Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm

Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm
By Jonny Neale

As we head into the silly season, replete with transfer rumours both in and out, acrimonious boardroom tales and disgruntled players all whipped up to a venomous froth by Fleet Street’s poisonous pens, I think it is worth pausing and taking stock. Reminding ourselves of what has already been built by this prestigious club and luxuriating a little in what is to come.

Having watched the youngsters imperiously dismantle Liverpool in the first leg of the FA Youth Final, it is clear the conveyor belt of talent from below is starting to deliver. ‘Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm’ has a bountiful crop and one feels that we will be harvesting it’s goodness for years to come.

Hopefully most fans are in a more reflective mood and will have tempered some of the gnawing disappointment of this season. Personally, I take solace in the belief that this is a manager working to a longer plan. A club with a different blueprint to the rest; treasuring stability and ‘long-term success’ above all. A club which identified the perfect manager for this task. A manager unlike any other in the world.

There is not a football club in the world which would not want him at the helm. Even Man Utd, who clearly would never dump Ferguson, would love The Professor as a replacement for when Fergie retires – anything to address their spiralling debt.

What is happening at The Arsenal is an exciting, intriguing and unique experiment in ‘sustainable football’. Whilst clubs across Europe are going to the wall The Arsenal have become the vanguard that other clubs are looking at with awe, green eyed envy and begrudging respect. On the back of Wenger’s visionary acumen something unique has been built. As a result we lucky fans are better placed to reap the long term rewards than any other club in global football.

The perils of big but poorly run clubs will be all too evident at the moment for fans of Newcastle. The cost of demotion from the Premiership is usually estimated at £50m – £60m and Newcastle are estimated to have the fifth largest wage bill in the division. A fire sale of players seems inevitable and one would not be surprised to see a protracted stay in the lower divisions.

As we listen all too frequently to whingeing eejits complaining about the lack of on-field success one should hold fast to the belief that Wenger and his experienced support staff, know more about where the club is in terms of talent and progress than any of the ignorant, sensationalist Fleet Street hacks and the multitudinous buffoons of bloggery (with three braincells, two fingers and one, very negative, opinion).

I concede that the disappointment of the last few seasons hangs in the air like a nappy on a stick. And it is understandable to be a little blue but the move to a new stadium, whilst competing against clubs who sold their souls and bankrolled their way to the top through financial doping, was never going to be walk in the park.

So be it. We grit our teeth and we come back stronger. Fans, players and management alike.

The doom-mongers will think they know better, but if you actually listen to the messages emanating from our beloved club, there are myriad reasons to be optimistic. In recent weeks, Wenger has accepted that the squad needs a little more steel/experience but we know this is really no more than 2 players, 3 at the very most. As Rafa moans away about not having the finances to compete against the likes of Man Utd & Chelsea I have read it claimed that Liverpool are looking for another 5! It strikes me that Liverpool’s biggest problem is a paucity of great players coming through the ranks.

As the season geared towards a tense finale Wenger had been extremely bullish about his team – it is clear that he believes that The Arsenal will enter into an era of dominance in the near future. Some think this the words of an old fool but we must know by now he is anything but? The foundation of his belief is the talent he sees every week. An unprecedented hotbed of youth – pregnant with promise and bristling with balls.

It may come to pass that Arsene’s greatest challenge was that which he faces now – finding the right blend, retaining some, letting others go and all the while balancing the first team squad. But this is because of the sheer weight of talent coming through which is now coming through, year upon year.

That he is having to make these vital decisions amidst a cacophony of dissent from ‘so-called supporters’, simply makes the task more stressful and arduous. I do not envy him this task. Come to that, having seen how much he truly cares, I do not envy him his position full-stop. Those who have lambasted him from the comfort of the sidelines (and yet know less about football than he has ever forgotten) would do well to remember that no manager has ever done more for this club and no man has ever cared more about it’s success.

It’s easy to criticise until you have sat in the hot-seat and made the decisions yourself. It’s easy to say, for example, that we would have won the FA Cup if Arshavin had started (though it is still utterly speculative, as his anonymous performance against Man Utd last week showed). It’s easy to think other managers could do better until you look at Scolari & Ramos and the welcoming arms with which they were welcomed.

Whilst this has been a difficult period for the fans – especially having come so close last season – there is for me a tangible sense of eagerness for the young crop to really blossom. Talk of tomorrow’s stars, if anything, only serves to make us even more feverish. We salivate like starving dinner guests: stuck on 4 years of canapes and starters, all the while yearning for the main course…we have had glimpses of it being prepared in the kitchen but somehow it has never quite reached our table.

But this was always going to be a process which demands patience – we are going through growing pains, trying to balance the pecuniary needs of the club against a backdrop of unprecedented financial chaos, and the needs of the team with it’s army of hungry fans.

As Wenger himself has announced –

“At the moment, what this team has done, with the average age we have now, no team has done that. The most important moment in the life of this club is to be strong now and support this team. At the moment, what this team needs is the support of people who are the fans of the club. That we have no trophies to present today, I’m very sorry”. How sad he felt it necessary to apologise.

Perhaps a better way for Arsenal fans to appreciate his achievement is to view this as a journey – after all success tastes far sweeter when you have drunk from the well of despair (which amazingly is where some would have you believe we are now).

Watching the crop of youngsters come through is, to my mind, a far more interesting experience than if we had splurged millions on spoilt-brat mega-stars who have no real affinity with the club. Not all of the enjoyment of football is measured in silverware.

Those fans fans who are longer in the tooth (the one’s who tend to have a bit more perspective) will remember well the wilderness years between 1938 and 1948 and again 1953 and 1971. That’s ten trophyless years followed by eighteen! A sobering thought, as you watch the mountain of toys being thrown from prams all over the web.

My dad, who celebrates his 80th birthday this August, is startled at the current furore whipped up by the media. As a wee lad he used to sneak into Highbury. He saw the glory of the Chapman years come and go and lived through those 28 trophy-parched ‘years of wilderness’. He would say that The Arsenal’s last two seasons have been excellent – playing exceptionally at times but in the end being beaten by good teams. Certainly he thinks that the football world has gone quite insane that there would be any Arsenal fan calling for Wenger’s head.

But I digress, over the next few weeks, as a distraction to the pervasive negative nonsense, I plan to focus on a few of The Arsenal’s young hopes, those who have particularly piqued my interest over the last season. Hopefully you’ll find it of interest.

Watch this space and for God’s sake! Stick by Wenger and the team – it’ll honestly be much better for your health and happiness if you just enjoy the ride.

25 Replies to “Arsene Wenger’s Magical Embryo Farm”

  1. Johnny, many thanks for that an excellent article. So true I remember many abject performances through the 70’s and 80’s. But then football was different then. The thrill for me at a younger age was just to actually be there watching live football. I wasn’t too bothered about success every season as apart from the 79 F.A Cup win I’d never experienced any. 20 years ago tonight I settled down to watch a match that I never thought we would win yet alone win by a 2 goal margin. I thought that it wouldn’t get better than that night but Arsene Wenger has taken everything to a whole new level. So much so that even youth team football matches are a thing of beauty. How can we possibly complain and even worse question this man’s knowledge or decisions. Unbelievable!

  2. Arshavin demands huge pay rise:

    This piece was a complete copy of an article that appeared in the Mail on Sunday and on As soon as it was realised that this article was plagiarised we removed it – our sincere apologies to the copyright owners.

    Please note, if you post an article here which is copied from elsewhere (even if you acknowledge the source) it will be removed and you will risk being banned from this site. Quoting of work must be within the limits laid down by the Copyright Design and Patents Act

  3. Wenger feels Ade will stay
    Gunners manager expects striker to remain

    Arsene Wenger’s ‘gut feeling’ tells him that striker Emmanuel Adebayor will stay at Arsenal.

    Adebayor’s future at the Gunners is the subject of conjecture after his form has come in for criticism from supporters and suggestions he is unsettled.

    The Togo international’s absence from his side’s 0-0 draw at Manchester United sparked further speculation, but Wenger has maintained he is struggling with a groin problem.

    It is still claimed Adebayor could move away from the Premier League in the summer, but Wenger said on Friday: “My gut feeling is he will be here.

    “At the moment his future is at the club. He has a long contract and we want to keep him at the club. I am hopeful I will be able to keep him.”,19528,11095_5342966,00.html

    wenger better be joking just to get the price up, but if hes telling the truth he should be sacked or forced to go to madrid. what matches is he watching at the weekends, as its clearly not arsenal ones

  4. Two things stand out for me. Firstly that Wenger, in defending criticism of Silvestre comes out with his stock in trade: ‘you should see the players in training’!! Excuse me Arsene, if only the club would give us the opportunity!! However you ban fans from the training ground – apart from PR stunts. All we get to judge on is what Silvestre and the other players produce on a match day – which, by the way, is the most important time to produce the goods – and the verdict of I suspect most fans is that he hasn’t been good enough!! And for that matter, nor has the team.

    Secondly, when asked why so many players were/are played out of position, Wenger retorts ‘You ask players where they want to play and they say in the middle. But you cannot play everyone there.’ Excuse me matey, but isn’t it your job to get in the right players in order to have a balanced squad/team? Did you think buying a plethora of small tricky players that all prefer the free role or being the creative hub in centre midfield would give you that balance the squad required? And if so, why then did you persist in playing Diaby left midfield; Cesc as the support striker and – whenever he came on as sub – Bendtner in right midfield? No matter how much people defend Arsene over lack of transfer funds, surely they can’t defend that? Seriously, if you didn’t know any better you would think the manager was a novice thrown into his first job!!!

    Sadly, much as I want him to get it right, I’m afraid that comments like those directly above make me less confident that Wenger is still capable of being the man to take us forward. I want nothing more than for Arsene to prove me wrong, but I wait more in – fastly diminishing – hope than expectation

  5. GREAT ARTICLE!! Wenger and the team need our support. I was so glad to join the rally on Sunday. I love AW and I am greatful for what his done for us. Long Leave Lord Arsene! Keep Faith

  6. Mason, I am guessing that your measure for Arsene’s success would be silverware and therefore if by not winning any Arsene doesn’t know what he is doing then by the same token every manager bar Ferguson doesn’t know what they are doing either as they have also all fallen short. The article explains that Arsenal and Arsene are doing their business differently only time will tell if this will prove to be a winning formula, personally I think it will and am willing to be patient, however I know that patience is a scarce commodity these days.

  7. Is that the best you can do? So because he has made a couple of changes that worked in the past that excuses him making mistakes now? Rolling Eyes

    Anyway, let’s examine your examples as I fear they don’t stand up to scrutiny: Henry started as a front man and was only switched wide when he joined Juventus. Therefore Wenger just reverted him back to his proper position; I don’t know if Pires played centre midfield for his previous clubs but Pires was a wide player for the France national side and it was in that position that he helped them win the 2000 Euro’s – before he joined Arsenal!!; Cashley may have started there as a youngster but was never going to make it as a forward and if anything was playing more left midfield then anywhere else, especially when on loan to Palace; As for Toure, he was the Ivory Coast Centre Half when Wenger was playing him everywhere but that position!! Rolling Eyes

    Now, I know the AKB feel obliged to stick up for the manager at all costs, but rather than just defending Wenger blindly, why don’t you examine his actual words and actions and then maybe you will broaden your understanding of how he and things really are – as opposed how you’d like them to be!! Rolling Eyes

    Finally, no – Wenger clearly isn’t stupid, but he does make mistakes – some unnecessary – and he will continue making them as long as the likes of you are frightened to notice, let alone pick him up on them.

  8. So you give him no credit for nearly every decision he has ever made? He has fooled us all well for 13 years hasn’t he, what a master of deception he is. I suppose he just blindly stumbled into achieving 2 doubles and an unbeaten season?

  9. I have been wondering for the past 2 years whether Arsene Wenger is in reality a trophy -winning manager. My conclusion is that he is not.

    The aggrieved shareholders have asked reasonable questions while Arsene Wenger failed to answer some of the questions and/or answered unintelligently (i.e. no iota of intelligence).

    When an experienced player quits Arsenal, Arsene Wenger is fond of promoting a young player who lacks experience, into that position. The fact remains that, in football, experience counts a lot. Experience is the best teacher. Kids cannot win you games or trophies.

    A corollary to the above is the unacceptable transfer policy of Wenger. The policy is entirely wrong. Look at Man United, Giggs and Scholes are in their 30s. The young ones are learning from them. You don’t abandon or ignore experience for inexperience.

    Where a player fails to perform day in day out, it simply suggests that the player is not good. Adebayo scored about 30 goals last season, but thanks to the efforts of Fabregas, Rosicky, Flamini and Hleb who created the chances. Moreso, if a player could perform in a particular season and cannot the following season, then he is not good. Wenger should sell him, then go out for an experienced striker.

    We need about 3 experienced players in that team. We need experienced holding midfielder, striker and defender.

  10. 20 years ago today was the best day in the club’s history as far as I’m concerned. We had lead the League throughout the season, but had run out of puff by April. I really thought that we’d lost it when Derby beat us 2-1 at Highbury. (I always hated Dean Saunders after that game) But the emotion of Friday 26th May 2009 will stay with me forever. The match was played in the context of the Hillsborough disaster. Liverpool had also won the FA Cup so were going for the Double. We Gooners had drawn our last home match in an agonising, nailbiting 2-2 draw with Wimbledon. Was it me or can anyone alse remember Richardson taking about 12 corners in the last 5 mins? I was sitting my A levels at the time, but all I could concentrate on the whole day was the match in the evening. I worked out what team I would have picked. I dreamt of how we’d get the 2 goal advantage, what the HT and FT score would be. I shut my eyes and saw Adams lifting the trophy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally charged watching a game on TV. I’ve never felt so tense. It ended up with my younger sister watching it in her room, my parents watching it downstairs. I was far too nervy to watch it with anyone so I watched it on the TV in my parents’ room. I can remember shouting whem Smudger scored, but then scared it would not be given. I screamed when Thomas hit it straight at Grobbelaar after 75 mins as I thought that was our chance gone. The last 5 mins were just agony and bloody ITV kept the ticking down clock on the screen. I yelled at the tele for them to take it off. And then the tears started to well up in my eyes as it began to hit me we might not do it. I just sat in silence crying as 90 mins approached. Next thing I knew Thomas was one on one. “hit it Mickey, hit it” I sreamed. And then the ecstasy. Throughout the Aw years, 3 jobs and 2 marriages – I don’t think I’ve ever had such a pure release of such emotion and joy. I leapt off the bed, jumped up and down and (apparently) just kept screaming “Yes, Yes we’ve done it” I went beserk. There’s still evidence of the crack in the loung ceiling from when I jumped off the bed. Next morning I apololised to the neighbours for the noise fromthe night before. I was on a high for about a week. Having seen the game again many times now the best images are the Arsenal players taking flowers to the liverpool fans, McMahon raising his finger telling all that there was 1 minute left, Rocky’s clenched fist and the look on his face when he won the free kick for the 1st goal, GG walking up the Anfield stairs with the trophy. So what were other posters doing 20 years ago? What are your memories? And do you think it was our greatest day?

  11. No he didn’t. He won them by building great teams and playing great football. But that doesn’t make him infallible. And it doesn’t mean he can do it again. Most successful managers are only successful in a given era because they are ahead of the game and their competition vision-wise in that era (Ferguson is the exception – 20+ years of success). Cloughie had his day. Likewise George Graham had his day. Do you think George Graham would win the league nowdays? No, he wouldn’t – his tactics and thinking are from a diferent era.

    It is possible Wenger has gone past his sell by date. Possible. This season will tell…

  12. Am I to take it the M is for Mason and the JL and the B are for James Le Beak?

  13. Good piece, the real fans seem to be finding their voices and letting the D & G’s know that the vast majority of the fan base is 100% behind Wenger.

    The financial madness that has enveloped football still shows no signs of abating, the news that a takeover of Sunderland is on the cards and the new owner will put in £200 million to turn them into the biggest club in Europe is laughable. The problem seems to be that outside investors have no knowledge of football or geography. What world class player (other than someone born in the area) would want to live and play in Sunderland? The only way is to pay them vastly over the odds, this results in mercenaries who are only there for the enormous pay check.

    I really believe that football in England needs a big club to go bust. We might then see a little sanity restored.

  14. Mason,

    Are a glory hunting tw*t?

    The way I see it, in five years we will still have a viable club.

    Will Chelsea? Maybe. If the Russian doesn’t get bored and call in his GBP 800m loan.

    Liverpool? Already in debt up to their eyeballs. The owners had to borrow money just to fund last years transfers…

    Man-Ure? They’re the worst of the lot, and my guess is less than three years away from going to the wall. For the past two years they’ve not even made enough money to pay the interest (just the interest!) on their loans…

    And us? A far different proposition…

  15. When Middlesboro were trying to get their Brazilian player Juninho to sign for them, his agent asked the club, “Where’s Middlesboro?”

    “On the coast,” replied the rep of the club.

    Sunderland will probably try and same trick.


  16. Thanks Marc – there are so many things affecting club finance at the moment and trouble & opportunity are on the horizon wherever you look.

    The change in top-tier tax in this country could spell BIG problems for clubs with mercenary players.

    Playing in Spain has just become very attractive, with a top tier of 40% tax but just 25% for workers from abroad.

    The change in law helped the highly-influential and affluent bosses of most of Spain’s biggest football clubs who were allies with former president Aznar. Leaving them with lower wage bills and bigger spending power to bring more stars to their domestic game.

    That said one report recently suggested that as many as 6 top flight Spanish clubs could go into administration this year! One has to wonder where all of these players will end up (plus those from fire-sales at Newcastle, West Ham and host of clubs in similar predicaments across Europe).

    What effect will it all have on the market?

    Interesting times.

  17. There is a piece in the Mail (I think) which says that Arshavin is seeking to negotiate a new contract because he didn’t know how much tax he would pay.

    If one believes that a top earner cannot afford a top accountant who might actually know what the tax situation is in the UK, then one believe the story – but I think it is unlikely.

    There are only 9 or 10 clubs in the world who can pay the top salaries and top transfer fees, and at least 4 of those are in financial difficulty (and that number is before we include clubs like the KGB in Fulham or WC Milan which are bankrolled by the very wealthy.


  18. Jonny – I saw an article over the weekend where Arshavin was complaining about the top tax rate. On top of this any player who has come from the continent will be feeling the effect of the current exchange rate with the euro.

    It makes you wonder if one PL club goes will it be the start of something? A crazy notion with all of the money feeding into the game.

  19. Firstly very well written article Jonny.
    Secondly welcome back Maso…. I mean james LeBeak
    Thirdly the Arshavin article is a misquote.

    Gotta run enjoy the match every1!

  20. it all smacks a bit of sour grapes beaky, the ‘sack wenger’ bandwagon you jumped on didn’t achieve their aims. le boss is still le boss.

    trophy success is your only benchmark(seemingly). and no matter how you much you try, you wont convert many users of this site to your point of view.

  21. 1938-48?? Champions 1937-8 …WW2 1939-46 so no league football…Champions 1947-8. Effectively that’s 2 Championships in 4 years.
    Rather look at 1972-1988. A couple of cups admittedly but…

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