We almost take it for granted these days that Arsenal’s youngsters are going to be something a little special. Every year, Arsene Wenger seems to blood another product of his acclaimed academy into the first team set up for the Carling Cup fixtures. But are we too quick to announce these young guns as the next best thing? Are they ever really good enough to play a Premier League title pursuing team?
The logic to my argument is that I can’t recall too many players who have failed to make the grade at Arsenal, yet gone on to achieve Premier League status at another club. David Bentley and Steve Sidwell are currently in that mould, but how many others, really? Compare it to that of Manchester United. The Old Trafford club churn out youngsters for fun who aren’t deemed good enough for Sir Alex Ferguson but seem to go on and do a job for other Premier League clubs. Ryan Shawcross, Keiran Richardson, David Jones – I could go on. Even their on-loan stars who seem to be built for the English top flight, whether that be at United or not. Is this really the sign of a good academy system?
The counter argument is to obviously look at the amount of players Wenger plays in his first team who are actually good enough to stay there. Jack Wilshere is a perfect example. Cesc Fabregas signed when he was 16, so he could be included in that, too. They’re obviously world-class players, which is a result of the way things are done at the Emirates. But nobody seems to remember the ones that got away. What happened to Arturo Lupoli? How about Jeremie Aliadiere? Neither of these are playing top flight football anywhere at the moment. Again, the simple argument is that Arsenal now have better options coming through. Aaron Ramsey would arguably be playing regularly for the Gunners now if it wasn’t for his horrific injury and there is a lot of talk about Henri Lansbury who is earning quite a reputation on loan at Norwich.
I am taking nothing away from the Arsenal’s youth system. They produce quality players, some of which make the next step up. But my point is that we constantly talk up the prospects who we very irregularly see at the Emirates but then let the majority of the rest slip off the radar without another word. I used Manchester United’s system merely as a comparison, but it is worthy of some thought. O’Shea, Fletcher, Gibson, Brown and Evans have all come through, but we never talk about United’s youth system because these players aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as your Wilshere’s or Fabregas’s. And then there are the likes of Phil Bardsley and Fraizer Campbell. Maybe not good enough for Old Trafford, but they certainly do enough to warrant being a Premier League player.
It would be good to see some of the youngsters who managed to get Arsenal through the earlier stages of the competition, be given at least a place in the squad for the forthcoming Carling Cup final, but given the importance of securing the trophy, we all know it won’t happen.
But next season, if Arsenal set out in the third-round to defend their first trophy in six years, take a look at the starting eleven. How many are really going to be around the Premier League in another three or four years time? Are they really the best at bringing through the next group of stars or should we be praising the work of other clubs, like Manchester United?
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