Wouldn’t an Ajax vs Barcelona final just bring back the romance of the European Cup, eh? A team who has a rich history but has fallen down the global pecking order since the advent of the Champions League format, versus a team who thinks the world loves them but in fact it’s just their own fan base, admittedly quite a large global one.
I for one would love it and the trick in the second leg for the Dutch side is to make sure they approach their home game with the level of intensity and professionalism that they did last night in the first 20 minutes.
Focusing on non-Arsenal related stuff for two paragraphs is long enough though, so I think I’ll leave it there and mercifully, it doesn’t look like we’ve had any more “we must learn from this” or “we have to move on” rubbish in the aftermath of the Leicester City debacle. Instead the official site is widely focusing on the women’s and youth levels, both of whom have won their respective leagues and in this period of darkness for the men’s team it’s at least good that we can look at the successes in other parts of the club and see some brightness.
And let’s face it, if the noises about the money we have to spend in the summer bare fruit, we’re going to need some pretty impressive step ups from some of the younger players next season. You only have to look at the number of exits to see how much of a challenge this is going to be.
Cech, Ospina, Lichtsteiner, possibly Koscielny, Jenkinson, probably Elneny, Ramsey, Welbeck, will all depart I suspect. That’s eight players without blinking. Then you think that Özil is probably going to be shifted on if the club can do it because of his wages, as well as Mkhi and most are hoping that Mustafi goes too. If you’re supposed to have a squad of 25 first teamers then you’re essentially looking at half of them potentially being moved on.
I personally can’t see it so I suspect we’ll be holding on to the like of Mkhi, Özil and Mustafi in the summer. The rest surely will move (maybe not Kos but his age and aching limbs suggest his playing time will probably be reduced next season) so what does that leave us if we have less than £50million to spend I. The summer?
A new ‘Project Youth’.
But this one probably isn’t by design, instead being by default, because we just don’t have the required cash to inject in to the club to get the players in to get us where we want to go. So I’m expecting to see quite a few promotions in the summer. The big question will be whether these young players are ready for such a big step up.
Is Willock? He’s played a bit in some of the lesser competitions but whilst he’s been good in a few, I think he’s also looked a little lightweight in a few others.
Is Nelson? He was looking good at the start of the season but as the season has gone on he’s featured less and less. If he’d had gone from strength-to-strength and was a regular in the Hoffenheim team I’d be getting a bit excited but as it stands I’m not sure whether he’ll be the big and instant success some of us are hoping for.
Is Mavropanos? No idea. He’s played only a few games this season and hasn’t looked fit.
Is Saka? He’s looked very good and it looks like there’s a player in there but he’s raw. Can Arsenal afford to put too much faith in such raw players? We all know the answer.
After that we’re starting to get in to the realms of Gilmour, Ameachi, John-Jules et al. All promising players but at a club like Arsenal they should be moving on to loan moves at clubs, ready to be given their chance in a couple of seasons time. But the more and more I read about how the transfer money cupboard is bare, the more I think that some of these players are going to be given a chance next season.
Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing. After all look at Ajax and what they have done. They are the highest scorers in Europe and have one foot in the Champions League final (we hope). They have shown what can be done but my question is to whether or not we have enough youngsters who are that good. Our league is waaaaay more competitive than Eredivisie. You can play a rotated team when you’re at home to Groningen and know you’ll pick up three points. As we’ve shown and as Unai has found out, you can’t really do that with any teams in the Premier League.
And that’s why I’m wary of another ‘Project Youth’. It didn’t work before and I’m not sure how successful it can be in such a physically demanding league as the Premier League. We’ve had our fingers burned once already, but are we about to go into another high risk strategy because we’re going to be forced in to it?
More on the Valencia game tomorrow.