By Tony Attwood
It’s been a long ol’ time since I watched Beetee Sprout doing a football show, and it took Martin Keown to point out what a reserve team Arsenal put out, and then made the point about what an amazing player Reiss Nelson is. He’s 17. Who needs Mbappe?
But we could also surely once again look in amazement at Rob Holding. According to the bloggettas it was the darkest moment in the history of Wenger’s dark moments when he was “reduced” to buying an unknown young player from of all clubs, Bolton. “How far down have our expectations sunk?” it was asked.
And what did we get? Once again we were reminded. We got a stunning and highly promising young centre back. For £3m.
As for today, the highlight of the TV presentation on the Sprout had to be John Hartson, a forward for Arsenal who scored 14 in 54 games and who was quickly removed by Mr Wenger once he came to the club. Hartson has shown himself to be an extraordinarily brave man fighting the most awful illnesses that one can’t even begin to imagine, and to come back. For that, and for his ability to be public about it, no one can praise him enough. But that doesn’t make him a good commentator and the fact is that throughout he was critical, critical and then in case we didn’t get it, critical. Fortunately back in the studio we had Martin Keown who could confirm that in Nelson the club has an absolutely incredible and amazing talent.
So we had the endless chitter chatter of John Harston who must have said “very soft” six times in a minute at one stage. Indeed he is a man who is prone to push out random phrases, which is not necessarily the best approach for a commentator. In the first half he told us that this was Wilshere’s first game back. Then later he suddenly said, “Did Wilshere play a full game in the league cup?” His co-commentator was so utterly embarrassed by the whole display he said nothing, and for a blessed 90 seconds we had silence, apart from the noise of the crowd.
Indeed it reminded me of the early days of Sky in which they did exactly this but through the whole game – 90 minutes of no commentary as an option (I think you have to push to puce or the maroon button to get it), but in the end they gave up advertising it as too many viewers opted for it to escape the commentators.
Indeed surely even the Sprout realises that hearing a commentator saying “I don’t know, really I don’t know,” when it is patently obvious that he doesn’t know does get a bit tedious.
As it was, Arsenal had a team out with a range of what BT Sprout insist on calling “Academy Product”. Actually guys they are young men. Is that too hard to say? They are not products. Products are manufactured – it is not too difficult to remember.
And just look at the team:
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Arsenal: Ospina; Mustafi, Mertesacker, Holding; Nelson, Willock, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Wilshere; Walcott, Giroud.
Subs: Macey, Dasilva, Gilmour, McGuane, Dragomir, Akpom, Nketiah.
In the starting XI three youngsters with very, very limited experience, all illuminated in bold, and Wilshere who is still working his way back. He was very good, and did a lot of what the media likes to call “pulling the strings” (and let us not forget that we were playing a club that beat Bayern Munich a while back) and much of his undoubtedly overwhelming talent showed, but he did get tired in the second half. And then on the beach, hardly a name you will recognise unless you are an afficianado of the under 23s….
Nketiah (another 18-year-old) on, Willock off. And also McGuane on, Nelson off. McGuane is 18, a year older than Nelson.
Now of course I know that BATE is hardly a top line European team, but even so. Just look at Nelson’s talent, and imagine we had just bought him for £25m which in today’s market is probably about right. The Metro might have been a trifle premature with their commentary, “Arsenal news” when they said, “Who needs Sanchez? Reiss Nelson scores sensational solo goal,” but you could see all the style and ability that is present in that young man.
And of course he’s not the only one, but how many forthcoming stars do you want at once?
Nelson is just on a year younger than Mbappe – both were born in December, Nelson in 1999, Mbappe 1998. Maybe I am being totally premature, but I see in Nelson one of the most promising prospects in an Arsenal shirt that I have seen in a lifetime of watching Arsenal. Maybe Brady had it. I’m not sure of too many others.
And of course he is not the only one. What we have coming through is an extraordinary youth team (Hartson would probably call them whatever the collective noun for “product” is). Gradually these youngsters will fit into this team, and in this way we will stand a chance of taking on the three clubs that will spend anything, without limit, to buy the championship they crave. Arsenal can’t do that because we have an owner who doesn’t believe in investing in his sports clubs, so we need to find another way. I think once more the club is finding it.
Yes they are only a second rate east European team who like Bayern are in a one team league. But we didn’t just beat them. We beat them while leaving the first team at home in order to have them all ready for the game on Sunday.
That’s how it should be.
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