Arsenal’s Silva Lining IS Arsene Wenger

Looking forward to Wellington Silva

By Jonathan Neale

It never pays to get too excited about tomorrows prospects too quickly.  History tells us that for every Paul Scholes there is a Steve Sidwell and for every Cesc Fabregas an Arturo Lupoli.  Part of Wenger’s genius has been his attempt to make the process of selecting youth’s from far and wide both an art-form and a science.  In the process we have a new term, ‘global scouting’ and a new model, one which has been widely emulated but never bettered.

The science behind it – might seem a little ‘Top Trumps’ but it is an essential tool.  It applies a set of measurements across performances and personalities.  How fast and strong are they? How much hunger do they have?  What’s their recovery rate like?  How many goals do they score?  How many tackles do they win?  What’s the pass success rate?  And so on, until a complete picture of data exists – a spreadsheet of statistics that *almost* sums up a players attributes.

It has been reported in the past, that Wenger is obsessed with statistics.  It is certainly easy to imagine the appeal for this structured, considered man with his degree in economics and borderline compulsive attention to detail. It is also easy to imagine that the application of such formula, to try to breakdown the overall merits of a footballer, is what provides Wenger with a higher success rate than the rest in the transfer market.

There have been notable (and eagerly pounced upon) failures, but regardless his successes have left other managers trailing in his wake as the Ozymandias of the transfer market.

The confidence in Arsene’s consistent ability, was undoubtedly what allowed the  club to dare to accomplish the dream of the move to such a new stadium in the first place.  I don’t think it is unfair to suggest that no other manager could have done this; to carry us across the chasm safely – shepherding us collectively towards the land of untold riches, which lie on the other side.  It would not have been worth the club to dare to risk it with a ‘typical’ successful manager, one who achieves success as much through buying the best as he does his ability to gel players into a winning side.  Icarus and Leeds spring to mind.

The fact that this has been achieved against a backdrop of Economic Armageddon and against other clubs doped up to the eyeballs, like Pete Doherty having a large one, throwing spiraling levels of obscenity to tilt the odds in their favour, simply beggars belief.

I digress. To me, I think the science behind Arsene’s approach is what mitigates the risk.  Under Wenger the club may get a few wrong, but most purchases will be saleable and for a decent overall profit too.
N.B. It is all to easy to forget the money we have secured through clever sell-on clauses (Bentley and Diarra made the club over £30 Million alone).  It is this acumen and the rigour with which the homework is done on every purchase which makes his global scouting network the envy of, and let’s be honest, a large  embarrassment to the rest of the Premier league.

I suspect it is however something else other than just the application of Wenger’s scientific model.  There is something of an artisan and aesthete to the man.  The nose of the wine-enthusiast perhaps – that which allows Wenger to more frequently ‘sniff out’ the signs that lie beyond mere numbers and the rigour with which the data was gathered.

Yes it’s supposition on my part, and you could just argue this is a poncy way of saying “he is rather good at it” but, fuck me – he really is.  He has a special eye for talent the kind which has allowed him to pull the Viera’s and Henry’s from warming benches in Italy, and for nominal sums too.  The kind of eye which has essentially built the modern Arsenal and which we should never tire of celebrating or appreciating.  It’s given us that much, and with so much more yet to come.

Wenger’s empire will ONE DAY start to crumble but, like Ozymandias “the king of kings”, one can be confident it will not do so until a VERY long time after his departure.  Centuries I imagine.
And so, back to where I came in, with the caveat extended at the front of this article – namely that ‘bigging up’ any player too soon is a fool’s game.
However I am one such fool. Even in the knowledge that both Walcott and Wilshere have faltered slightly in the face of such early promise, I struggle not to get a little moist at Wellington Silva.  Take a look at this…

I remember watching some of the Manchester United Premier Cup (the under 15s tournament) a few years back and being blown away by the kid – he came away with both the ‘Player of the Tournament’ and ‘MVP’ award.  You can see some of his display in these matches in the footage.

He was signed with minimal fanfare by Wenger for £3.5 Million at the end of last year, having scored four goals in 45 minutes during an under 16s game, whilst on trial with us.
However, due to rules disallowing the signature of Brazilian’s under 18, I understand he is only 65% owned by Arsenal – the remaining 35% ownership not being activated until January 2011, when Silva turns 18.

Though he is clearly devastatingly talented, what I am loving from the player most of all is the determination and desire that is so burningly evident.  He wants the ball VERY badly and, at this level, when he does have it, he is simply devastating.

Wenger may be excellent at the art and the science as I described, but this once, I reckon I could have made the decision to splash the cash.  No, perhaps his real achievement on this occasion was keeping the other clubs away from the honey-pot long enough to close the deal!

The future is bright – why even the clouds have a Silva lining

It’s definitely Red & White – but it won’t stop the gloomers from whining!

More rumours will appear in the next article at around 3pm today.


The days when football journalists could write, entertain and make us laugh (a true newspaper report about Arsenal in the 1930s)

EPL owes more money than the rest of Euro football combined.

Should the top clubs from smaller countries move into Euro Leagues?

Vote now for the biggest prat in English football.  The polls are still open – and the result will be announced on around 2.30pm on 25th Feb.

Arsenal win the league: the start of the new golden era.

Why did Arsenal move to Highbury, and not somewhere else?

20 Replies to “Arsenal’s Silva Lining IS Arsene Wenger”

  1. Song is the one where he stumped me. I must admit, I saw little in him to get misty-eyed about until the second half of last season. This season, he shows the potential to become a long-term Arsenal fixture, injuries not withstanding. 1-0 to Arsene…..

    Maybe it’s that I was not in any way a midfield sort-it-out merchant, so didn’t recognise the signs. I could see what he saw in Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Merida, Diaby, Traore. They might sometimes be raw, but there was always something that made the pulse quicken.

    Perhaps Arsene might think about one position on the pitch where he doesn’t seem to be the world’s best diamond prospector??

  2. Thanks for posting the video. He looks fantastic.
    Similar in style to robinho I think but I agree it’s evident how hungry he is in contrast. He appears to have great pace and showed an ability to make chances for others as well as himself. Looks a really excellent signing.

  3. Stringfellow
    Rooney cant dribble and isnt such a technical player. The only similarity is their tenacity.
    Rooney is an off-the-ball player. Its impossible to know if wellington as good without the ball (doubt it) from the clips in the youtube video, unless you’ve seen more of him???

  4. If I was pushed I would compare him in some respects to a young Ronaldo (Brazilian). The comparison with Rooney stands up mostly on fierce determination, desire & hunger.

    Were he to go on to combine those traits to any measure approximating the players in question he would be more than a handful. What we can say for now is that he has appetite, bravery, technique, real pace, two feet, tricks aplenty and not only can he really strike a football he really loves to do so.

    It would be a great sadness if he doesn’t fulfil the inherent promise.

  5. He looks very exciting and hopefully another Wenger gem. I know everyone is looking at the team now and thinking we are coming up short but looking at the likes of Gibs, Wilshire and Vela (more last year than anything) they do look like potential world class players. The future is very bright as long as the impatient ones can stand maybe one or 2 seasons without the EPL or CL? Personally I can!

  6. Great article and like the Youtube link. But we have to be carefull with these compilations.
    He reminds me of the young Romario and Ronaldo when they played at PSV and I had the chance of seeing them very often. He reminds me of them and I hope he combines the strenght of both of them.

    We will see in a year or so.. looking forward to it. Maybe I just can take a few looks when Fluminense plays on our paying channel as in the summer they give a lot of Brazilian league football on it.

  7. The thing about him showing that kind of hunger it is likely he is desperate to become a great player. C.Ronaldo had that kind of drive and that was the thing that turned him into a great player.
    There are plenty of players in europe who are as talented as ronaldo, but he pushed himself harder, built up his physique and became one of the very best around. Probably 2nd only to messi imo. Hopefully this kid will go the same way.

  8. Great piece Mr. Neale and thanks.

    Another counterpoint to the d&g crowd – one that they routinely discount or ignore.

    My theory is that Areene loves midfielders most of all and is partial to them in his scouting and recruiting efforts – perhaps, because you have to be as nearly a complete footballer as possible to thrive as one and, as a result the players are easier to move around the Midfield roles and to move down to defence or bump up to attack until a better fit between player and position is achieved.

    One area though, where Arsene’s penchant for player statistics seem to break down and where his nose doesn’t seem to help him is with the goalkeeper position. After David Seaman whom he inherited Arsene has not served us too greatly in the goalkeeper department. Or does anyone know something different about the crop of goalkeepers currently under his tutelage?

  9. What was wrong with Mad Jens?

    49 games unbeaten?
    Pissing into a bottle during a game? (OK, he’d left by then)

    Please, credit where credit is due.

  10. Maybe the transfer is a cunning piece of PR, and nothing to do with the players potential, mentality or ability?

    AW can hardly be accused of being anti-engleeeeeesh with a player called Wellington in the side.

  11. Fem – goalkeeping is the toughest area to scout. AW spotted Cech before anyone else but couldnt sign him because of work permit issues. By the time that was sorted Roman Abramovich was in the picture and Chelsea outbid everyone. Look at Utd with Ben Foster, who was supposed to be the next great keeper. Look at Akinfeev for CSKA last nigt, who is supposed to be the best in the world. Look at the shocker Julio Cesar let in for Inter last night. Poor ‘keeping abounds everywhere, not just in North London. If anyone can see a really high class, proven goalkeeper out there that could handle it in the Premiere League then I’d love to see where that player is.

    Arsene didnt invent any of this stuff. It was all around before he got to Arsenal. The continental clubs had been doing diet and fitness for years and years and the North American sports had been using statistics for years, with Bill James and his sabermetrics in the 80’s being the first to begin to break down performance using advanced mathematics. Youth development has ALWAYS been a part of the game, and scouting has ALWAYS been a necessary part of that. The media simply try to convince people that such methods are “new” and “revolutionary” and “unproven” in one sentence and then laud the Busby Babes in the next sentence. English clubs have always scouted heavily, look at our youth program in the 70’s, with Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton, and David O’Leary coming from Ireland. What has changed since then is the need to scout globally, which in England was made necessary as much by the rules governing “local” youth development as anything. Barcelona can scout all over Spain for young talent, Arsenal cannot, so AW developed a scouting network throughout Europe (rather than throughout England) to compensate for that.

    And Youtube “clips” of players is the worst thing to ever happen to fans expectations. Look at the fuss people made about Cana last year based on a few youtube clips. Wellington Silva is a talented young player, he must be or else AW would not pay 3.5million for him, but let’s not get drawn into hyped expectations based on video clips of him tearing about other youngsters. When he is doing that to other world-class players I will begin to get excited.

  12. Paul C, on the goalkeeping issue… in a few days maybe you can read my opinion on the matter as I have sent an article over yesterday evening to Tony. And must say… it comes close to what you have said right now

  13. I dont know how you could say anything else. I mean, I know some people do, all over the blogosphere they are there screaming “buy a new keeper!!!”, “buy Akinfeev for 20million”, “buy Lloris for 15million”, or whatever. Yeah okay. Whatever.

    As I always say, the only thing that we know for a fact is that fans, on the whole, have no idea what we are talking about. We try to sound knowledgeable about players and tactics and all that stuff but if we had any real knowledge we would be coaching ourselves, but we aren’t. We are idiots. That is why I like this site, because it tries to avoid the “this is what we should do” posts in favour of humour, serious discussion about finances and corruption (i.e things that have some factual basis and therefore can be debated properly by fans), and general whimsy.

    Whenever fans start saying “buy this guy” or “buy that guy” with any form of agreement whatsoever is the moment when right-minded people should start praying that the club NEVER buys those players!!!

  14. I think Sczcesny is going to be a top keeper. He really looks the business.
    Wenger always signs talented goalkeepers, but some of them have looked a little fragile mentally. I dont think you could question the talent of almunia though. Some of the saves he made when he first joined were insanely good, he just had some issues with pressure/decision making.

  15. I don’t see why anyone will describe julio ceasar’s performance against chelsea as shocking if you watched well you’lld notice there was a bounce on the ball which makes it very hard to catch that aside he made a host of tremendous saves i believe he and lucio were the reason chelsea didn’t even get a draw,besides a keeper should be judged on his overall performance over the years and if you’ve been watching inter at all you’ll know you cannot make a row call of the 5best goalkeepers in the world without including julio ceasar,can you say the same for almunia?

  16. Almunia,potential? I never thought i’lld hear those two words together in one sentence! Call me a gloomer but i never taught him a good signing,never.we signed him when he was having problem tying down a first team shirt he was always almost constantly on loan to different teams every season, they were just too glad to get him off their books when we got him,recall he was their reserve keeper.his ascension to arsenal’s no1 goalie has more to do with the dearth of quality personnel in that department in our team and wenger’s relunctance to get a finished article than his talents of performance,hell i can remember mannone won us the game against fulham(and i think he is shocking but it is understandable as he is still young) but almunia? I seem to remember his errors as he makes them every week and he is going to be 33 soon!

  17. I know youtube videos can mislead etc etc, but the boy looks a proper good player and I look forward to seeing him more in the future. I’m also looking forward to seeing Samual Galindo as well. Someone commented recently that they have just seen him play in, or against, Mexico and that he looks like a south american Diaby – which isn’t a bad thing as Diaby will be one of the best midfielders in the world inside 2 years.
    As to the goalkeeper situation, I agree that it is really hard at the moment to name anyone who we could reasonably get without having to spend £30m. Cassilas is RM through and through, Buffon is equally loyal to Juventus, Liverpool won’t sell Reina (the best in EPL IMO) and neither will City with Given or Hart. If Bolton get relegated this season then Jaskaleinen would be worth a punt, but there aren’t many more out there that much better than what we’ve got, or young enough to get some good years from.

  18. AGS – Going by this club’s history especially under Wenger, we will never buy a keeper for 20 million, much less 30 million. It is financial and football madness. We are are speaking of a cost over four years of at least 40 million assuming 20 million transfers and wages of 100k per week. Arsene’s football philosophy is is evidently to be superior offensively and a high-priced keeper is not consistent with his philosophy. Additionally, no keeper is immune from mistakes and going through bad patches. See Julio Ceasar or Akinfeev earlier this week as prime examples. So those who lust for a super, high priced keeper can dream on. It is not going to happen.

  19. For every Anelka, we have Ryan Smith, Jeffers, Pennant, Aliadiere, Quincy, Anthony Stokes, Lupoli, Merida.

    And now Wellington.
    Let’s not get our hope too high till he is here and also, not warming the bench like one Vela.

    English FOotball is unique, physical and fast paced with the English refereee..ahem..decision-making different form his COntinental counterpart.

    A fair shoulder charge in England is a foul in Europe.

    A 2-foot tackle is fair challenge, and in Europe it can be a red-card offence.

    Can Wellington handles physical challenges?

    No Latin AMerican striker made it in English Football..the only one I can think of is Asprilla (Newcastle) and maybe Juiniho (Boros), Ardilles (S*CUMS)…..and of course, Veron flopped at ManIOU & Chelski, Crespo flopped at Chelski.
    Who can forget Jo and Robinho at Abu Dhabi City.

    Pardon me, my hope is not so high based on statistics…:D

    And the living example of Lupoli, Vela and of course, Merida, the “next Fabregas”.

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