Are The Kids As Good As We Think? Can Emery Get The Best Out Of Them?

This morning sees Unai Emery basking in the glory of the opening weekend win at Newcastle. Basking is probably too strong a term for discontent is simmering under the surface.

The football wasn’t stylish enough; the scoreline wasn’t convincing; most of the new toys found themselves on the bench. All these reasons and more were used as sticks to beat the Spaniard with.

Replacing Arsene was always a tough job but pushing Mikel Arteta out as successor? Unforgivable.

The first defeat will see blades flash through the air; “Sack him now! Save us the trouble at the end of the season!” the battle cry gurgling through the spittle-filled air.

It’s not going to happen. Emery is in the last year of his contract but it’s widely believed there is an option for a third year. Unless he fails to finish in the top four, the club is going to exercise their contractual right.

Why shouldn’t they in those circumstances. Ambition is in short supply beyond the burning financial need for a return to the Champions League. If Emery hits that target, he’ll get a new two-year deal; there’s no question of that in my mind.

He’s rebuilding the squad using the same approach as George Graham; youth promoted through the ranks, alongside experience.

Crowd favourites depart – for Aaron Ramsey, read Brian Talbot – as the manager brings new ideas to the table. Others – for Mesut Ozil, read Charlie Nicholas – are edged out with both sharing an adhesion to the club, much to the respective manager’s chagrin.

Focus naturally turns to the youngsters once the big money signings are dissected. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock on Sunday joined Ainsley Maitland-Niles in balancing out a patchwork side, or so it is assumed.

Swap Shop

Pepe and Lacazette, it’s assumed, will return to the team against Burnley at the expense of Nelson and Mkhitaryan; Dani Ceballos replaces Willock. The former changes are easy to see; the latter probably happens but not as readily.

The youngster displayed the fight Emery desires in his players as this clip from Sunday shows:

That determination to win the ball back, to force a turnover in possession, will be a key factor for players during the season. Willock’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed and Ceballos faces a lot of pressure for his place.

Some believe this is the best crop of youngsters to emerge since the 2007-08 season. Maybe they will prove that good; at least they don’t have Capi Dipstick as their guiding light.

As Graham found, experienced players who knew their way around the pitch is vital for youngsters. Steve Williams was no angel nor Kevin Richardson. The teens need to know about the dark arts.

However, it’s also important from a fans point of view not to place too much expectation on their shoulders. Are we sure this year’s graduates are as strong as Adams, Rocastle and Thomas mentally?

The similarities between the Arsenal squads and their league standings is uncanny. That trio came of age as we pushed the top four finishes. Not that league positions meant anything; English clubs were banned from Europe and Arsenal felt the Screensports Cup as trashy as it sounds.

Can Emery get the best out of them? His team selections last year included the baffling and bewildering. This time, however, we’re likely to see very little of Shkodran Mustafi unless there is a calamitous injury situation. Even then, Calum Chambers is ahead of him in the queue. A long way ahead.

Brutal Truths

On announcing his appointment, Ivan Gazidis claimed the decision was heavily influenced by Emery’s track record in developing youngsters. The club’s financial model dictates the head coach must succeed in this area, probably more so than winning trophies.

That’s the brutal truth. Enos and Junior, Raul and Edu; they all talk about winning but in reality, it’s about making money for a variety of reasons. Increasing the club’s value and providing funds for the big-money deals next summer are just two of them.

Emery is tasked with delivering the foundations for that on the pitch. If FIFA ever poaches the UEFA marketing team and make the World Club Cup something worth winning, you can bet we’ll target reaching the finals in their proposed new format.

We may still do but winning the Champions League is a more distant dream than at any point during the past decade. Which is a vaguely impressive achievement for all the wrong reasons.

All this from one widely derided performance in the Premier League? Who says optimism is dead on these pages…?

‘til Tomorrow

32 thoughts on “Are The Kids As Good As We Think? Can Emery Get The Best Out Of Them?

  1. Michael says:

    The talk of Emery not being good enough, is a little premature. Judge him in May.
    He has had a massive job to do and to some extent had his hands tied. This season 1 match 1 win 1 clean sheet. We are going to lose matches, and those with an agenda will doubtless shout loudly.

  2. jonnygunner says:

    Cracking write up YW
    I think this crop of youngsters are better than the 07 bunch-far better.

  3. Spike says:

    I think whoever’s followed Arsene was going to need a few years. At least a year to sort out squad issues (longer in the case of a few over priced wasters) and then a year to put his mark on the club, team and players.

    As far as the young players go, I think the signs are good. What would be amazing is if we could get a young home grown centre back come through the academy ranks.

    I wonder as well if Ceballos could eventually replace Xhaka, rather than Whillock?

  4. Las says:

    Yuhhu, I have never been so quick 🙂 third overall. And I would be happy on this position at next May for Arsenal.
    For Emeri this is make or brake. Last season he had some good result and also some really good performances (Chelsea or MU or L’pool at Emirates) if he could repeat those performances and results regularly I can see us being third when it matters.
    Our youngsters are promising. So hope for the best.

  5. YW says:


    No, I think he, Guendouzi and Willock are currently vying for the two spots alongside Xhaka or Torreira. Haven’t a scooby where Ozil fits into all this. He doesn’t, as far as I can see.

  6. jonnygunner says:


    No, I think he, Guendouzi and Willock are currently vying for the two spots alongside Xhaka or Torreira. Haven’t a scooby where Ozil fits into all this. He doesn’t, as far as I can see.

    As the manager,he’d have considerably more insight into Xhaka’s merits…but Jesus…I’ve tried really hard to see them…and I’m at a loss.

  7. YW says:

    IMHO, JG, he’s only in the side for two reasons. Firstly, LT isn’t fit and second, experience of the English game. Our midfield without him isn’t strong in that sense. He’s been captain for a while so will sold soon. Being handed the armband is just a quick way of telling someone they’re redundant.

  8. C says:


    I’m not completely convinced Xhaka is as nailed on as some think. Surely we will know more once Torriera is fit(hopefully against Burnley) but I wouldn’t be surprised if Emery preferred Torriera and one of Ceballos or Guendouzi next to him for their mobility and ability to press. Sure Ceballos and Willock can play in that ACM role but I also think both like to dictate from a bit deeper.

  9. C says:

    The best thing about this crop of youngsters is that they all seem to be physically ready but have also been bedded in and not forced in. Nelson got his chance in Germany to grow both on and off rhe pitch. Willock looks a player.

  10. Bill says:

    Great post yogi

    I was not following arsenal football in the George graham era. Bringing u21 players like Nelson and Willock into a team which is fighting for the top of the table is much more difficult now compared to the early 1990’s era. Look what has happened in this decade around Europe and you can see that not many of the big teams are using their academy players to build their squads. Think of the dozens and dozens of Arsenal players we have been excited about post Highbury including the group you mentioned from 07/08 which was perhaps the deepest and most talented group of youth we have ever seen and then the young English core plus wojo from earlier in this decade. A lot of people thought Iwobe and Ox were cant miss prospects but in reality it cost us points to give them a lot of high leverage minutes while we patiently waited for them to break thru the cusp of greatness and actually become consistently effective players. Time will tell and perhaps Nelson and Willock are different but we have been here and done this so many times before that only an unrealistic optimist could avoid being somewhat skeptical about another batch of cant miss prospects.

  11. C says:

    Speaking of Ozil and Sead, its such a shame what is going on around them and their families. Now, the police are 24 hr security guard and police are advising them not to leave their houses if reports are to be believed.

    I hope this gets resolved purely from a human perspective and allow them and their families to be able to go back to any semblance of a normal life fornthem.

  12. Ajibola Benjamin. says:

    However skeptical any one or group may sound with this bunch of Arsenal team, Emery will definitely spring many pleasant surprises to the amazement of his critics. Because I am confident that this youthful team will not cease to get better by every successive match. Going by the fact that the early fixtures are not against the big four.

  13. YW says:

    I think Liverpool and Tottenham may disagree with that last sentence Ajibola Benjamin, but I like the way you’re thinking…

  14. Damon says:

    I think Liverpool and Tottenham may disagree with that last sentence Ajibola Benjamin, but I like the way you’re thinking…

    Depends entirely on your definition of “early matches” though? Sean Dyche’s handsome nose may be slightly out of joint over it though 😛

  15. Damon says:

    Steve Bruce’s nose is definately out of joint. Full stop 😀

  16. C says:

    It will be good to have a young core though when you think:

    Ceballos(potentially if Madrid buy and he has a good season with us)

  17. Paulie Walnuts says:

    The current youngster crop;
    Maitland Niles has done well at full back considering he’s been played in midfield previously & may turn out to be the real deal but for me he’s got some way to go to displace a fully fit Bellerin.

    Willock looks to have the attributes needed to be successful at the top level. As Bill alludes to will he be given the time to grow up considering the type of games he’s likely to be involved in. Competition in midfield is tough but I’m optimistic he’s not going to go the way of many other promising youngsters.

    Nelson – I’ve not seen enough to be confident either way , plus wide players seem to need longer to develop their end product.

    Smith Rowe …ditto

    So , yes , there’s talent ….but we’ve had plenty like them before now. Time will tell , but it’s an important part of fan optimism to see young players making it in the first team.

  18. C says:

    Speaking of former Arsenal academy players, Bennnacer makes a €30 million move to Milan and his buddy Adelaide is on the brink of doing the same except headed to Lyon.

  19. C says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    I do think there are a couple differences though:

    1. They are working with a manager who gived them explicit instructions and roles and doing so allows them to develop in a specific role within the team. Which leads me to #2

    2. We are not relying on them but instead they are jist asked to play a role. Goals….we aren’t reliant on Nelson the way we were on Theo because we have Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Midfield boss….Willock can develop behind the likes of Torriera, Ceballos Ozil, hell even Guendouzi(who has played regularly even in Ligue 2) and Xhaka. Point I’m making is that they can focus on helping the team and developing without needing to produce and have that added pressure. Sure Foden is a BRILLIANT talent but what also helps him is that Pep has bed him slowly.

  20. Paulie Walnuts says:


    Agree with all that …but the key is if they’ll get the game time TO develop ….& if they do will it be detrimental to the team ?

    Frank Lumphard played a couple of youngsters in a big game & has got slaughtered for it.

  21. C says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    Doubt it, but I also think Emery can play them against the likes of Newcastle, Sheffield, Aston Villa and they will be fine plus the normal CC, FA Cup and EL matches.

    Have to say, Fat Frank is getting slaughtered but if Abraham, and Emerson shots hit the bar and go in instead of out, think its a completely different narrative. Thus is futbol though.

  22. C says:

    Ofcourse Nketiah would score on his debut for Leeds.

  23. Thomas Brunyee says:

    I think how Emery has saved us the embarrassment of following United’s shoes and allowed the post Wenger ere become a smooth transition deserves him a long deal

  24. Bill says:


    You have been saying the same things s making the case fir why this group of u21’s is different then the ones before for most of this decade.

    You have also been saying that we can use games against the lower table teams for player development for just as long. I would have thought we would learn our lesson that each point counts when we have missed 4th place by 1 or 2 points in 2 out of the last 3 years. You know as well as I that winning points and developing young players are often competing objectives and for Emery’s sake finishing top 4 has to be the priority this season

  25. C says:


    Again, you missed the point but at rhe same time, we made 4th for years playing you but not having quality players around them to the point where we were reliant on those young players to produce. Isn’t it ironic that the last time we actually challenged for a title, it was……07/08 where we had the proper blens of youth and quality. Look at this squad now, the youth WOULDN’T be relied on even again lower table sides, they would be there to compliment the more senior players. Nelson/Aubameyang/Pepe as a front 3, Nelson gets mins but the pressure isn’t on him the same as it would have been with say Nelson/Giroud/Iwobi.

    If you are saying that its competing then lets look at Citeh, Liverpool and hell even Spuds. Young players and Liverpool is filled with players you would call’squad players’ or not have approved of because of where they came from or how much they cost.

    The difference between say playing Nelson and Willock in an XI with the quality of players we have now is MASSIVELY different as opposed to those same players playing with thr squad we had say 2 years ago.

  26. Spike says:


    Like your thinking! And I agree. AMN has already shown he is good enough, hopefully Nelson and Whillock will follow suit.

  27. The Arse Sores says:

    The brutal truth is that we have as much chance of winning the Champions League as Leiceter City have of winning the EPL.

    Bad analogy, they won it and that is the problem with statistics, you can make anything seem possible and our prejudices and hopes do the rest.

    In uncorrupted data terms it is a 100:1 chance – in 100 years we might win once. So maybe it is 200:1, we didn’t take our chance when we had the best team in Europe, in contrst to Barcelona who turned up that day and did what they do every other year. You have to be there year after year to stand a chance. Except Liverpool who get all the Leicester city ‘get of jail free’ you have to be in it to win it CL cards.

    Anway, until we are challenging for 4th we are not going to have a chance of winning the CL and even then, until we are paying 100 or 200 million for a player we will just be waiting for the year when the 10 teams above us that do all fuck up.

    We spent tons this window and took a big leap toward that last milestone though and with Abramovich having effectively ‘left the Stamford Bridge building’ we look much closer to joining the queue and retaking our position in the top 16 yearly CL showdown bonanza.

  28. C says:

    The Arse Sores,

    Not foe nothing but we challenged for 3rd last season and now have a better squad while its quite possible that those around us either stayed pat or gotten worst.

    The thing with the CL is that part of it is a bit of luck with the draw and finding form at the right time.

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