Football FanCast columnist Stephen Darwin
looks at the potential of Arsene Wenger
nurturing future England internationals and considers whether the hype
surrounding Arsenal's young Gunners is all a tad premature.
I find it difficult to comprehend just how the work
of a manager who has seemingly been something of an adversary over the years
with regards to the development of young English players could now be a direct
saviour. It doesn't take a lecturer in quantum physics to work out that I am
talking about Arsene Wenger and his group of refreshingly talented and
predominantly English reserves. But in the grand scheme of things can Arsenal's
youngsters really expect a fruitful future at the Emirates Stadium and indeed
with the England national team, or are we all getting a little carried away at
a Carling Cup run that may just end in tatters come the quarter-finals?
It has been a periodic struggle within the FA to bring through and nurture
young English players into the international fold. A large majority of the
current crop (with the outstanding exception of Theo Walcott) of Fabio
Capello's squad have been in and around the England setup for the best part of
a decade now and you find yourself wondering how we are going to cope in the
future and successfully turn the corner.
Indeed the Under-21's have been doing the country proud in qualifying for the
European Championship Finals (England seniors take note), but are we likely to
see any of these youngsters emerging for Capello's senior side any time soon?
Aston Villa prodigy's Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young continue to flirt
with the hope of international recognition, although the hype that had once
surrounded the likes of Micah Richards and Aaron Lennon appears to have well
and truly evaporated.
You may find yourself asking why is this guy getting so worried about the
England team given the progress of the U-21's and the fact that the senior team
are sitting pretty at the top of their World Cup Qualification Group. Well all
you need to do is look at France and the difficulties they have had in dealing
with the transition from the likes of Zidane, Makelele and Thuram to Benzema ,
Gourcuff and Ben Arfa. The French had a disastrous campaign at Euro 2008 and
have once again struggled at the start of their bid to qualify for the 2010
World Cup. Bringing through even the most heralded of potential starlets just
doesn't happen overnight, as I am sure Raymond Domenech will conquer.
Although there could be light at the end of the tunnel provided by the work of
another Frenchman. With Arsenal's Carling Cup exploits, it would seem we may
just have a breeding ground for a whole host of potential England stars. In an
extract from the Times, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted:
wants to have a good selection, he has to come to our Carling Cup games," the Arsenal manager said.
"If you give me time, I will produce England players."
Speaking after his side brushed aside a Wigan
team that possessed an array of experienced Premier League footballers, Wenger
"These boys have a future. We have Gavin
Hoyte, who had an outstanding game, Kieran Gibbs, Mark Randall, Jack Wilshere,
Jay Simpson – all of them are top-class.
"There were also a few English players on the bench who are good as well. We
have eight or nine players who are very impressive."
So should Capello start taking notice or would he be better served merely
accepting Wenger's comments with a pinch of salt? It is important not to forget
that the Arsenal manager has helped nurture England internationals in the past,
most notably David Bentley and Ashley Cole. And would Theo Walcott have
propelled to stardom, and an international hat-trick against Croatia, in quite
the same vein if a move to the Gunners hadn't materialized back in 2006?
There is no getting away from the fact that Wenger's policy will always be to
field his best team regardless of passport and whether we like it or not, much
of Arsenal's success throughout the years has been based solely on this
approach. The football on show in the Carling Cup tie on Tuesday night
was fantastic for both Arsenal and England fans but is it fair to say that
these youngsters will be able to cope with the free-flowing football witnessed
week-in-week-out in the Premier League? As Wenger admits himself, "It would be
tempting to play them in the Premier League, but the pressure at that level is
So could Arsene Wenger really be the most unlikely of saviors of English
football or am I still spot-on in my previous assumption that the
kids at Arsenal (and other rival Premier
League clubs) will struggle to flourish at the highest level of the game?