Give Youth a Chance?

The hype of the transfer window is in full effect. Fragrant nuggets of a spurious nature are peppering every social network and news source. Inescapable, false but mostly infuriating.

The flavour of this period of purchasing frenzy seems to be strikers. From the Metro to Twitter, via the Daily Mail and Facebook, players such as Karim Benzema, Lacazette and Marco Reus are dangled above every Gooner, aimed solely at enticing hopeful fans to click on the article with the baiting headline. The article is then padded out with a majority of ballyhoo centred around the rumoured player and his apparent appearance at Costa Coffee. In an airport. Somewhere on planet earth.

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It is simple supply and demand at the heart of this football news malaise. It is no secret that Arsenal fans want to hear of a Sky Sports ticker-inducing signing. One of the ilk of Ozil and Sanchez that sends ripples through the Premiership and also causes Gooners everywhere to have palpitations. No one can argue that these purchases breed optimism.

At what point though, do the promising youngsters we have in our youth ranks get a chance to shine?

This transfer window has seen Arsenal make many moves. If papers are to be believed, we have spent our time sending Dick Law on an exhausting game of ‘Airport Tag’, but Andries Jonker has bolstered his available lineup with the astute captures of Ismael Bennacer, Donyell Malen, Yassin Fortune, Kostas Pileas, Vlad Dragomir, Jordi Osei-Tutu and the now high profile Jeff Reine-Adelaide.

These young men have been scouted regularly and will have been flagged as potential stars. The fact Arsenal have snapped them up despite an apparent lack of appearances speaks volumes for how much these adolescents must have impressed Steve Rowley, Gilles Grimandi et al.

Our scouting network is far reaching and gives us an advantage, but it isn’t unrivalled. Every promising 16 year old starlet who shows the first glimpses of talent has also been stalked by every major club in Europe. So to have snared Malen, Bennacer, Reine-Adelaide and the other aforementioned striplings is a coup for the club.

Any facet of our club and personnel can give us the edge when trying to sway the parents and young man to join our cause. Whether it be their idol currently plays for us or because London is the preferred destination, if we can put together a more desirable package than the other suitors, then we should pull out all stops. The main reason for these skilled whippersnappers choosing The Arsenal as their new home undoubtedly has to be that they will get the chance their potential deserves at The Emirates.

The odds are stacked against these charges of Jonker as the lions share who are under the sheltering wing of the Arsenal Academy will not break through to the promised land of the first team. The odd few who have permeated through the border between youth and first team regular are held aloft and used as examples to illustrate what an effective mixture hard graft and talent can get you.

If Arsenal were to act upon popular demand and purchase a striker and a defensive midfielder, then there are many variables to consider. Let us say for example, we purchased Benzema and Christopher Kramer. The positives would be glaringly obvious, our first eleven would be strengthened and if injuries were to snap at our heels viciously as they did last season, then we would have ample backup to alleviate any problems that may arise.

Francois Coquelin, saviour of last season and the epitome of the phrase ‘ like a new signing’, will be once again the lynchpin on which our team relies on. Whilst our attack is mighty and our defence is settled, Coquelin provides the unselfish cover that our other midfielders feed from and our backline craves. If he were to be injured, then a player of the likes of Kramer would be like manna for our team.

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Much is made of our striking options as well. Many names are bandied around liberally and the excitement can be infectious. What isn’t often focused on is that Giroud has 58 PL goals in three seasons, Sanchez in his first season proved he can score enough and terrorise the opposition and Theo Walcott, if fit, can be another valid option. Goals haven’t been our problem. If one of these players does get waylaid by an over-exuberant brute of a defender, then Real Madrid superstar Benzema would slot in seamlessly.

The problems if we sign a bona fide superstar though, are plentiful. Would any established player be happy with starting from the bench at first as Wenger aims to acclimatise? Or alternatively, if they are thrust straight into the heat of the battle a la Ozil and Sanchez, the dislodged players who were in the position previously will question the justification of such an act. If these players are playing well and satisfying the demands thrown at them, why should a new player waltz straight in and take what isn’t theirs?

What is perhaps the most troubling quandary is what happens to the youngsters who are patiently biding their time to burst onto the scene and show the fans what they are capable of? If Benzema, Lacazette, Kramer or Iturraspe did sign ( let us be clear on this, none of these players will sign, this is just an example. Please do calm down and remain seated. ) then that could potentially be numerous seasons where their chances will be severely limited.

It is also a double-edged sword however. These young kids will also get the opportunity to train every day with these luminaries of the game and their own skills will only benefit from this fantastic opportunity to glean first hand. Chances to play will still be scarce though.

Much is made of injuries. If a certain player becomes crocked – and let us be clear on this, the odds on this are always high when we play at such a speed that most defender’s only option is to lunge at us – then the understudy must slot in and grab what represents the holy grail for bench warmers and protegees. Francis Coquelin again shows what can happen when the treatment table is brimming with strains and tears and the gaffer comes to you with hope in his eyes.

Ultimately, we cannot rely on the frequency of injuries. The stark difference between the first and second half of last season is cold hard evidence of this.

Many are of the opinion that if a player is good enough, then age is no hindrance. The young men can display their showcase of talents in training and if they are good enough, then they will make it. It must be said that with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Ashely Cole, that their skillset was so powerful that their age wasn’t even considered. They came into the first team and there they remained.

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Loan spells provide a window to prove that they can make the leap from potential to established star. Friendlies in pre-season also, are chances for the likes of Alex Iwobi, Chuba Akpom and Reine-Adelaide to lay down a marker to Arsene and assure him that they can be counted on if the need arises. Ten minutes here and there at the tail-end of games and the odd dead rubber in the Champions League are excellent rewards for the mandatory patience these kids must show. The aforementioned trio above grabbed the break they were given with white-knuckled glee and whilst it is important to remember the nature of these matches, the way these boys slotted into the team and linked up with the more experienced members of the squad was testament to what Arsene Wenger has always maintained.

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That the youth of the team must be a priority. If we HAD signed Benzema, then he would have been given a runout in either the Barclays Asia Cup or the Emirates Cup. The matches that Akpom, Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide performed so well in. If we had signed an established star in midfield, then the likes of Hayden and Bielik would suffer with stunted appearances.

These world renowned players  strengthen teams. We would lap up the goals and headlines as they performed for us. the detrimental effects are potentially on an even keel though. The youngsters currently under the wing of Jonkers signed on the premise that first team appearances are possible. Confidence is such an important part of a players mindset, so if these potentially world-class kids see that Arsene Wenger would rather go with someone else rather than give them an opportunity, what would that do to them? It sends out the wrong message.

I think there are times when a bank-busting, brass band playing, confetti spraying signing is more than warranted. We will always remember the moment Ozil, Bergkamp and Sanchez were signed. There are also moments that require a stayed hand. Cohesion and trust make up a large part of the squad. New signings may disrupt the fragile equilibrium that is the playing staff.

Whether you are of the opinion that a striker or midfielder is required, one thing cannot be denied. We have a raft of youngsters that are champing at the bit to prove to all and sundry that they are the real deal. Every now and then one of the youngsters has to be given a chance. Akpom, Reine-Adelaide and Iwobi want to show us what they can do and I, for one, trust that they can do the job.

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