Is Project Youth at Arsenal on the way out?

Project youth comes under the spotlight once again with the news that promising young defender Martin Angha has signed a pre-contract agreement to join German club FC Nuremburg in the summer. Arsenal football club has created a reputation for nurturing young talent and blooding them into the first team earlier than expected at most big clubs. When it has worked it has really worked and at other times many fans have been left scratching their heads wondering what the manager actually saw in a player.

angha

Having the eye to see star quality in a young player is not a simple science at all; running rings around players in your age group does not automatically transpire into becoming a world star when thrust into the first team. Sometimes it can be linked to an earlier growth spurt or sheer athleticism that leads a player to stand out from the crowd but then there is the crossroads that is met where cutting it against men requires that special star quality that sets apart a youth star from the real deal.

Now given the growing barren spell of trophies at the Emirates over the years Arsene Wenger has been seen to gradually decrease his initial faith in bringing through youth and instead purchase more established players. He hasn’t completely done away with blooding youngsters and the Capital One Cup is still a platform for the potential to test themselves against more challenging opposition than what they are used to in the reserves and youth leagues. Though the past couple of seasons has seen Arsene Wenger produce more balanced teams thus ensuring enough experience is on the field to help along the youth. In the past it wasn’t a shock to see a Capital One Cup line up littered with young players; they would play with no fear and leave the fans in the stands glowing about how bright the future was.

Now more often than not players that were tipped as standout players in the youth set up have been moving on to pastures new, what isn’t entirely clear is whether these players have moved on because Arsene has identified they don’t have what all it takes to transfer their quality into top level football or whether their impatience has got the better of them. Many young players experience first team football out on loan and when they return to the club the prospect of playing in front of one man and his dog fails to inspire them. The first sniff of an opportunity to become a first team player elsewhere can be too hard to turn down; the manager doesn’t seem to stand in a player’s way when he cannot justify a place ahead of the current players he has in the first team.

Last summer promising Dutch/Turkish player Oguzhan Ozyakup made the move to Besiktas, it seemed a bit of a shock at the time as he was on the fringes of the first team and seemed destined to take his Arsenal career to the next level. Fran Merida comes to mind as another who maybe left before the manager expected. This season there are a number of players who could potentially move on this summer as the club delays on the offer of new contracts. It’s a gamble the club plays on those the manager is not 100% certain of, the time spent thinking allows players like Angha to make other arrangements.

Was Angha a top prospect? I believe he was, he made his first team debut this season in the Capital One Cup. He was highly rated when signed a couple of years back along with Sead Hajrovic and the times I have seen him in various youth and reserve games he had been impressive and comfortable at that level. I think he is one that got away but it would be interesting to hear the view from the club and Arsene in particular if he regrets the loss of the player.

Personally I think the time is up for players like Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt; they have been given opportunities around the first team but have failed to advance their development to the level required. Their loan spells have produced mixed results and I would not be surprise to see them as former Arsenal player by the time next season starts. Chuks Aneke is another player who has had massive potential coming through the ranks and I feel that he may stay on with the club next season but it will be a make or break season for him. He has done well on loan at Crewe Alexandra this season but in all due respect he needs to be testing himself at a much higher level if he is to break into the first team.

chuks aneke

Successful loans don’t always equal a passage to the first team as the example of Henri Lansbury will show you. Despite a few outings for the first team the majority of Lansbury’s last few years at Arsenal seemed to be away from the club on loan. Although I wouldn’t class his departure to impatience, his time away meant that when opportunities presented themselves in the Arsenal midfield he was not around to take them.

It really is interesting to see how the project youth will take shape in the near future at Arsenal, there is undoubted quality coming through such as the likes of Serge Gnabry and Tomas Eisfeld but will those players have the patience to wait to compete with the likes of Arteta, Wilshere Cazorla for a start or fancy their chances of first team opportunities elsewhere? A lot of money is invested in the scouting system at the club and development of young players but at what point is the line drawn if players don’t hang around? Maybe the chance to unearth another Wilshere is worth cutting the loss on players just not at the required level yet.

Enjoy your day people.

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Bradford embarrassment sinks Arsenal to new low

Absolutely shocking performance last night, Arsenal fans across the land must be united in wondering how we can turn this around. The line up last night included no kids, none of the young raw players we have witnessed in previous rounds. This was the first team out there, pitted against a league two side. There is no excuse to struggle against a side from that level; I know the home fans were up for it and that would of course lift their players but this was our first team out there.

Words cannot describe the embarrassment felt witnessing the game yesterday. On Saturday the win against West Brom was seen as the first step on the long road to recovery; a chance to build back some confidence and momentum and prove the club is still a major force. Well yesterday Bradford City pushed Arsenal back about 20 steps; it is going to take a hell of a lot to restore some pride and dignity to Arsenal’s reputation.

arsenal out

Our once great club is now a laughing-stock; it is hard to defend the events of last night. It may only be penalties but it should never have reached the stage of penalties. Despite the one million and one wake up calls we have already had this season we still have not reacted. Will this spark some soul-searching and a new focus to put things right? Hardly, we will be here again in couple weeks time questioning another defeat. It is a vicious cycle and the January transfer window cannot come quick enough; we need wholesale changes, talking up the quality of the players we have means nothing if they cannot produce the results.

We are a club in turmoil; there is no way to sugar coat it, a high number of players in the squad are just not good enough to take us back to the top. Arsene needs to put his ruthless hat on and wield the axe; he needs to fix the team as soon as possible. We cannot afford to wait until the summer and at the moment Wenger cannot afford any more slip ups. The pressure is on like never before, he lost the backing of even more fans last night after that outcome and at this moment in time I cannot see him lasting the season if things don’t change.

wenger ball

In his defence, he put out a strong team against Bradford and those players who were on the pitch should take most of the blame for the performance and result. They let him down big time, they let the fans down and they let their selves down. I’m not even going to single out players; the usual suspects who the fans ridicule did nothing to prove otherwise. I won’t blame the penalty misses because like I said the game should never have even got to the stage of a shootout. The whole team needs to look long and hard at itself, we cannot paper over the cracks anymore because fan power grows stronger with each poor performance.

The only Arsenal positive I can think of right now if the fact that we are not playing until next Monday so my weekend won’t be spoiled in any way. I will get back to being more positive about Arsenal and their chances for the rest of the season but for now I am sure you are in agreement that this sucks right now.

Try your best to survive the banter from rival fans today.

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Wenger patience wearing thin

With the protracted contract negotiations continuing between Arsenal and winger Theo Walcott, manager Arsene Wenger is clearly getting to the end of his tether.

There has been a distinct lack of apparent progress with the completion of a deal with the England international and as the weeks go by a resolution is looking more and more unlikely.

The other major factor is that Walcott will be out of contract at the end of the season and with the January transfer window edging closer, Arsenal are going to have one last chance to cash in on the former Southampton starlet if a deal can’t be agreed.

 arsene theo

With the Gunners in the midst of a poor run of form in the Premier League, the lack of commitment from one of the first-team players will not be helping matters at the Emirates.

Wenger has expressed his desire to keep Walcott at the North London outfit and believes the player would like to stay too but clearly something is holding up the deal.

The Frenchman said:

“With Theo, I have no news. I personally am not involved in that directly, indirectly of course yes, but at the moment we have not made any progress.

“Honestly, I am frustrated. Between the player and me it is all clear, he knows what he wants and he has to make up his mind.”

“We have been in negotiations with Theo for a long, long time, and we have not been late in our re-negotiations with him.”

“We always try to extend the contracts very early.”

With the likes of Liverpool believed to be interested in signing Walcott, we might well see the 23-year-old in the red of Liverpool instead of the Arsenal red in January.

Ahead of Bradford v Arsenal tonight make sure you check out all the Capital One Cup Betting markets with Betfair, as well as all the latest news, advice and newly updated Betfair Football In-play markets.

Guest post brought to you today by Tom Brown.

Enjoy your day people.

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Time to move on from Santi scandal

We start the week in a slightly better mood compared to last; A win certainly can make things feel a lot better. Swansea last week is far from forgotten, we have merely put a band-aid over the wound but we need the bandages and that secret ointment Mr Miyagi uses to heal up the karate kid to overcome the pain.

I wouldn’t patronise any arsenal fans, I know we are all on the same page when it comes to Saturday’s game, it is only one game and there is a hell of a long way to go to get the confidence back and hit the form we know we are capable of. There seems to be a lot of daylight between Arsenal and the top of the league but that doesn’t mean we have any right to give up, anything is possible and we must fight until the very last game of the season. Finishing above Tottenham should be at the back of our list of priorities, we don’t need to be dragged down to their level of measuring success; the Manchester clubs and Chelsea should be our concern.

The remaining December fixtures (Reading a, Wigan a, West Ham h and Newcastle h) are ones the old Arsenal would expect to win; I understand we are not the Arsenal of old but we do have quality in this squad who can achieve so much more than we have so far. Optimism from the fans has weakened over the years but we still cheer on the boys and still believe in them despite the odd moan and grumble from the stands.

One of the main points from the game against West Brom was the dive from Santi Cazorla that led to the opening penalty. It was a dive, I don’t deny it and I certainly do not welcome diving in the game however this is not a common trait from the player in all the games we have witnessed from him this season. The overreaction to the incident has been quite hypocritical from some quarters of the press and I feel deep down they know he is not a serial diver.

santi

There are some players who are known for their diving so much that it becomes something that is laughed off and dismissed when they produce simulation in games. Whenever there is a new kid on the block who gets exposed by the cameras those same people want the book thrown at them. The level of disgust should apply to everyone who does it, to pick and choose relevance is not the way forward. The media favourites such as Suarez and Bale need to be pulled up for their misdemeanours and until such is done the problem will not be solved. I will not condone an arsenal player who seeks to cheat in every game and I’m sure many fans would agree with me, it is an embarrassment to be forced to defend cheating performed by your own players. But we don’t have players who seek to cheat in every game and so I do not believe there is any issue to deal with. It was a one-off incident and people (mainly rival fans) now need to get over it and move on.

Bradford game this week for a place in the semi finals of the Capital One Cup, really hope we don’t end up with egg on our faces. A nice mix of experience and youth is required, we are still away from home and need to stem the potential pressure caused from a crowd who will be bang up for it. I’m not saying it will be our only chance for silverware this season but it certainly is the chance for the first silverware of the season. If we go all the way the final will be nice and early in the season (24th Feb), we can get it out of the way and focus on all the other competitions we are in. It’s still a long way away but we need the job done this week, fingers crossed guys.

Enjoy your day people.

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Arsenal test fans faith with 12 goal thriller against Reading

Words cannot describe the events at the Madjeski stadium last night. This game had everything, I mean everything. I really don’t know where to start, after 30 mins the overwhelming condemnation of the arsenal team was enough to send Arsene Wenger into hiding indefinitely.

Arsenal lined up with a young team, some experience was thrown in to even it up but embarrassingly we just did not get started. The pressure was on from early and I really worried at one point that we could have a repeat of the old Trafford score. We started the game so badly and it seemed that our senior players just weren’t doing enough to protect the fragile confidence of the youth.

Poor young goalkeeper Dami Martinez did his reputation no help whatsoever in the game and must hold his hand up to a couple of the goals that flew in against us last night. It’s never easy for any young player especially a keeper after making a big mistake, for all the good things he did in the game his errors will be remembered most. Arsene has a big job to do to try to rebuild his confidence and the public perception of him as after last night is wedged firmly into dodgy keeper category.

Serge Gnarby was the name on all fans lips before the game as we really wanted to see this exciting talent on show. To be honest he was quite disappointing, maybe he tried too much with the weight of expectation on his shoulders to make things happen. He will learn from this and I’m sure in a less raw team he would really shine; time is on his side.

Theo Walcott made the game his last night, whether or not he get credited with the hat-trick is not relevant. After a timid first half the young forward came to life in the dying stages of the first half to give us a glimmer of hope with an excellently dispatched goal. Running through the middle he latched onto an Arshavin through ball and made no mistake. 4-1 at half time and even then the most optimistic fans were not envisaging everything that happened after.

The real turning point in my eyes is the substitution in the second half when Giroud and Eisfeld replaced the disappointing Frimpong and Gnarbry. It really changed the game on its head as our French forward was up for it. Soon after coming on he arrowed  a pinpoint header into the back of the net to make the score 4-2. A lifeline indeed and now fans were really starting to believe. Eisfeld was cool and classy in the middle of the park and it really does make you wonder why the German has not been afforded more opportunities with the first team so far.

With our new-found impetus we really took the game to reading though the threat of a goal was always there. Our defensive partnership of skipper for the night Djourou and Koscielny did not cover their selves in glory as we looked very weak at the back. Especially to balls played in the box. It’s worrying as these two are our back up centre backs and should have instilled more security for the defence. They were not helped by the baffling lack of protecting from a midfield that had 2 defensive midfielders. We actually looked more secure when Frimpong went off though I will cut the guy some slack since he has been out for a while with that injury.

Just when it was looking like reading weathered the storm up popped Koscielny to nod in a corner with 3 minutes left. Our Frenchman had an eventful night after scoring an own goal and counting himself lucky not to receive a 2nd yellow card. I believe the ref felt sympathy for him considering we looked out of the competition.

All the better for us as we reaped the benefits of his presence on the field. Once it hit injury time it was not looking good. The referee’s assistant held up the board saying 4 minutes of injury time. Reading took it upon themselves to work the ball into the corner, I really hate that and there was still plenty of time for a break. Reading did not heed the warning as we broke forward and nearly scored from a rapid counter attack. Reading again tried to work the ball in the corner to the delight of their fans however we had different things on our mind as we again broke, the ball was lofted forward in the 4th minute of injury time however the ball broke to Theo who shot at goal, the ball was half stopped on the line but continued to roll over the line. The defender kicked it out but it was clear the whole ball went over the line. Luckily Carl Jenkinson blasted the loose ball into the back of the net to make sure.

The reading backroom staff were livid especially the recently substituted Jason Roberts but they only have themselves to blame. We pulled off a remarkable comeback to take the game into extra time. Funnily enough someone forgot to mention that to Giroud and Coquelin as they threw their shirts into the crowd at the final whistle. They were ordered to go and get their shirts back, luckily the fans gave them back.

Onto extra time and now it only looked like there would be only one winner now, the psychological blow reading must have felt left them as lambs to the slaughter. Now we were able to get into our stride and play our game at our pace, there was no need to panic and rush things and eventually we went ahead.

Our very own Chamakh decided to remind fans he was on the pitch with a quite well taken goal from outside the box. Now we were ahead it was a standard formality we would go on and close the game. Reading had other ideas and mustered up an equalising goal from a ball lofted in the box. We really looked like conceding every time the ball was lofted in. luckily for us we pulled it together and with the clock running down penalties looked on the cards. With about 2 minutes to go Andrei Arshavin who had a hot and cold game drove at the reading defence when the space opened for him he drilled in a shot which was blocked on the line, the ricochet flew straight to Theo Walcott’s boot who couldn’t miss. He dispatched the ball into the back of the net and the game it seemed was won. What a magnificent comeback, the awesome away fans who sang from start to end really deserved the comeback.

Reading rallied for the last minute of extra time throwing the ball into the box at every opportunity, this time we stood firm and from a break Chamakh was free against the keeper who was well off his line. With a sublime dink over Federici’s head the ball was over the line and we had pulled of a 7-5 win.

What a win, what a comeback, I don’t think I have ever experienced such a crazy game before. The 4-4 against Newcastle was unique but this game took it to a whole new level with 12 goals in total.

Arsene in his post match press conference stated:

“We went from disaster to, I must say at least at some stage, pride”

That was a pretty much fair evaluation. It was a complete disaster and I was close to turning the tv off and going to bed, Walcott’s goal gave us hope and we really battled hard to come back. In the end I was proud of the efforts considering, there will be a lot of evaluation back at London Colney to discuss what had happened last night. We turned it around but we cannot rely on us scoring 7 goals to get us out of a hole again. This was a freak game and unlikely to happen again for a long time, im just glad for once we were the comeback kings.

Enjoy your day people.

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