If Thursday truly is the ‘new Friday’, then I shall embrace it like a sibling I am very fond of, for it brings us one day closer to the weekend and Arsenal. And with Arsène most likely to have his presser this morning, we’ll also begin the countdown to the West Brom game in earnest today with team news, thoughts a wear of the match and possibly some philosophical comments on the importance of football in the wake of last weekend’s atrocities.
The rumours are already trickling out that The Ox and Bellerin will be back and whilst it’s not the full compliment of injured players we would have liked to have seen back (Rambo and Theo, for example), it is still good to know reinforcements are being parachuted in after an injury-hit pre-internationals period.
Whether Arsène recalls both players remains to be seen and, given the strength of our squad this season, I do wonder if he might give players a little longer to fully recover than he would have five years ago. I thought Debuchy, for example, acquitted himself quite well against the Spuds and despite pretty much everyone having a mare in Munich, he made a couple of decent tackles. So whilst we’d all like to see the return of Bellerin and his pace to the starting XI, if he’s not 100%, Arsène knows he can call on Debuchy to fill in.
The same can be said for Campbell, who was on the official website this week talking about the importance of loans, to gain life experience. It’s hard to argue with that, but perhaps more relevantly the importance of game time is what shapes a player. Whether it’s appropriate for that player to go from team-to-team each season on loan I’m not sure, but I suppose it’s done Benik Afobe no harm, as he’s already being touted for a Premier League move less than a year after joining Wolves.
Could Afobe have become the player he’s moulding in to if he’d have started at a League 2 side and then been playing regularly, to be snapped up by Wolves and now a potential Premier League team? I suppose it comes down to which side of the fence in the ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ debate really. There’s no doubt that Afobe would be more battle hardened and ready for a more rugged approach to the game in starting in the lower leagues, but he would not have had the access to the coaching staff, facilities and the Arsenal style of play. So perhaps, particularly as an attacking and creative player, having his initial education at a club where he will be taught the technical side of the game is the right path for him.
Perhaps all of our attacking and creative young players across the land should be taught by teams like Arsenal, who would teach the technical side of the game, then we can leave the defensive side of the game to those teams who can train young defenders and ball winners instead!
There’s an element of my tongue being firmly in my cheek with that thought process, but given the number of decent players that Arsenal produce across the leagues, it does make you wonder. There aren’t many Arsenal academy graduates who find themselves out of football completely by the time they are 25, are there? I have no evidence or knowledge of a host of players who play for Arsenal from the age of about 17 who then don’t go on to make a career for themselves. Perhaps that’s for a reason: they’re trained well, technically gifted and if/when they do leave Arsenal, they’ve also already got a pretty good footballing CV by being able to say they’ve played for the club at certain levels.
Of course, it could also be argued that by being an Arsenal academy graduate you also have doors open to you that would perhaps not be opened to you if you were in the Bolton youth set up, for example, and you were playing really well. Scouts will always be at Arsenal games, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that managers see a play is in the under-21s at Arsenal and request a loan spell regardless of how much they’ve seen a player, because they know that he’d probably be pretty good regardless. Nature versus Nurture versus Privilege I suppose.
As usual, I’ve asked a lot of questions without given any actual answers, but for what it’s worth I believe that Arsenal is a big enough name to cherry-pick some of the best youngsters. And because as a youngster (and the parents too, I’d expect, who will have a big influence on a young boy/man) you know that you’ll get a certain type of education in the Arsenal academy, Arsenal can filter out some of the best young talent. That, in turn, means that Arsenal’s coaching staff are working with players who they know can adopt ‘The Arsenal Way’ better, which in turn enhances their reputation for attracting more young players, because those players believe they are working with the best. It’s the reverse of what Andre Vilas-Boas talked about: a positive spiral.
How does this affect the first team? It doesn’t really, because I’m not sure that even 5% of graduates will make it through in to the first team, which is also crazy because Arsenal are known for bringing through players. But if you counted up the current graduates who have made it in to the ‘realistic’ Arsenal first team (i.e. Getting more than 10 games a season in all competitions), you’d probably have three or four players, but I bet we’ve sent at least a hundred out of the club elsewhere.
Still, at least those players are getting a good education and being given a chance as a footballer elsewhere, aren’t they?
Catch you tomorrow.