Wenger & United, Double Standards and Youth Cup Final

Last night proved another harsh lesson for an Arsenal team. Losing at Chelsea in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final was no disgrace, but nor was the 3 – 1 scoreline a fair reflection of the efforts the youngsters put in. It’s a tall order for them to turn it around on Monday, but good luck to them in their efforts.

But that defending in the opening five minutes or so; ¡ay caramba!

The commentary team nudged toward controversy when they question Chelsea’s attitude toward youth. Such is the infrequency of youth players breaking into their first team, that I can’t shake the thought that their academy is nothing more than an FFP ploy.

What drives a youngster to join them, I wonder? Obviously the dream of making the grade, but is it just seen as being a good school on their CV? Knowing how hard it is to crack professional football anyway, is moving to Chelsea as a 16-year-old a good career move?

It certainly seems to carry a higher risk of failure than other clubs as far as breaking into the first team is concerned. Then again, what sixteen-year-old thinks that clinically when the big clubs come knocking? “Er, no, it’s OK, Mr Chelsea; I want to stay at Swindon, thanks all the same.” It’s not a conversation you can imagine happening very often.

I don’t blame the lads before you wonder. There’s a systematic problem in football surrounding the promotion of players through the ranks that the current academy set-up doesn’t solve. That’s how it seems to this outsider, anyway.

Reserve team football died a death which was appropriate enough for the stiffs. Is there a better process for youngsters to graduate? Seven subs for each match killed any prospect of the reserves or something similar returning.

Je Ne Regrette Rien…OK, Just a Little Bit

Meanwhile, the first team must come to terms with Thursday night’s deflating result quickly. We return to the scene of many a crime for the last time with Arsène as manager. I’m sure it’s a game he could do without, particularly since his bete noir will be there.

The antipathy between the pair is such that you can’t imagine an outbreak of peace, love, and understanding. Perhaps mindful of being on his uppers once he leaves Arsenal, Arsène is keen to avoid one last fine from the FA?

Channel 5’s documentary earlier this week was an interesting(ish) insight into the way professional football thinks. Paul Scholes bemoaned Arsenal’s lack of class, oblivious to the fact that his bitterness a decade later was a complete lack of class. It’s almost like the self-awareness gene is trained out of professional footballers.

There is no doubt feuding managers is the fodder the media thrives on; it’s good copy. And there’s no doubt that Ferguson’s tactical innovation – nobody, not even John Sitton – managed to use the word “f*ck” to such devastating effect, highlights the difference between Wenger and both United managers as people.

Mourinho’s PR speak contained a nugget of truth when he observed the first half-dozen years or so of Wenger’s reign spurred other managers on. As we became less relevant, there wasn’t so much an outbreak of peace as quiet antipathy taking over.

Or at least, the relationship became less pushy and shovey.

The debacle over handshakes shows the extent to which relations remained damaged and while United are planning some show of respect for Wenger behind the scenes, I’m sure he would prefer not to be facing Mourinho. Professional enmity is one thing but with the Portuguese, everything is personal. Barcelona; Wenger; he’s incapable of separating football from life.

Mind over Matter – I Don’t Mind…

I suppose one question we’ll have to wait and see is whether the United faithful will treat Wenger to one more afternoon of their second favourite song down the years. Mourinho seems such a perfect fit with the club, personality-wise. United made no genuine effort to stem the obnoxiousness of their own supporters. A note in the programme is the football equivalent of “he’s not the messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy”.

Don’t bother to mention double standards; I’m well aware of them. Messrs Pleat and Shilton will both attest to the long memories the North Bank and Clock End had when it came to their own indiscretions. Neither was forgotten during their footballing careers.

There’s definitely a pecking order when it comes to abuse from fans. Paedophilia is down there with the Dambusters; it’s not bottom of the barrel; it’s below the bottom and digging into the earth.

We shall see, I guess, whether Manchester United really have the class Paul Scholes claimed or if they are just another football club.

’til Tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Wenger & United, Double Standards and Youth Cup Final

  1. Excellent post – Wenger was very classy in his first decade, he changed football thinking and methods, his only fault was he simply stayed too long and his weaknesses became all too apparent.

  2. What makes a youngster join chelsea, one would have thought that obvious, training a being taught at the most successful club and best academy since 2003, every player wants to be the best he can be, if you are not good enough there are plenty of teams to join, Wenger spent decades raiding European clubs of their youth and very few made the grade, when the club is as successful as chelsea it’s logical that it would be harder get a chance in the first team, but a chance to learn and train with winners, what kind would not want to do that, the only london team to win the champions lge won it with two youth team players, more than any kid at arsenal has ever managed to achieve

  3. Great post yogi.

    We have spent a lot of keystrokes over the years talking about youth. I understand the warm and fuzzy feeling regarding bringing your own youth players into the first team. Even though it’s not the answer we want to hear, youth development and first team results are competing goals. Arsene’s project youth was certainly an admirable attempt to build from within and Arsene has been the most big team aggressive manager in the world with giving youth a chance. Unfortunately, the thousands of first team minutes Arsene used to try and develop players like Alex Iwobe and nick Bendtner have been counterproductive in terms of getting results and sacrificing points to the alter of youth development has not made us successful at building our own superstars so what is the point? We can say that we are the team which gives youth a chance but is standing on the moral high ground really more important then first tram results?

    The amounts of money that have filled the coffers on the worlds big teams in this decade has made it extremely difficult for big teams like Chelsea, man city, Barca, Real or Arsenal to successfully develop their own players because sacrificing first team minutes to youth development makes it harder to compete. Its much simpler and safer and more effective in terms of results to buy an established player when you need to fill a position. In order for Barca to compete with Real they are forced to buy Luis Suarez instead of giving someone from La Masia a chance. The scouting has also improved and become world wide and a Chelsea youth player has very little chance to compete successfully against experienced footballers from all over the entire world.

  4. Over the years we have seen that even the most highly rated youth players are more likely then not to end up with a ceiling well below the level needed at their parent big team. If Real is going to compete with Barca they cant afford to sacrifice significant first team minutes to try and develop a player like Jesé. Even if they do sacrifice results the unfortunate reality is that Jese will most likely not make it at Real anyway and those minutes and results will be lost with no short or long term gain to the club

  5. Bill,

    I think the difference with the Spanish teams is that they’re allowed a professional team in the lower leagues.

    There was a time when something similar was proposed for the EPL but as far as I can recall it was rejected.

  6. @Phil

    Regarding Holding…

    I think he does have quality in him but I think if we bring in a commanding CB it will be at the cost of Holding who has the potential under proper guidance to be that once he is molded but for now I think he is still a ‘project’. The bigger question is will the new man be willing or will he look to make his own signings which would hinder both Chambers and Holding

  7. @dukey

    Completely agree about Keown, would gladly have him on the bench for the defenders and I think Keown would be absolutely brilliant for Mustafi, Bellerin and Sead who we have seen be brilliant but also show the inconsistencies that plagued young defenders and over Arsene’s reign seen get little if any defensive training outside of shape.

  8. Good stuff on youth Yogi.

    I think one of the biggest differences between Arsenal and Chelsea’s youth system is that they generally play players closer to their respective age group than Arsenal. For instance, we play loads of kids 2-3 years younger in the U18’s and U23’s as opposed to Chelsea who play kids right at that age and while most will disagree, that age physically and mentally are massive.

  9. Ras,
    He stayed with the best of intentions. He promised that his successor would not be saddled with debt which he approved, so the new man would be able to invest as he thought fit and not be constrained. It would have been nice if Fans had appreciated the new stadium and used the increased numbers to get behind the team every week. Please do it for the new manager. Create uplifting songs and support the team. Wenger had to sell his best players each year to clear the debt but all he got was vitriol.

  10. MikeSA

    I am not sure how having a professional team in the lower leagues has helped the big Spanish team youth development. Barca and Real and even Atletico have to compete with each other and they can’t afford to give away any advantages. If Barca’s choice is to give Sergi Somebody from La Masia a run in the first team or buy Luis Suarez then Barca has to go with the latter or fall behind Real. They have not been anymore successful then we have with developing youth and integrating them into regular impact positions in their own first teams

    We have to accept that using first team minutes to develop our younger players and getting results are competing goals and at least in my opinion results have to take priority for all of the worlds “big teams”. The fact that Arsene was willing to sacrifice results to other goals such as playing attractive football or blooding youth is one of the biggest things we have complained about for all of these years. We have sacrificed results to give minutes to a players like Iwobe, Nik Bendtner and yet we have not built our own superstars and I don’t see much gain for our team other then we get to occupy the moral high ground of saying we give youth a chance. Even more ironic is our efforts have not really helped the younger players since the vast majority end with a ceiling of the English Championship or below.

  11. .C,

    An important element of the famous Ajax school “De Toekomste” (The Future) training , was that they always played against older opposition. They also had o play in all the positions on the field to round out their education.

    We have a famous rugby school here in South Africa, Grey Bloenfontein, where many of our national team players were educated.

    They also train against bigger, older kids ( and rugby is a genuine contact sport, unlike football which isn’t actually a contact sport, it’s a sport where some conact is tolerated).

    They also train barefoot on ploughed fields to build up strength and stamina.

    They have had huge success with their youngsters going on to excel on the international stage.

    I think Wenger was aware of some of these activities but possibly didn’t understand how to apply them correctly.

    I think Keown could do wonders with the defenders we already have.

    Why on earth has Kolasinic not had more opportunities?

    I know we’ll be told that somehow Wenger doesn’t use them for some reason or other but we’ve seen this often enough to know that Wenger can and has done serious damage to some players’ careers if he takes a dislike to them, so I don’t exactly trust his judgement or his coaching ability (for want of a better phrase), quite frankly.

    I think it was Upson who said that if Wenger took a dislike to player then no matter how good they were they were basically toast after that.

  12. Bill,

    The pong I was trying to make is that for the big Spanish teams they have an option that provides a far lower risk in that they can set the program for their development and training whilst playing in a competitive league at their feeder club rather than at the flagship, unlike in the EPL.

    We can send kids out on loan, but then have virtually no say in how they are trained or played whilst on loan, whilst the Spanish teams own their “loan” clubs and do get to stipulate what happens there.

  13. Developing a younger player is at best a crap shoot and a significant percentage of even the most highly touted players end up with a ceiling that is not as high as the home team needs in order to compete with its other big team rivals. The incredible flow of money into the big teams coffers in the last 10 years has made it exponentially more difficult for big teams to use homegrown players in significant roles because when they need to fill a hole its much quicker easier and more effective to buy someone. There are a few exceptions but the younger players they do use have almost all been test driven by other teams and then cherry picked before purchase which gives them a significantly higher chance of success.

  14. MikeSA

    I guess some sort of developmental league makes sense but it has not really helped the big Spanish team to integrate their younger players into impact roles in the first team in this decade. In reality I doubt any strategy would change the current tide as long as the money flowing into the game has stacked the deck so heavily against the home grown big team players. You can say its unfair but it is what it is.

    In theory I do like a developmental league better then our current stategy of loaning out the players we don’t think will ever make it and keeping the better U21 players around so they can play an occasional league cup or early round FA cup game. Our current strategy is 15 years old and has not worked for us and it has not helped the younger players

  15. Surely Pleat and Shilton were actually caught with their pants down. Wenger, I have always assumed, is not a paedophile

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