by Walter Broeckx
People are sometimes comparing the invincibles with our current squad and then they mostly end up with saying that we are not as good and that they never will be as good as the invincibles. Well there is a big chance that the invincible-achievement will never be repeated ever in the EPL. So this is not a difficult statement to make.
And there are even some people who blame Wenger for letting the invincibles go away. Some of them even have made a song about it and wrote these words in it:
You sold away, great players then,
Well easy come and easy go,
success would end.
So is Wenger to blame? Let us try to find out and take a look at this squad and I will take the players that have played most of the games. And if we take the team we have the following players.
|They were the invincibles:|
|Name Age Arrival Left Price|
And if we take the average age of the players marked with an X, we get the players that started most games in the invincible year and their average age was 28 years old.
In the 2004-2005 season Edu (27 at that moment) and Wiltord (31) left us. As you can see they were not in the starting XI in the invincible year. The average age of the starting XI was 29 years old. We finished in 2nd place some 12 points behind Chelsea. So that team that we had to keep at all cost was not that invincible anymore one year later. We lost 5 games in that season.
And let us move to the 2005-2006 season. At then end of that year that a lot of the invincible left us. And if we take that starting XI again they then had the average age of 30 years. And an overall average age of some 28,5 years. And to expose the fact that they grew too old: we finished in 4th place. You know the year we beat Tottenham on the last day of the season to get the last CL place.
So people who blame Wenger for letting the invincibles go: Wenger was right. They were getting too old. They were going down the hill at a very high tempo. And if you look at their age this is very understandable. Or should Wenger have kept them to go even further down the league table.
And at that moment in time 2006 we were covered with debt for the Emirates. So not much money to buy players and not much money to pay high wages. So we had to build patiently. And this process is still going on for the moment.
In 2003-2004 we had our wonder year and our average age was 28 year of our starting XI and 26,5 years of our most used players. Just notice the fact that only 2 players in there were under 26 (Cole and Touré) and most of the starting players had an average age of 26-29 (6 of them) and this is the best time for most players. And then we had 3 older and very experienced players of +30.
And now we have in our squad that has been used most: 8 players under the age of 25, 7 between 25 and 29 and one +30 (Almunia). I tried to compare 15 to 16 and then one could say that in the invincible year we had 13% of our team -25, 47% in the age between 25-29 and 40% in the age group +30.
Now we have 50% under the age of 25, 43% in the age of 25-29 and 6% in the age group +30.
I have put this in a table to make it a bit more clearer:
INVINCIBLES CURRENT SQUAD
|% of squad||13(18)||47(55)||40(27)||100||50||44||6||100|
(is the % of the starting XI in the invincible year)
So we are nearing a situation that comes near to the invincible year when you look at the players who are in the right age category. But still we are a few % short in the best age category.
Another big difference is that we in those days had some very wise and old players we don’t have now for the moment.
But the other side of the coin is that we now have a group of very young players ready to step in the footsteps of the players that will be too old in a few seasons. So now we are building the foundations so we will not face another situation like with the invincible when we had to drop deep and had to put on 17 and 18 year old to carry is through this period. And you might call it failure: getting in the CL each year is in my eyes a big success in this period of transition.
We didn’t had this situation in 2004 and the two young players we had in those days turned out to be money greedy at the end of the day. So another example of the fact that we had almost no one ready, we couldn’t compete with the likes of Chelsea, United, Madrid to buy established players and had to wait till the youth came good.
So the one who after reading this is blaming Wenger for letting the invincibles go is someone who wanted us to fail and to slide down like the invincibles started doing after their invincible year. And don’t read this as somehow telling something negative about the invincibles. After all getting is older is what we all do and there is nothing that one can do about that. It is just that we had to replace them. But please don’t tell rubbish and make it look as if Wenger wanted them out just for the sake of it.
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