I’ve noticed it for some time, and I still can’t quite understand it. It is a form of logic that appears in the newspapers and on TV, and it goes like this:
Arsenal failed to win the Champs League, FA Cup and EPL this year because Wenger only likes to play young players. Because of this failure it is now time for him to change tactics.
Which of course he will do because in 2009/10 the average age of the team we put out in Europe will be 14 years older. Somehow the writers of these complaints against Wenger seem to suggest that he’s now going to get rid of all his players and bring in younger players.
But of course he isn’t – the whole point of the project is to bring in a load of youngsters and mould them to his style, and then let them grow as a team. They’ll all be one year older, and Arshavin will be playing next year – hence the rise in the team’s age of 14 years.
Here’s another complaint – Wenger won’t get his chequebook out. But this year he did just that – he broke our transfer record and did it with the transfer of the season bringing in a player that everyone else wanted. (A transfer that as I just noted has taken the age of the first team up several levels.)
The fact is that with a phenomenally young squad Arsenal reached the semi final of the Champions League and the FA Cup and are probably going to end up around 10 points off the top of the EPL. That is an extraordinary achievement for such a team – and remember it is a team that has had the most dreadful run of injuries over two years.
If the squad was like that of Chelsea with a whole range of players who are approaching their sell-by date, then I’d say, “well if we don’t win it this year that’s it – break up the squad and start again.”
But the squad is so young it can only improve – and an improvement on the three achievements of this year can only mean something better next year.
We started this season with endless complaints about the weakness of the squad, and all the “This is exactly what I was afraid of” comments after the Fulham defeat. We have had one major upgrade in terms of Arshavin, but he, as we all know, can’t play in Europe this year. Worse, we’ve had Rosicky and Eduardo out all year, Cesc out for 3 months and… well you know the rest.
Despite all this, despite the youth of the squad, despite the injuries, we are the fourth best team in the world. So if you had offered me this outcome by the end of the year I’d have said yes, that’s good progress. If you say to me, these improving players should be set aside so that a series of big money transfers should come in, I’d say no, you must be out of your mind.
The project is half way through. To destroy it now with endless moaning about failure, after reaching the Euro Semi with a very young and injury ravaged team is a qualification for working on ITV Sport, but not much else.
Oh, and there’s a 21 game unbeaten run too. Best not mention that, because it rather spoils all the “buy buy buy” arguments.
I am truly sorry Mr Wenger had his worst night in football. If I were ever to meet him I’d tell him what it felt like after we were beaten by Wrexham. That was worse, because that was a side that had no excuse and no explanation and no reason for failure. That was the bleakest day of all. This is just a momentary slip on the climb to the very top.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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