Why Arsene Wenger’s youth approach is the only way:

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A perfect example of Wenger's youth projectThere has been widespread criticism and dismay at the recent policy of Arsene Wenger in which he prefers to let his young players grow while signing other younger players to provide Arsenal with what can be seen as an exciting future.  Many people see this as an approach which is doomed to fail and can be summarised with the now infamous quote by Alan Hansen ‘You never win anything with kids’.  However, with the current style which Wenger prefers from his side, I don’t see any other way of attempting to reach success.

In the last few years, there has been a vast, if reasonably un-noticed, shift in the style of play Arsenal try to play in an attempt to end their trophy drought.  At the beginning of the 2009-10 season,  Wenger’s traditional 4-4-2 formation was changed to a more fluid and, seemingly, solid style of 4-5-1/4-3-3 with two wingers and three interchanging central midfielders supplying the ‘false nine’ position which Robin van Persie seems to be made for.

This approach  means that Arsenal have begun to play a patient, possession-based style of football which aims to pass the ball across midfield, keeping it on the floor and probing for opportunities by working their way through the opposition’s usually deep defence.  This is different to the previous style of fast tempo, counter-attacking football which had been seen since Wenger took over and had provided three league titles, including the Invincibles of 2003-04.

One of the advantages to this new style was that there was extra protection in front of a defence which had looked shaky and had been Arsenal’s main weakness in recent years as they had struggled to replace stalwarts such as Sol Campbell, Lauren and Ashley Cole.  Having an extra central midfielder meant they could harry more in midfield, winning the ball further up field and starting attacks in more advanced positions, as had been seen by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in winning the treble the previous season.

Along with this extra solidity, it gave The Gunners’ midfield pivot and playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, the ability to play further forward, behind the striker, and took some of the defensive responsibility off him which had inhibited him in a central midfield two.

As a result of this tactical shift, it has led Arsenal’s style to being far more specialist in the requirements of the players playing it and an increased reliability on players who had grown up playing the ‘Arsenal Way’, specifically in the midfield three.  In the 2009-10 season, the first choice midfield consisted of Alex Song, Denilson and Fabregas.  The first two having been at the club since the age of 18 and the Spaniard since he was 15.

They had grown through their latter teenage years being taught the play this style of football and having Arsenal’s mentality instilled in them at the London Colney hub.   By this time, the three of them had amassed twelve years at Arsenal between them and were all confident and assured in playing this patient style of football which led to great success in the first half of that season until injuries and poor mentalities conspired against them to end with another trophy-less season.

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  • jeremy says:

    How many trophies has Wenger won since 2006?
    This could the season when he will finally realise the game’s up for and Arsenal need to move on.

    • Flavour says:

      How many times have Arsenal not being in the Champions League since 2006? Success means different things to different people.

  • Jim says:

    Those who are any good leave for greener pastures. Those who are useless stay or cannot be off loaded. We are just a fodder club. That’s what the youth policy is for: To sell kids for profits. Get yourself a pen and write out a list of Arsenal young players who have been loaned out and sold for profits in the last 10 years. You will see how long the list is.

  • greg says:

    The policy has not worked. It has meant the sell of any good player with experience and his replacement with a young one. It even appears as though the mature players we get to sign are distinctly average. The club has no shame! All the do is take our cash and furb us off with hard luck stories.

  • GoonerDave says:

    Decent article. I agree. We might not have the quality we want, AW has certainly made mistakes, but the only way we can compete with the financial might of our rivals is with youth. We dont stand a chance in a bidding war.
    Liverpool have shown that throwing money at the problem will not fix it. There needs to be a long term solution, and that can only be found in developing our own top class players.
    Like I said, we dont have enough quality at the moment, in youth or experience, but I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of the article.

  • Gooner123 says:

    Your #1 fan. Fucking amazing article mate

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