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The Philosophy of Wenger: the approach to transfers

by Tony Attwood

Arsenal, in terms of any player of any age, who is thinking of getting a transfer, has a number of attractions.  One is obviously Arsène Wenger, who is so highly regarded worldwide as a coach.  Another is the training facilities.  Another is the ground.  Then there’s the year after year of Champions League activity.

It is quite a heady mixture and out of all of this comes something rather important. You can get some of these things elsewhere (Man IOU has a manager of high repute, for example) although in other areas our rivals struggle (few clubs can match the training facilities and the Emirates).

Players tend to believe that they will become better players while they are at Arsenal.

The basis of this belief is, of course, the vast number of little known or underachieving players, plus players who have never made it to their highest potential, who suddenly turn out to be masters of the art of football.  We all know the list, from Vieira and Henry to Cesc and Van Persie.

This heritage gives Arsenal a huge kick start when they start to negotiate with a new potential player.  Of course there are those who will argue about Arsenal’s credibility having suffered of late through the trophy winning exploits of the KGB in Fulham and Manchester IOU, and no doubt such players will not have any concerns about the financial stability of those clubs.

And of course players want to win medals.  But they also want to have a chance to do their thing and become great players – and many are sensible enough to recognise that this tends to happen more at Arsenal than elsewhere.  Even the dope-heads who fall out with the club and leave for massively inflated prices (I think of course of Cole and Adebayor).  And as for those tempted away by the promise of more, the grass can often turn out to have a rather yellowish complexion when they arrive at the new ground (as Hleb, Flamini have found.)

Indeed there is nothing like being heralded as the great new boy, and then finding one can’t get a game, to make one realise that life is not quite a bowl of round red fruit.

At the youth level I have heard it said by those in the know that Arsenal now has its pick of the bunch (within the restrictions laid down by EU labour laws and FA recruitment regulations).  Some come in at a very early age (Jack Wilshere) some a little later (Cesc, Ramsey) – but all of them come to be developed, and developed they are.

Recently Mr Wenger himself gave a list of some of the talent he has developed, restricting himself to players who joined at an early age.  Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos were in the list.  We might not always have them at the top of our list of great Arsenal players, but Djourou is coming back from a year out and Senderos is captain of his country. They are not to be dismissed.

To these he added those we can all agree on Gaël Clichy, Kieran Gibbs, Cesc Fábregas, Alexandre Song, Abou Diaby.

But it can be argued that Manchester IOU have developed Giggs, Beckham,  Scholes, Butt, Neville and Neville.  And that really makes the point rather than contradicting it.  My Arsenal list above is current.  But there is no contemporary Manchester equivalent.  As Wenger mentioned in his discussions on the subject, if we are going back that far in time to bring in Beckham et al, you need to include Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry and Lilian Thuram at Monaco.  And more.

Which brings me to my point.  Which other club has, over the past five years seen the development of such a group of young players?  (Remembering I haven’t even got to Vela, Walcott, Bendtner, Denilson, Eboue).

If you have read my ramblings over the past year or two you’ll know I have endlessly raved about the way the youth team is coming through, and the great talent we have.  From Afobe to Eneke, Coquelin to Cruise, Eastmond to JET, Freeman to Lansbury (actually Lansbury really ought to be in the top group, alongside Jack Wilshere), and most recently Sunu and Miquel.  And below them another lot.  True, as I mentioned yesterday, we have had a slow start this season, but that does not make the argument invalid.

Oh and there’s Wellington Silva too.  I almost forgot.

Yet sometimes when I write the occasional piece in which I wander through this list of players I hear complaints that all that has happened is that these players have been brought in.  “Cesc was not developed by Arsenal, but by Barca” comes the complaint.  Suddenly the argument is changed and the only players we can count are those who joined not at 16 or 17, but at 13, or 11, or even 9.

But that is not how it goes.   We are only allowed to sign up under 16s from a very restricted geographic area, and yet we are competing as one of the top teams in the world.  It is not viable to find that many brilliant youngsters just in the local region.

Which is why the reputation counts for everything.  We need this constant development of the greatest youth system that the world has ever seen, taking in both 9 year olds and 17 year olds who have started elsewhere because they are not allowed to start in London.  And we need our reputation as the place that will turn these guys into even better players.

And that’s what we’ve got, thanks entirely to one person.

The Philosophy of Wenger: the approach to transfers

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32 comments to The Philosophy of Wenger: the approach to transfers

  • naveen

    ok this is gonna be off the topic but i would like to know more about this new belgian guy romelu lukaku?
    who is he ???

    p.s–> pardon my ignorance 🙂

  • Phil

    Good article Tony. With the stand-out stars like Lukaku on the move in the near future, our reputation is going to be hugely advantageous.

  • udehsam

    u’re spot on.

  • Terence McGovern

    What alot of our support fail to realise is that this mind-bogglingly successful youth system of ours, will not just generate players for Arsenal but for most of the league as well.

    We are slowly but surely becoming the nation’s academy. The players that do not make it into the first team despite being very good are sold on at a sizeable profit not just once but usually twice. Arsenal have a standard sell on clause that they put in.
    For example when we sold David Bentley to Blackburn for an undisclosed fee, many fan were disappointed as they felt that a rare English player of some skill was being let go for not alot of money in relative terms. They had a point it could be argued, until he was sold on to Sp*rs for £15 million of which Arsenal received half. Cha….Ching!

    Lassana Diarra was bought from Chelsea, exhibited petulance and after many tantrums was sold to portsmouth for about 31 million more than arsenal had paid for him. A year or so later he was sold on to Real Madrid for £20 million, triggereing a sell on clause in the deal that saw him move from Arsenal. Yet again Arsenal pocketed a vast chunk of change.

    My point is that EVERY one of these lads that is sold on from trhe youth system to other clubs has a similar sell on clause. Arsenal do not overcharge other clubs for them so moving on the players is initially quite easy. The buying clubs get a good deal on the cost of the player in exchange for sharing the proceeds if they sell on the player to another club.

    This has already generated tens of millions for Arsenal in recent years, but as the youth system is ramped up in terms of numberrs that it produces, it will become a vast cash cow for the club over the next decade.

    All the vision of one man.
    Arsene Wenger. The most forward thinking manager in the history of football.

  • Terence McGovern

    Aw CRAP!! That is £1 million in the above comment NOT 31 million.
    (Note to self. Stop doing 3 things at once!)

  • Edmond Dantes

    Arsene Wenger is GOD

  • Dan Tree

    I just remembered that a year or so ago I read that Arsenal had just signed Bolivian ‘wonderkid’ Samuel Galindo. Apart from the initial news of the signing I haven’t heard anything about him. Does anybody know what has happened to him? Where is he? Did he go on loan or is he injured?

  • insideright

    It’s probably worth noting that next year is the 40th anniversary of the first ‘double’ and that to was a team that was largely homegrown with just a smattering of ‘expensive’ imports.
    Arsenals policy has always been the same – what has changed has been the much wider geographical source of players. One man’s vision is of benefit to so many.

  • Bryn

    Edmond Dantes:
    Well he used to be the god of the 3rd or 4th places. This season he may wellbe the god of the 6th place. We have got a crap back 4 and a midfield only interested in their pay cheques. AW has in recent times displayed the tactical know-how of a raging dunce.

  • Dan Tree

    Naveen.
    I haven’t seen too much about Romelu Lakaku. Arsenal have supposedly had an offer of £12.9 million accepted for him. (I don’t know if this is official and I assume the figure is speculation) He’s 17 and according to Wikipedia he managed to score 206 goals in 1 season against players 4 years older than him. He averaged more than a goal a game in his youth career and has averaged just under a goal every 2 games for Anderlecht since signing professional terms. He is 6ft 3 and has been hailed as the next Drogba. I just hope he’s not as as petulant.

  • Dan Tree: Re Galindo. He was loaned to UD Salamanca at the start of the 2010-11 season. He doesn’t have an EU passport and so needs to do the Spain thing, get dual nationality, and then come back.

    I always think this is a good move, because these guys generally get more experience of competitive football that way.

  • Enos

    good stuff man

  • Bryn: Love your comment – and all those we get like it. There I am trying to construct a little article of 800 words or so, trying to pull together a theory, mix it up with some practical examples, so real life illustration and so forth.

    And you say “AW has in recent times displayed the tactical know-how of a raging dunce.” No exploration of the theme, no theory, no illustration, no exploration of the alternatives taking into account the issues relating to injuries, transfers or anything else.

    Brilliant

  • Bryn

    You cannot always look to get a bargain basement purchase in trying to resolve a positional issue in the team. While the youth policy is great. You cannot make up a whole team through youth development. Smart additions of creative, mature and efficient players is a neccessary prerequisite for success. Sadly AW’s additions in the defence have neither been efficient nor creative.

  • Bryn

    Tony:
    I know that you have analytical responsibilities as the author of the post. I have no such encumbrances, other than to say it as I see it. The propensity of our team to injury is well known and documented. Why has this not been addressed?

  • Punter’s Hero (a web site) posted this at around 10am today

    Reports claim that Anderlecht have finally agreed to seel highly rated teenager Romelu Lukaku to Arsenal.The 17 year old has been linked with a host of top clubs such as Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona since breaking into the Anderlecht first team in 2009.

    Lukaku has been hailed as the next Drogba as was even snapped at Stamford Bridge wearing a Chelsea shirt earlier this year.

    It now seems Arsenal have signed the striker for a reporters £12.5m.

    — Other sites are starting to pick this up, and the Daily Mail has run something like this (which probably means he is going to Andorra). General summary of commentary is that he is going to Chelsea / Real Mad / Barca / Inter / AC / Arsenal.

    Who knows. But if we do get him I shall go back, edit this post, and claim you read it here first. If we don’t I shall point out that I said it was very unlikely.

  • Bryn

    Tony: Excellent news, but he is probably too young to make a contribution to our present situation. Definitely one for the near future.

  • indian_gunner

    @ Bryn : for starters it would help to put things in a better perspective.A manager who’s been around for 14 long long years deserves if i may say, if not more respect atleast a better bashing . Merely saying one line don’t really justifies it does it?

    You can say all that might pleases you 😉 but you have to back them up with some solid theory. I have seen so many of those who call WENGER a dunce, obdurate old man and blah blah. kindly you back your “As you see it ” vision with as we are not as privileged as thee

  • waleed

    Bryn, Wenger is a very tactically astute manager. But obviously when you lose a game (or don’t win the title) people think something or the other is wrong with your tactics. I don’t think the tactics can be blamed when injuries and other factors have played a much larger role.

    As for the injuries, steps have been taken to improve our players’ fitness (such as the GPS thing) but there’s only so much you can do in terms of signing players.
    You can only have a squad of 25, remember.
    If the “youth policy is great,” you must agree that the young players need a chance, so that also limits the players you can sign.
    Then you have to consider the happiness of the players. Too many players just warming the bench for most of the season isn’t good for them or for the team.
    All of this apart from the obvious financial constraint of buying top class players that we need.

    We have added Chamakh to our already growing squad. Wilshere can be considered a new addition. A couple of seasons ago we would win any games without Fabregas and RvP out, now even the reserves are capable of matching Chelsea at their ground.

    If you’re looking for an instant buy-5-players-now solution it’s never going to happen (because it’s not practical or feasible I imagine). But our strength in depth is increasing gradually, and the youth policy is a big part of that.

  • Murad

    Tony, we often fail to allow for a learning curve in football, surely there are areas of improvement that AW is working on – i mean little things in diet and training routines etc.

    this is an unprecedented project that Arsenal took. I am trying to say that this is only the first batch coming through. `Surely AW and co. will we learning and improving upon things every year…

  • Terence McGovern

    Hey Bryn!
    Wherever you go….there you are!

    see I can do it too. Short, sweet, opinionated and equally pointless.

    To do list.

    Tell players to stop getting injured.
    Put special anti-injury medicine in player’s food.
    Change the fuse in the anti-injury machine.
    Only buy players that are injury proof(That wolverine chap looks useful)
    Write to Fifa asking if they wouldn’t mind if we withheld all our players from their International commitments.
    Ask Bryn about his magic ideas for solving an injury crisis
    because he is obviously an authority on the subject with clearly defined, practical solutions that can be implimented with immediate effect…..oh wait no ….He is just another malcontented fking tard who spouts aphoristic complaints on the internet.

  • Dark Prince

    Hey guys, Wikipedia is showing Romelu lukaku as a player currently playing of Arsenal!! Hmmmm… 🙂

  • Just checked DP and Wiki has indeed changed today, but of course that might well be that someone has read this site, and then nipped onto Wiki and changed it. As of 1618 BST Wiki is showing this on the young man’s page

    As of October 12th 2010, latest rumours suggest that a deal has been agreed for the player to join Arsenal F.C.[9]
    That then leads to http://www.caughtoffside.com/2010/10/11/arsenal-win-race-to-sign-12-5m-goal-machine but if you go there you will see that their headline about him going to Arsenal ends with a question mark.

    Maybe.
    Maybe not

  • Dark Prince

    Tony- yeah, they have changed it back i suppose. When i checked it an hour ago, they showed in the current club column as Arsenal and the start of his bio was written as ‘a belgian striker currently playing for Arsenal’. Just checked it now and found out that they changed it. Now its written at the end as ‘rumoured to have joined Arsenal’. Grrrr…

  • Paul C.

    Bryn – you say we need “Smart additions of creative, mature and efficient players (as) a neccessary prerequisite for success”.

    So what about Nasri, Arshavin, Vermaelen, Chamakh, Koscielny and Squillaci? That is six new additions to the squad (not even counting Ramsey and Wilshire) in the past 2 years, most of them starters. How many new players do you want? Building a squad is a long-term process unless you have silly money to do it all at once. We spent 60m on those players (and got Chamakh for free – great business!!!) so you can hardly say we are not spending money. That is a lot of money, for anyone. Nobody except City has outspent us by much in the past two years.

  • Fedda

    Anyone can change something on wiki and caughtoffside is hardly known for good sources 🙂

    Lukaku is on professional terms with Anderlecht, don’t we have to wait until January to buy him?

  • Dark Prince

    I thought we can agree on a deal for a players anytime during the season, only the actual transfer has to happen during the transfer periods. Can anyone confirm this??

  • Bryn

    Paul C:Even with the addition of thse players our back-four have been embarassingly exposed in matches with denecious teams. Nasri as done well for us in the most part, in some instances he has been known to drift out of matches and fade badly. With regard to Koscielny, I am hoping that we have not seen the bext of him as he is easily knocked off the ball. I love Ashervin, but I feel that he could be a little more consistent. Vermaelen has in the past tended to be too attack minded, therefore ignoring his defensive duties. Chamakh on the other hand has slotted in nicely. I am hoping of great things from him in the future. These are all good players and I am anxious for them to succeed.

    In all seriousness though, the route through which most of these players have come to Arsenal is nothing short of a miracle. If any of the big boys had said ehh? we would have folded like the proverbial shrinking violet. This does not inspire confidence.

  • Paul C.

    Bryn – your post makes makes absolutely no sense. Sorry. You’ve lost me completely. We are obviously not watching the same games, nor have we learned the same language at school.

  • naveen

    dan tree:thanks dude..
    well since i know this much more about this guy..i really hope that he would become the next drogba..its about time we get someone like that lol

  • Bryn

    Gush, I was never much the one for school, my language was learnt on the streets. And what’s more, I have never really had to explain its nuances. You are perfectly entittled to choose what makes sence to you, just as you would agree I am.

  • Ayoola

    @tony, indian_gunner, Waleed, Terence McGovern, Paul C.

    If I may say something, When you say we have made so much money and trained so many players and what not, what exactly does The Arsenal stand for? Why are we a Football Club. It is based on this that I will gladly give you statistics and analytical derivations that you crave.