During Arsenal’s financially tough times when the new stadium was being built, Arsenal had to suffice with the purchases of young inexperienced players and the sales of some of the club’s very best talents. It was a dark period for the club, but a necessary one for the club’s future. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was famously told ‘You’ll never win anything with kids’ as he saw many of the club’s top talents leave, only to be replaced by players in their early twenties. But years on many of these same players have matured to become important players for the club and many have been pivotal in our recent successes.
The way to sum this point up perfectly is to look at the career of Laurent Koscielny. Arsenal had gone from the experience of Toure and Gallas, to an unknown French defender in Laurent Koscielny playing regularly in the centre of defence. Playing in the lower levels of French football, the player made an instant impact at Arsenal by getting himself sent off on his debut. Even after his return, things looked bleak for the Frenchman and many questioned Arsene Wenger’s decision to purchase him. It was clear at that time that Arsenal weren’t going to be able to compete for major honours with the quality of players amongst our ranks.
A few years down the line however, as players like Koscielny have matured, Arsenal now look strong in all areas of the pitch and are ready to push on to compete for major honours once again. Arsene Wenger has to admit that he will never win anything with a team of kids, but does Le Prof now have a perfect balance of players to make the Gunners successful again?
It is a topic of debate that has been raised to Arsene Wenger in a recent media release, of which Wenger was clear to state that he believes the club now has a great balance of youth and experience, instead of before when it was simply all youth.
In a report by the Metro, Wenger is quoted saying: ‘To be a real football player, you need to be 23 years old because before you have learned your job, you can have a great game and after, sometimes an average game. You can have one or two exceptional talents, like at the moment we have Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi, but the core of the team has to be from 23 to 30. If you look at the national teams, you never win a tournament with a young team, because it’s more mental at some stage to win something big. You need to have a certain level of experience.’
There were moments in the past where it looked that Arsenal might achieve something with their young side, most notably between the years of 2009-2011, however the one factor that was missing from a successful title charge, was having the experience of knowledge on how to remain consistent towards the end of the season. After the likes of Fabregas and Nasri left, it then meant that even our great young players were beginning to turn away and Arsenal were left with little chance of success at all.
Looking at present day, Wenger is absolutely spot on about how he has implemented a squad that allows youth to continue to push through the ranks, an aspect that he and Arsenal as a whole are very proud of. But that the team also has its fair share and core of players who are experienced and drive forward for success. Looking at our back line alone, you see that we have both experienced players in Monreal and Koscielny, as well as young players in Mustafi and Bellerin. It’s a perfect combination and its a combination that can be seen across most positions on the pitch.
The current Arsenal squad in my opinion is the best since Wenger’s last real successful period of the early 2000’s. It was of course 2005-6 that that symbolic Arsenal team began to break away and this team is in my opinion the closest Wenger has come to replicate a squad that is capable of achieving similar success.