What a difference a few days can make in football. Before the weekend’s fixtures, many Arsenal fans were wallowing in doom and gloom and some were even suggesting that the time may be drawing near when Arsene Wenger would have to leave the club. But now, with three points picked up against Man Utd and now another superb display from their young guns to see off Wigan in the Carling Cup, those same fans must surely be asking themselves what they were worried about.
Yes, Arsenal’s side is not the best at standing up to physical matches, and they can drop costly points because of this, but for fans to have question Wenger’s management after a couple of disappointing results is insanity. The man has done more for English football that any other manager in recent years, revolutionising many, many aspects of how a club is run and a squad managed.
And now, as we see with their young players’ amazing exploits in the Carling Cup, Arsenal are soon to see the huge rewards of Wenger’s hard work. Yes, Wenger has brought success so far, league titles and FA Cups and what not, and he has created ‘the Invincibles’ and team after team that plays stunning, passing football, he even made Henry the player he was to some extent.
Now though, the pièce de résistance draws near. Wenger has been at Arsenal for about 12 years now, which means that after taking a few years to sort out the first team set up and establish the way he likes to work, we will now be seeing those players come through that have been nurtured in Arsene’s way from the very beginning. Young English players like Jack Wilshere and Jay Simpson as well as the various foreigners that Wenger has picked up young like Carlos Vela, all of whom who have benefited from Arsene’s guidance – if not first hand, at least under his influence – for many years now.
It is an exciting prospect indeed. One only has to remember the transformation that Wenger caused in Henry, turning him from a pacey winger into one of the world’s most lethal forwards, and he only got his hands on Henry once he was already mostly developed. But these kids, they have been under his careful eye for many years. Those that make it through this far, to grace the under 21’s and the reserves, will be special players indeed.
Many had critcised Arsenal’s youth policy in the past, as players like Richard Wright, Jemaine Pennant, David Bentley and Matthew Upson were cast off, careers in their own right. But clearly, they weren’t quit up to Arsene’s standard in one way or another, though we may never know why not. But one thing is for certain, these players who we are seeing in the Carling Cup now, will be Wenger’s players, down to the ground. As well as being supremely gifted technically, Wenger is a coach who likes his players to have a certain mental attitude.
He creates a great team spirit, the players play for each other, and they are very disciplined. It is only this that allows his teams to play such wonderful football. Because you cannot just stick a whole load of gifted players on the pitch and see them play so fluidly as Arsenal do. No, his teams are disciplined, he tells them where to be and how to play, where the passes should go and everything. And these young players have had that bred into them. Their passing and moving will be autonomous, as natural to them as simply kicking the ball is.
So for fans to have questioned Arsene’s future at the club is, for me, ludicrous. Yes, Arsene has delivered any major silverware for a while, but Arsenal fans should know better than to write him off. They should know better than anyone the quality of the players they have coming through. I have rarely had the opportunity to see them play and yet I know how brilliant a prospect these young guns are, and so all Arsenal fans need is a little bit of patience.
Wenger’s magic is starting to show through in the Carling Cup, where quality, experienced teams are being brushed aside (I saw them do it to my Everton team a few years ago). It won’t be long before these players start t graduate into the first team more regularly, and when this happens, Arsenal will be right back up there. Of course the Chelseas and Man Utds will still have the money to go out and buy the best players in the world, but Arsenal’s side will be special because they have been raised together, as a team, and when a team gels as well as they will have done, and has a much talent as they do, we may well see a team to top ‘the Invincibles’. So Arsenal fans, hold your breath. Don’t criticise the great man, because he will prove you wrong. After all, football is, as I said yesterday, a marathon not a sprint.