Is it stick or twist with Bayern game around the corner?

F.A cup duty today for the Arsenal as Blackburn takes the trip down to the Emirates. There is a lot of uncertainty in how exactly we will approach this game. We have the massive first leg of the last 16 in the Champions’ League against Bayern midweek and that will surely have a bearing in team selection for today’s game.

For Arsene it must surely be one of his biggest selection problems this season. The defence seems quite threadbare due to some overlying injuries and the luxury of loaning out defenders for the season. Not 100% sure who benefits best out of some of our loans out; the club or the players?

Right now it would slightly more reassuring having Johan Djourou around for today’s game, it avoids the dilemma of rushing back Skipper Thomas Vermaelen or Laurent Koscielny with Tuesday in mind. We have the option of Ignasi Miquel stepping in at the back but a centre back pairing of Miquel and Mertesacker would be seriously exposed to any attack with pace. Sagna is an option but should we really be in the position of calling on our first choice right back to now be our saviour in the middle.

Sagna was immense against Sunderland when called upon in a time of need but that really should have been a one-off. We should not really have to rely on him there again. Arsene has talked up the value of Sagna in that position but I really feel we are playing Russian roulette with that one.

sagna afc

Besides Carl Jenkinson is suspended today so there is a vacancy at right back if Sagna was shifted. Could we become even more makeshift at the back and play Coquelin there or draft in Yennaris?

It seems a few younger players may be given a chance today taking into account injuries, suspensions, pending Champions league tie and level of opposition today. Arsene could be onto a hiding for nothing regardless of who he plays; he could be blamed for resting players for the competition in which we have the best chance for winning silverware or he could be blamed for risking players despite a massive game against Bayern days away.

All I do know is Blackburn cannot be taken lightly with the memories of Bradford still so fresh in the minds of the fans and players. We lost that day with our strongest team at the time, not a young player in sight and so it proves ability is not in question but mental focus to raise your performance for  your Blackburn’s’ and Bradford’s’ the same you would for your Spur’s and United’s’.

ox shoots

Jack won’t be risked and that is understandable, we should have enough quality to not have to rely on Jack’s presence on the field today. I just hope whether it’s a young or experienced player on the pitch before the game the importance of a victory is drilled home. We really cannot afford to lose today, a draw is not ideal either but not the end of the world. Posters of the Bradford game put up around the dressing room could do the job of a thousand words from the manager. Many larger teams have already been knocked out by lower opposition, home advantage is no given right of a win.

Despite some meaty battles with Blackburn over the years helped in part by the ground work set by Mark Hughes and his thug approach; I did not expect the same level of tension from this game today. Hughes is long gone, Savage is no more, and the chicken people don’t quite know what they want in a manager meaning most history between the clubs is nonexistent. So I couldn’t foresee any bad blood or antagonists in the game, that is until the news broke yesterday of David Bentley making a return to his old club.

bentley oh dear

This news changes the dynamics of the game completely as he is eligible to make his debut against Arsenal. The way he left the club, his ownership by Spurs, his personality in general is enough to generate unwanted attention and distraction. He will be up for the game no doubt and the last thing I could bear is a Blackburn victory inspired by his appearance. Old boys returning with opposition has been hit and miss with Arsenal and I pray it is a massive miss today. He is a waste of space who had it all before him but wanted more with half the effort put in. players like him belong on the scrap-heap and I for damn sure don’t want a performance against Arsenal to be part of his recovery.

Please Arsenal if you ever needed any more motivation it has presented itself in the form of Bentley. Take us into the next round please and keep him in your pocket .Perfect opportunity for Gunnersaurus to Harlem Shake in his face…

Enjoy your day people.

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Oguzhan Ozyakup: is Arsenal youth policy failing?

When the recent unconfirmed news that Oguzhan Ozyakup had signed for Besiktas broke this week it had me thinking of the many young players that have left arsenal over the years. Arsenal is a club famed for its development of young professionals and it’s rare to find a player who started at Arsenal who did not credit the academy for giving them a great grounding.

The thing about having a great youth set up is it is meant to transpire and develop into an integration of promising youngsters into the first team squad and carry on the traditions and foundations created.Barcelona despite their superstars still manages to successfully integrate youth players into their set up.

Given the way it has worked out at arsenal you could argue that is a flawed strategy as many players have worked their way through the ranks only to become frustrated at not becoming a first team player instantly. Wenger would champion them and talk up their unlimited potential but then their heads would be turned by the first chance of 1st team football elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong not every player that has come through the ranks has been the level of a jack Wilshere but many have had the potential to be as good. Some players develop to that next level of superstardom a little later in the process, not everyone can crack the first team at 17/18. That is one of the main problems, some youngsters choose Arsenal because they saw Fabregas getting his debut at 16 and think they will get the same opportunities. Their development can be different and the coaches in charge of the younger players and Wenger himself can spot those that have that something special that warrants fast tracking to the first team as well as those that may need a bit more time.

Footballers’ egos are one of the hardest things to manage; they go from running rings around opponents their age and being praised no end to then being told they’re not ready just yet for the first team which is something many young players just don’t seem to register with anything but negativity. This is the point to knuckle down, work even harder and earn the right to be a part of Arsenal first team squad. Some players are not prepared to just play reserve football and get the odd run out in the Carling cup, they want more sooner.

The opportunity to go on loan becomes available and most take it. I’m a big fan of young players going on loan; they get a chance to experience the real ins and outs of first team football. It can also be a measure of their potential if they excel at the club they go on loan to. I mean if a player goes out on loan (in this instance a striker) to a league 2 club and doesn’t score his fair share of goals there it can give an indication that maybe he may not ready to dislodge Robin Van Persie just yet. It can be a nice reality check as the goal a game ratio they had at u-18 level was just that.. u-18 level, the real world is not as easy unless your name is Messi.

The players that go out on loan and do have successful spells often return to Arsenal and find it hard to shift back into reserve football and out of the limelight. They taste that idolisation and when they return they struggle to accept being out of the picture again.

This is the stage where Arsenal has lost many a player they were not planning to let go of. If you look back names such as David Bentley, Sebatian Larsson and Steve Sidwell come to mind. I know, you see those names and probably think not good enough players but to me I honestly believe if they stayed at Arsenal and carried on their development they would have made it at Arsenal.

Ok, David Bentley turned out to be a complete sewer rat but he did have the ability to make something of his career. The main problem for David Bentley was David Bentley; he believed his own hype and thought he was a superstar before his time. Honestly with the right mindset and people around him he could have been a massive player for club and country instead he’s deemed a pompous joke that wasted a promising career. Larsson and Sidwell have carved out decent premiership careers for themselves and could have done a job at Arsenal without setting the world alight if they showed a bit more patience but the good times at Reading and Birmingham swayed their heads.

When Arsenal chooses to let a player go they often prove it was the right decision as we tend to hold on to the ones that have the superstar quality required for the top. I guess that must be part of our ‘business model’ to create marketable superstars with massive returns if ever sold.

A player that had the potential to follow in Cesc’s footsteps towards Arsenal 1st XI was Fran Merida. He had amazing technical ability and was slowly integrating into the Arsenal squad before deciding he wanted a lot more a lot sooner. As is the risk you take from obtaining a player from abroad Merida seemed to miss Spain and it was inevitable he would go back, it was just how soon it happened that wasn’t expected.

His career has stagnated after a bright start at Atletico Madrid and is probably another reason that proves moving too soon isn’t always so prosperous. His situation when you look at it hasn’t changed much from his time at Arsenal as he has struggled to get into the team and spent half of last season out on loan to Braga. Was it worth it? He might say it was but deep down he knows the truth.

Ozyakup falls into a similar category as Merida in terms of ability and potential, if channelled correctly a very good player could emerge. The move to Besiktas still hasn’t been confirmed and I hope it is a made up story. There is some weight behind it since Ozyakup has recently swapped national representation from Holland to Turkey; so a move to a leading Turkish team wouldn’t seem so crazy. I actually think Ozyakup is in Wenger’s plans and should have a long hard think before jumping ship.

A loan move would be a more logical career move at this stage of his career, we will have to wait and see how this plays out but if Ozyakup does decide to move on then Arsenal will have to take a long hard look at whether their strategy to grooming youth is working. The time, money and effort put into these young players is not a guarantee but a gamble and its interesting to know how much money is lost when these players move before their time.

P.S Thank you to Oguzhan Ozyakup for breaking my spell checker.