“Arsène Wenger’s young signings no longer succeed – has he lost his touch?”

By Tony Attwood

That headline comes from an article in the Guardian, and when I read the headline I wondered how on earth the writer was going to develop his thesis.  Was there some clever bit of statistical work at play here showing that, perhaps Wenger had brought 30 youngsters in between 1998 and 2002 and 15 of them made it, but with a similar number brought in, in the last four seasons only 4 had made it.

But no, nothing like that (and I made those numbers up by way of example).   We have no data on numbers.  Just a suggestion that “Arsène Wenger’s young signings no longer succeed.”

And this is not one of those tricksy bloggetta headlines that go nowhere.  This is the Guardian and the thesis is made plain by this statement,

“The Frenchman once made a habit of signing players nobody had heard of and turning them into world stars, now they tend to leave Arsenal as unfulfilled talents.

“Once known as the world’s best educator of young talent having brought through players such as Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry, his reputation for spotting and nurturing the stars of tomorrow has declined just as Arsenal have slipped down the pecking order in recent years.”

Of course the first thing to notice about this is that Thierry Henry was 21 when he came to Arsenal – hardly a youth import.  So here we start getting the notion that this might be one of those “economical with the truth” articles.   But to the heart of the matter…

“… it has been his failure to produce a single first-team regular during the past decade from the cast of many youthful imports from overseas that is perhaps most telling.”

The article then quotes Francis Coquelin.   Now Coquelin came to Arsenal aged 16, so yes that is more of a judgement to make.  And he played 105 games for Arsenal.  Not a bad call for a 16 year old, whose talent is very hard to judge.

The piece goes on to cite a load of failures such as Amaury Bischoff and Thomas Eisfeld and progressing through to Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell, Wellington Silva, Sanogo and Krystian Bielik.  The latter is 20 and still with the club – I am not sure we can write him off totally but more to the point – how does this compare with any other club?

The only way we can know what’s what is to say, Arsenal have brought in x players and y and gone on to be first teamers during this period, and now that number is down in a more recent period, and it compares with Liverpool, Man City, Man U and other clubs like this.

Now I don’t have those figures and I don’t have time to gather them but a professional journalist like Ed Aarons surely does.  He is after all the Deputy News Editor of the Guardian so he can call on a whole research team to support his thesis.  And he didn’t.

So let’s instead have a look at the players who we currently have who have come up through our ranks one way or another…

Ramsey, Wilshere, Holding, Chambers, Bellerin, Iliev, Macey, Iwobi. Maitland-Niles

Even if that is cut down to size in the sense of regular first teamers we have Ramsey, Wilshere, Bellerin, Maitland Niles  and Iwobi all of whom play regularly for the club.  Five home grown players who are regulars in the first team.

Compare and contrast (as examiners say) with

“… it has been his failure to produce a single first-team regular during the past decade from the cast of many youthful imports from overseas that is perhaps most telling.”


Then we have the players lurking in the under 23s who might yet come through – I think most of us have seen Willock and Nelson to know their promise.   I suspect one of our young keepers such as Emiliano Martínez  is going to come through, and we were most certainly seeing Jeff Reine-Adélaïde make his way into the first team until injury struck.   Same is true with Zelalem, who is now back in training, having been playing for Rangers in Scotland.

But even if none of these players make it, the list of Ramsey, Wilshere, Bellerin, Maitland Niles  and Iwobi is surely impressive – unless the whole thing is this “import” business.  Is the Guardian really saying that other clubs have far more import players who have come up through their ranks now playing in the first team – and that the fact that they are “imports” matters?  Especially when the import issue was not mentioned in the headline

If so, I’d love to see the list – and if there are even half a dozen clubs with more than that number of locally brought through players I will indeed fulsomely admit my error.

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29 Replies to ““Arsène Wenger’s young signings no longer succeed – has he lost his touch?””

  1. Interesting, because as I have posted on another thread today, there was the same angle on a blogetta, forgot which one.
    Can that be just a coïncidence ? I seriously doubt it.

    The thing is I believe that even fans of Pool!! or Manure are going to be shacking the head wondering what this crap is all about.

    And thinking about it, how much did Walcott and Ox cost ? and for how much were they sold ? And every one in the Kommentariat is saying that finally they are as producing….. if they were that bad, how come they produce ?!?!

    The owner of the Guardian ought to sell the whole football department to Fox. They would slot in perfectly into the fake news strategy. Could probably sell them at a profit considering how good they are at that.

  2. The problem is Tony that this guy has absolutely no interest at all as to the validity of his thesesis.

    As we keep getting told by those that try to defend this sort of bollocks it’s just ‘click bait’ apparently.

    Any negative story about Arsenal gets the phones ringing and the pages turning.

    So that’s alright then. Let’s just let them write any old crap and not say a dicky bird.

    As I’ve said many times, I try to avoid reading any papers what so ever and given that the Guardian is supposed to be a ‘quality’ paper, from all I hear from Tony it seems to be of a rather dubious quality if it is.

  3. Thanks, that has saved me some time. I saw the headline and was puzzled. It would lead you to believe the writer has been living in a cave especially during the League cup and Europa league. I recall a recent article, not entirely sure where, pointing out in percentage of playing time that academy players are getting with Premier League teams. We were second of all the 20 clubs. The writer must be related to a goldfish as this article, including data and its sources, was no less than 2 months ago. One wonders if it was at all viewed by the scribbler as it was all text without a single picture. A little to much to ask of his reading age?

  4. great post, the papers alas digging their own grave with this muck
    they dont have the monopoly on fact finding since the internet,
    so their only chance on surviving is deliver some topnotch journalism instead of this mindless clickbait
    the future is for intelligent blogs like untold, for the sake of this blog you should get your website listed on the brave browser and maybe generate some extra income, if you dont mind my saying, anyway I hope I can enjoy untold for many years to come cause the guardian slipping down the pecking order with these fakenews articles

  5. I find it incredible that every negative article, whether it is true or not, manages to blame Arsene wenger for the problem.
    Why does our club suffer this kind of treatment?
    Could it be that most “sports writers/editors” originate north of the Watford Gap.
    Along with the referees I should add.

  6. Sriker Nketiah’s name is omitted being mentioned in the trio of: Reiss Nelson 18, Joe Willock 18 and Eddy Nketiah 18 who are looking strong and stronger cndidates by the day to break into the Arsenal first team next season and the one that will follow it just like Alex Iwobi and Maitland-Niles who came through the ranks at Arsenal academy broke in into the first team last season and this season after series of hard work. And I believe Le Boss will give these trio the opportunity to futher prove their worth and shine for Arsenal in Sweden against Ostersund in the 1st leg of Arsenal Europa League Cup knockout round of 32 match.

  7. Two and a half years ago Ivan Gazidis announced at the summer fans forum that Arsenal were moving towards having up to three quarters of their first team squad either home grown within the Club or brought in from other academies at an early (teenage) stage. While that doesn’t preclude bringing in young players from abroad it does seem to indicate that there would be a greater preponderance of British players than has been the case in the past.
    The massive expenditure on upgrading facilities al the way through the Club and the movement away from the middle of the transfer market much more towards the top end would lend support to the delivery of this strategy as would the promotion of five young English players to the first team squad this season. The appearance of the likes of Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nketiah etc. in Europa League and League Cup teams also points in the same direction. Without checking (like the journalist obviously didn’t) I don’t know whether that’s a better record than anyone else but I doubt that it will be beaten anywhere in this country.
    Those youngsters have also contributed to the u23’s being second in their league and I think you’ll find Spurs near the bottom and Man Utd. rock bottom.
    There is a change of strategy working its way through the Club with many early signs of success.
    To equate what is obviously wrongly diagnosed signs of failure with a ‘decline’ in the fortunes of the first team squad (completely ignoring the massive financial changes at certain other clubs) is just plain stupid.

  8. What Arsenal Must Do to Beat the Tottenspud at Wembley

    Score more goals?

    Do I get the big journalist paycheck now? 🙂

  9. Gord I like to think it would but only ‘bad news’ or ‘invented bad news’ is published by the English media.

  10. Slightly of subject of the post
    Did Sanchez leave Arsenal to be able to pay his back taxes in Spain without going into his savings , a nice signing on fee plus a hike in his wages
    Not everyone can pull up just under a million pound if the numbers are correct in papers and internet

  11. Loathsome to say, but I recall a 16 year old Spanish youngster starting for Arsenal against Rotherham in the league cup and who [I could be mistaken] is currently the midfielder with the current highest number of assists in the premier league since his debut. Fabregas anyone? Hardly a failure.

  12. You would think the Guardian would be delighted that Arsenal brings through so many young English players to play professional football. But no, it’s twisted to be fewer young players from abroad instead. Arsene Wenger said in a recent interview that Arsenal has more Academy products playing first team football than other teams – I forget if he said top teams or the premiership. I think Arsene Wenger is much more likely to know the facts than this Guardian journalist.

  13. Arsenal used to get accused of having too many foreigners. Meanwhile, teams like Chelsea were given a free pass despite being exactly what Arsenal were being accused of.

    There are different rules for Arsenal.

    The media seem to be fixated on Wenger, its borderline obsessive. The biggest culprit is a guy called Neil Ashton who writes for the DM and chairs Sunday Supplement.Those like him, loathe Wenger. He is not alone.

    Take one look at Spurs. Here we have a team that have won nothing and have not even looked like winning anything. Last trophy 2008, I believe. No League Title for 57 years and no FA Cup for 27 years. It is an appalling record for a club that claims to be a big one. Yet you won’t get a countdown clock on the media as every years passes with failure. Yet when Arsenal went a few years without a trophy, despite winning CL position, we had a regular countdown of years since our last trophy. Win 3 FA Cups in 4 years and it’s never mentioned. Instead, we now hear the FA Cup is no longer a big trophy.

    SPURS DIVING – Kane and Alli
    Spurs have resorted to diving. 3 clear dives against Liverpool. Kane and Alli both have history, who can forget Kane’s dive against us for which he was awarded a penalty? Have you heard anything about this diving? Has an action reel of teh reguialr Kane dives been shown? or discussed? Yet we all remember when Eduardo was being abused by the media, even when Rooney had been caught diving.

    SPURS DIVING – Pocchetino
    The Argentine has just claimed in the press that he likes diving, he calls it part of the trickery required to win games. He is worried VAR will take this out of the game. He is okay with Dele Alli being booked for diving, says that is right but he is also saying its a risk worth taking. According to him it’s a part of football that we shouldn’t obsess on removing. He even admits he used to be involved in diving being coached when in Argentina. So we have a Manager supporting diving shortly after one of his players is booked for it, another is caught flying through the air like Superman and a third initiates contact before rolling his legs up behind him. Has this been widely reported? No. Yet if Wenger had said this.

    It’s not just about PGMOL.

    The media have created an unfair playing field for Arsenal by brainwashing their readers and viewers. Arsenal are the devil. Despite giving young lads a chance, trying to operate as a business, offering opposing teams replays after controversial goals, playing fair, having regularly lost players to broken legs from British players, playing attractive football and generally being a principled club, Arsenal are presented as the bad guys. The manager is abused at every opportunity.

    Conspiracy? You bet.

  14. Hi all…great piece Tony on the continual shortcomings of the media.

    At what age did Fabregas join…wasn’t he still a teenager when he came from Barca, went on to even captain our side – getting a few medals to boot before he discovered his Barca DNA, then went to his mother land – only to end up at last years’ PL winners??

  15. AFC

    It seems that you see only what you want to see. If you have missed the media storm that has been raging about Spurs players’ diving and Pochettino’s subsequent comments, then I have to ask exactly what planet you have been living on! It has been relentless over the past 4 / 5 days.

    As to Spurs not winning a trophy since 2008, there might not be a countdown clock but nary a day or week goes by in which some article (or many!) makes the point again – while also, for good measure, saying that Pochettino, Kane, Alli, Eriksen, Alderweireld, Rose, Lloris, Dier, Lamela etc. will all move elsewhere as a consequence.

  16. @JIMB.

    Thanks Jim. Can you please point me towards the media outlets that are saying bad things about Spurs? I have tried but I can’t seem to find them. I wonder if Talksport will spend the next 5 years obsessionally slagging off Spurs. I wont be holding my breath Jim.

  17. Straight Libel, but it’s not the first time, I already have a case against them.

    He must have lost his mind. someone place the link in please.

  18. AFC Nemesis

    It’s really not hard to find. You could start by checking the Newsnow Tottenham pages since the Liverpool game.

  19. Jim, as far as I can see most (not all but most) of the articles on NewsNow’s Tottenham page are as per Arsenal’s page on the same site – bloggettas. Normally I think we use the term “media outlets” and similar phrases to mean the national newspapers and their web pages, along with major broadcasters.

  20. Jim.

    I meant the main media, you know the Talksports, BBC, Sky, Guardian, Daily Mail, Mirror, Sun and the numerous other online media producers.

    I dint mean having to trawl to find anti-Spurs comment it should be right out there. That is the difference, anti-Arsenal content is all around us.

  21. Jonathan Wilson – just another dipstick not finding oil. His bile on Wenger shows a total bias & bitterness like a woman scorned.

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