Boardroom rumour and youth hype

Morning all.

The internet was full of intrigue last night when the editor of sport.co.uk went all BBC on us and ‘understood’ something was happening at Arsenal. On his Twitter he said:

Sport.co.uk understands that #Arsenal will make a statement in the coming days which will relate to future of the club at boardroom level.

Initially he said an announcement was imminent which left people all anxious and excited like that time the Guardian said they had massive transfer news and it was just related to the transfer of a monkey from London Zoo to one in Milan. It might just have been the wrong choice of words. Perhaps ‘pending’ might have been better.

Now, I don’t know anything beyond what SportEditor says but I know he’s an Arsenal fan. Obviously there’s all kinds of speculation now about what he meant. We know Usmanov has upped his stake recently. The previously absent Nina Bracewell-Smith was at both the Sunderland and Blackburn games. Is there something to be read into that?

Given the current climate around the club, the frustration with the manager’s spending habits and the team’s recent form, it would be the perfect time for a ‘White Knight’ to appear. Holding forth a magic staff/bag of transfer money he, or she, would be welcomed and accepted without too much thought from fans who want change.

And if we talk about factions of Arsenal fans we know those exist on the board as well. Lady Nina was ousted, Usmanov has never been given a place on the board despite being the second largest shareholder, and in the background I’m sure I sense a familiar orange glow. It’s been common enough over the last little while to hear fans talk about wanting David Dein back at the club. Which is fair enough. Apparently he’s the most Arsenalish Arsenal man of all time. In which case you have to ask why it was he sold his shares for £75m.

For me that underpins any argument about Dein’s return. If you love the club that much, and wanted to be part of it, from failures to successes, you don’t sell out to someone like Usmanov. And certainly not in the circumstances in which it happened. Also, I am as yet unaware of Dein’s ability to magic money out of nothing, meaning even he would have had a hard time ‘making’ Wenger spend cash which didn’t exist in the early years of the stadium move project.

Anyway, there’s bound to be even more speculation over the coming days, until the announcement is made, or isn’t. It might end up being something really disappointing but when a wounded animal is crawling through the desert to find a place where it can recover, vultures circle overhead. Let’s wait and see what happens.

There’s a little more on Charlton youngster Carl Jenkinson. A Charlton fan emailed me yesterday to tell me the deal has been done, he’s a right back who has been filling in at left back, and while he’s done ok he’s been nothing particularly special. He also asked me to please ensure that a swap with Eboue was not part of the deal. Which I reluctantly agreed to. You know how much sway I have over Arsenal transfer dealings.

Without doubts over the futures of Eboue and Clichy you wonder if this guy is set to provide cover for both positions. At 18, however, the learning curve will be steep so fingers crossed the manager had his Potential Specs polished before doing the deal.

Emmanuel Frimpong talks about how he was going to be part of the first team squad last year until he did his knee injury. Countless times I’ve heard ‘If only Frimpong wasn’t injured, we’d have some competition for Song’, and while that’s certainly true to an extent, I do worry about how much stock we place in the youngsters at this club. Gems like Cesc and Jack are rare.

17/18 year olds who can make the immediate step-up to first team football and not look out of place are the exception rather than the rule. Look, for example, at Alex Song himself. As an 18 year old he was entirely out of his depth in the Arsenal first team. Sure, the manager’s faith was rewarded but it took a few seasons for Song to develop and look comfortable. Should the Arsenal first team have been his training ground? Not in my opinion. Did the team suffer as he learned? Yes, undoubtedly.

It continues though. Myachi is going to be a wing-wizard saviour, Frimpong would have added steel to our midfield, Afobe will bang them in like Ian Wright, and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that we should ditch established first team players for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. Well, he’s not exactly setting the world alight at Cardiff, is he?

Like a first teamer out injured they become better and better the more we don’t see them play. The reality, for me at least, is that we need to move away from the youth and correct the imbalance that has long existed in this team. The lack of experience. Put that much stock in an 18 year old and you raise expectation levels to the point where every performance that isn’t outstanding becomes a disappointment. If Myachi doesn’t dribble past five players or somehow, against all the odds, finds that Premier League and Champions League football is a little more demanding and difficult than the Eredivisie, he’ll be written off before he’s even got out of his teenage years.

Don’t expect Wilsheres and Fabregases, revel in the fact we’ve seen two of them in recent years because they do not happen very often at all. Lower expectations of younger players, allow them time to play, to make mistakes, to learn from them, or not, but the continual hype of these talented, but inexperienced kids, doesn’t do them any favours at all. This isn’t to put the blame on fans, I believe Arsene has allowed this to happen because it has suited him over the last number of years. Why buy an established player when we have X Kid with Y potential? “If I bought it would kill X”, he has said.

Or, to put it another way, it would teach X that football is a tough game and you have to compete – not just on the pitch. Maybe the disappointments of some players who have been in the team from an early age come from the fact their development has been stunted by lack of competition and lack of education.

Take Denilson. Whatever you think of him now you cannot argue with the fact people thought we had another gem on our hands when he first arrived. Yet he’s been playing first team football alongside players of the same age and younger, with no experienced head to learn the game from. His lack of progression, ultimately, is down to him, but you do have to ask if we’ve done what’s best for them. Throw them in at the deep end and they’ve got to learn to swim. In some cases though it’s not so much swimming as splashing around and that’s evident with a number of players.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t bring through youth teamers, far from it. What I’m saying is that we should do it when they’re ready and shouldn’t expect them to be able to do the job an experienced player would. Would Frimpong really have made much difference to our midfield this season? Wouldn’t our midfield have been better served with an experienced signing who would a) allow Frimpong to go play football at a level more suited to his tender years and b) provide our team with qualities it has been missing? Not to mention how much the younger ones might learn from such a player.

Anyway, something to think about before we hail Alessandro E’mbryo as the answer to all the teams failings.

And I do seem to have gone on a bit. For further reading this morning check out Tim Stillman’s excellent new column – Marginal theory and misguided faith? –  and reminding you of the Bob Wilson competition here.

Finally, there’s a new t-shirt added to the store, and for those of you who emailed me about this, there are a limited number of XXLs!

Right, that’s about that. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast and we can start looking ahead properly to the Blackpool game.

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