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Friday, 24 August 2012

The end of Project Youth? Non - just Wenger being pragmatic

There have been a few blogs written recently raising the question as to whether or not Arsene Wenger's 'Project Youth' has come to its end. It has not, in my opinion, and anyone who says it has is being shortsighted.

Indeed, there is an argument to suggest so; over the last two years, we have signed ten players over the age of 25. While this is a clear indication that Arsene is acknowledging the fact his side requires more experience to be successful, it does not signal the end of Project Youth per se.

In my view, this is just Wenger being pragmatic, for a change. He has realised his philosophy of developing academy players into a title-winning side has failed. That is why he has brought the likes of Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski in. But this means he is just placing less reliance on his philosophy; not ending it. There is a difference.

I also think Wenger has realised he does not have enough time to carry on placing as much of an emphasis on his youth project. Fans are losing patience and demand success immediately. There is no long-term picture in the minds of so many supporters. And I think Wenger has adapted to the climate he is in and sought to almost appease his critics, whilst simultaneously improving the team - just not in the way he idealises.

So yes, ostensibly, there is reason to believe Wenger is ending his youth project. But my friends, this is incorrect. Had this been true, Barcelona starlets Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin would not have been brought in as part of the deal for Cesc Fabregas. Nor would teen sensations Kris Olsson and Kyle Ebecilio, or Gedion Zelalem and Serge Gnabry. Had this been true, the latter would not have been asked to join the first team training camp in Cologne. Why would we have bothered? Or what about 19 year old Thomas Eisfeld, signed last January from Dortmund; why would Wenger have signed him if he did not envisage a future for him at the club?

Let's put it this way: Kieran Gibbs, an academy graduate, would have been long gone had Wenger 'given up' on his youth ideology. He has been blighted with injuries and struggled to maintain any consistent level of performance. Now tell me, don't you think he'd have been replaced by a more experienced and, to put it bluntly, better player?

Wojceich Szczesny is another player who can support my argument. Here is a young man with natural leadership skills and maturity beyond his years. To give a 22 year old full responsibility as your club's number one 'keeper surely dispels the myth that Wenger no longer has faith in youth.  

Project Youth is a long term process. Indeed, it may have been temporarily suspended, due to the aforementioned reasons. But make no mistake, Wenger's legacy will continue and in years to come, our side will comprise of players such as Ryo Miyaichi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, Kris Olsson, Serge Gnabry, and so on.

While in the short-term, these players, barring Oxlade-Chamberlain, will face limited first team action, spending most of their time on loan or on the fringes, they will be there in the future, more or less, forming the nucleus of the next generation.

Look at Chelsea. They have an ageing side and have released some of their biggest names. But they didn't have any players to promote from within as replacements. Consequently they have spent astronomical sums of money again to rebuild their side, with players like Hazard and Oscar coming in.

Compare this to Arsenal. While I am no psychic and can't give a definitive answer as to how our current crop of young stars will develop, it is more than likely that in the future we will have a group of players who have come through the ranks and are ready to fill the gaps, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere as the fulcrums in the side.

I do realise I am now somewhat speculating, but I'm doing so to prove my point; signing a group of experienced players does not end Wenger's youth project, his life and soul. It will remain with longevity, and players will continue to choose Arsenal for their faith in youth, as Cesc Fabregas did, as Aaron Ramsey did, and as Kris Olsson did.

Thank you for reading, follow me on Twitter and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


  1. exactly my thoughts. it's about finding the right balance between youth and experience within the squad. The previous team which consisted of players like RVP, Nasri, Fabregas, Hleb, Adebayor didn't quite work out as the squad often lacked leadership and mental strength. That's why Wenger has gone out and bought experience players who mostly are in the prime stages of their career.

  2. Balderdash. Only Two top players have come out of the Youth Academy in over 1o years!

    1. Interesting article that touches upon the ongoing conflict between short and long term success. Nonsense to suggest that only two top players have emerged from Arsenal academy. They have groomed numerous top youngsters from Fabregas, who joined the club at 16, to Gibbs and Wilshere from the present crop. There are many other fine players elsewhere in the Premiership who were developed by Arsenal such as Sidwell (Reading, Chelsea, Villa, Fulham) and Larssen (Birmingham, Sunderland).

      It is very unusual to see a group of youth players emerge at the same time and achieve long term success together. Famously, Man Utd achieved it (and admitted how fortunate they had been) through Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Butt, Neville and West Ham too with Ferdinand, Defoe, Carrick and Joe Cole.

      However, the best youth set ups in recent times were outside the Premiership as there were so few resources available to those clubs. Outstanding examples are Middlesborough and Southampton, who have produced Walcott, Bale, Oxlade - C and, as of last weekend, Ward Prowse who made his debut against the champions.

  3. You project cannot work in Arsenal coz every time you mould a player into star big spender will keep knocking ur door for adoption especially when run out of contract & you'll do nothing to stop them since you can't offer what they promise to offer,u either accept their offers willingly/unwillingly or lose a player for free. It happend many time n it will happen many times in the future. The only way out tell the board to reduce their profit n spend on players wages. Period.!

  4. have you ever thought about wearing a gimp mask and spread-eagling your anus across wengers driveway so he can drive rite up ure sado massochistic anus?