Good afternoon gooners,
A wet Sunday afternoon here in West London and after what was an amazing night in the Olympics I have to say writing the blog about things that aren’t really happening at the moment (Robin’s contract, the delay of Cazorla, the potential arrival of Sahin) in the Arsenal world seems a little bit trivial. Team GB are showing what desire, passion and dedication can achieve, with some inspiring stuff from Jess Ennis and Mo Farah last night. Farah in particular, was made all the more sweet, what with him being a gooner ‘n all.
But I’m still going to talk about Arsenal and what’s going on at the mo, with the word on the online street that Robin’s been impressed with our signings and may be considering a U-turn on the contract situation. I’ve said before I think this is media smokescreen like we had with Nasri last year, so I still don’t hold out more hope. Also, I would really question whether or not even a contract signing U-turn should be enough to let RvP keep the captaincy, but I think Wenger will forgive and forget if the unlikely happens and the captain signs on for four more years. Ideally, a marker needs to be laid down to potential contract rebels, but it’s not going to happen any time soon I don’t think.
One question I do want to ponder on today’s musings is this: With Santi Cazorla about to arrive, is ‘Project Youth’ finally dead?
Project Youth effectively started with a conscious decision from Arsenal Football Club to bring in younger, more technically gifted footballers in to the club at an early age, pay them high wages and see if championship winning sides could be built from the philosophy of a collective unity having played together for many years that would see them dominate the English Premier League against the backdrop of Chelsea’s and latterly Manchester City’s, billionaire owners. Season after season we saw younger players come in instead of more polished and mature signings. Wenger’s view was that by drilling a certain style into these players, by the time they reached their footballing peak they would: a) have a sense of loyalty and b) obligation to the club to stay despite the millions on offer elsewhere. So players like Fabregas, Clichy, Nasri, van Persie would look beyond the mega-money on offer and win trophies with the club.
Obviously we all know what has happened and we all know of ‘Project Youth’ as it has been referred to by so many bloggers over the last few years. But after year-after-year of bringing in players not over 23 into the first team, are we seeing a fundamental shift in Wenger’s unwavering philosophy? Perhaps the beginning of this was last summer, with the arrival of Mertesacker, Santos and Arteta - all of which are over 25 – and the latterly with Podolski, Giroud and now Cazorla. All internationals, all reaching their peaks and all capable of really improving our chances of winning some silverware for the upcoming season. Is Wenger looking at his own time at Arsenal and starting to realise he is in the autumn of his time at Arsenal and will probably only be at the club for a few more years?
My view? ‘Project Youth’ has not been scrapped entirely, but is now being complimented by ‘Project Bargain’, which I deem as Arsene scouring the marketplace for players that are experienced enough but that are not going to bankrupt the club through massive fees. Mertesacker wanted a new experience, Arteta wanted Champions League football, Santos wanted a better league to test himself in, Podolski was a shining star in a struggling team, Giroud knew that a repeat of Montepellier’s success would be unlikely, and finally Cazorla is jumping ship from a rudderless vessel in Malaga. Wenger has effectively been the circling vulture looking for the very tasty and easily accessible meat. He’s scoured Europe for players he could pick up at a reduced price whose actual value is a lot higher than what Arsenal have paid. It’s an extremely clever tactic that, in the space of just under a year, has left Arsenal with a number of experienced internationals to compliment some technically gifted young players (Gnarby, Gibbs, Wilshire, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frimpong, Afobe, Miyachi, etc) to come through without as much pressure as they could have had if these experienced signings had not arrived.
‘Project Youth’ has not been scrapped. We will not see Arsenal stop bringing in young players at higher wages than most of our competitors. But what we will now see is how successful it can be with a little bit more experience added to it.