odd for a club with this much money.
So what sort of a squad have Man City ended up with? They play with the same regulations as everyone else of course, which means a “25” squad with a range of home grown players, and as many under 21s as they want. Here’s the main squad.
|1. Joe Hart||Goalkeeper||255||0||HG|
|3. Bacary Sagna||Defender||31||0|
|4. Vincent Kompany||Defender||216||13|
|5. Pablo Zabaleta||Defender||202||8|
|8. Samir Nasri||Midfielder||123||17|
|10. Sergio Agüero||Forward||139||92|
|11. Aleksandar Kolarov||Defender||129||9|
|13. Willy Caballero||Goalkeeper||4||0|
|14. Wilfried Bony||Forward||27||6|
|15. Jesús Navas||Midfielder||87||4|
|17. Kevin De Bruyne||Midfielder||19||5|
|18. Fabian Delph||Midfielder||12||2||HG|
|20. Eliaquim Mangala||Defender||39||0|
|21. David Silva||Midfielder||180||35|
|22. Gaël Clichy||Defender||105||1||HG|
|26. Martín Demichelis||Defender||75||3|
|29. Richard Wright||Goalkeeper||0||0||HG|
|30. Nicolás Otamendi||Defender||20||1|
|42. Yaya Touré||Midfielder||187||56|
|75. Aleix García||Midfielder||0||0|
That is interesting – just 22 players. But on the other hand most clubs with the option of having 25 players have fewer than 25. Arsenal have just 23 players listed, but eight of them are home grown which means we have no problem signing anyone of any nationality. But as we see above in relation to Man C in their desperation for world dominance they have only procured three HGs.
Man City also have Sterling, Celina and Iheanacho from their under 21 group who have played in the first team – although I don’t think Celina has made a major impact as yet – but it is early days.
So it looks as if any shortage of players for Man City is down to the fact that they get a lot of injuries and they have not fully prepared themselves in terms of building a big squad with lots of HGs in it.
It also raises the question about just how good the under 21s are. Arsenal’s list of active under 21s is Chambers, Bellerin, Iwobi. With Jeff and Zelalem behind. Quite powerful and with a significant potential.
Which in turn raises the question, just how good is Iwobi?
That young lad-about-town Jonathan Liew of whom I have spoken before, has been seen lurking around the Emirates of late and has even written a piece on Iwobi – having previously written a very sarcastic item about Arsenal supporters and Jeff RA.
Surprisingly, on Iwobi JL asks the question about how good he is and answers, “He may still be better known as Jay-Jay Okocha’s nephew, and he may still be waiting for his first Premier League start, but this was another impressive showing from the rapidly improving 19-year-old playmaker. He put a couple of shots just wide, kept possession well and found space better than anyone else in Arsenal’s front six.
“Not to burden the bloke with expectation, but does anybody else see something of a proto-Mesut Özil in Iwobi? He’s one of those players you never quite notice is there until he’s there. At times he looks almost detached from the game: drifting, strolling, but somehow always in the right place, always in space. He’s got excellent balance, a sure first touch and when he sticks those bony elbows out, he’s nigh-on impossible to dispossess.
“The point when Iwobi is a seriously [sic] challenger for the No10 role is obviously some years off. But probably not as long as you think. One of the less obvious benefits of having Özil about the place is that his mere presence can inspire improvement in younger players. He doesn’t just do: he teaches. Joel Campbell, too, has improved his touch and vision immeasurably in the last six to 12 months.”
Now by chance, by and large I agree with the young Telegraphian and it strikes me that this is one of the differences between Arsenal and Man C and what makes the two clubs so instantly separable. Arsenal under Mr Wenger have always continued their search for brilliant raw talent – and aside from the above we haven’t even touched on Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Chuba Akpom, Martinez, Jon Toral, and Wellington Silva.
When watching the youngsters it is not a case of seeing whether they are good enough or not to play for the first team, but whether they are on the journey that could lead to that.
For all the billions spent on the club, it seems Man City are not yet producing off-spring that can do it. We’ve been doing it for years.
- 21 February 1933: Daily Mirror reported the “sensation” of Arsenal’s new strip. Although the club had changed its strip regularly in the early days this became a big news story because of Arsenal’s success in the last three years
- 21 February 1964: Defender Laurie Brown was sold to Tottenham – he played against Arsenal the following day – but amazingly was put into the team as Tottenham’s centre forward.
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