Stone Cold Friday: The Different Shades Of Arsenal’s Success
It would be tempting to continue crow about the victory at The Lane. Instead Darius is here to talk sense…Who am I kidding. He’s lifted his boot and planted it firmly on their heads, pushing their faces further into the sand. But he has bigger feet than most of us and has got every other club down there with them…
Undertaking an arduous and challenging journey of growth and development can consume us, making it difficult to even recognise what success looks like any more. Losing that sense of perspective, clouds context and tests the boundaries of disillusionment.
This week in my view has been a very important milestone in football, one that draws a clear marker of Arsenal’s continuing success on and off the field. Some would have you believe that trophies are the only measure of success. By definition, that renders 85 of the 92 professional clubs in England and Wales as failures each season.
Those consumed by this tunnel-visioned approach miss the multi-dimensional nature of football and its impact to communities around the world. Arsenal is often beaten with the “they haven’t won a trophy for 5 seasons” stick, implying a simplistic assumption of failure, a club that supposedly hasn’t been able to build from its historic success of the 2003-04 season.
This week provided a tangible illustration of how such a school of thought is way off the mark. Slowly but surely, it’s clearer to see that the trail that Arsenal has blazed is shaping the approach to the development of football through youth in the top echelons in the country.
For several years now, Arsenal has been roundly criticised for allegedly showing disdain and disrespect to the League Cup by fielding teams that some observers called the “London Colney Kindergarten”. It has taken courage on our part to stick to this strategy and to use the competition to blood younger players.
By his own admission, Wenger ranks this as his lowest priority. It is a competition which if we fielded our strongest team, we would have a chance of winning year in, year out. Many fail to see the merits of going 5 years without a trophy, yet the League Cup is fair game.
In recent times it has gone unnoticed that Premier league teams are now widely using the League Cup to blood young players and to test the strength of their second string sides. Selective amnesia when it comes to Arsenal?
This is a direct legacy of Arsenal’s continued approach of using this competition to support their youth development programme. The key lesson here is directly related to the stability and longevity of football clubs in today’s economy.
The days of living beyond your means are over and clubs are desperate to be in a position their youth systems are a viable strategy to squad development. Some managers were quick to berate Wenger for persisting with the policy of using the League Cup for his young charges. Their envy is driven by the reality that cheque book management is no longer an option.
That Arsenal can make 9 changes to its preferred Premier league squad, as well as not having 7 key players available because of injury, is nothing short of remarkable. It highlights the squad’s strength in depth.
It was bemusing to hear claims from hacks and pundits that Arsene is finally taking the League Cup seriously. Allegedly, he recognises that we cannot go on without a trophy so the League Cup will have to do. Nonsense!
For one, bragging rights were at stake. Wenger and the team knew this. More importantly, the reality that our second string team is that strong is testament to the hard work that has been going on for years. Arsenal hasn’t got here by accident; it’s a tangible illustration of the benefits of the youth development approach. The important thing to appreciate is that this is only the beginning, that there is a production line ready to unleash Wengerball clones fit for purpose for years to come.
Also in this week, Arsenal are set to announce record profits for the last trading year, in conjunction with the repayment of the debts related to the Highbury square development. The mortgage for the stadium is all that remains, and repayments for this are covered by organic income from our activities.
Some have argued that we should use this windfall exclusively to bring in marquee players to the team, but this has never been and will never be Arsène’s style. Saying that, year on year, the resources available for squad development whether internally or by strategic transfers to augment the current team, will continue to grow.
This year alone, regardless of the amount used in transfer fees, the players who have been brought in seem to be adding that bite to the team that was a recognised deficiency. And we didn’t have to break the bank to do that.
Comparing this with the performances of teams this week like Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton – and most other EPL teams – it’s clear to see that Arsenal’s youth development programme is paying massive dividends now and also for the future.
Even though it has become fashionable to now use the Carling cup to develop the youth – it’s painful to watch how woefully inadequate the 2nd and 3rd string teams are for most top clubs. Not only do they now face the prospect of having to build their squads by incorporating underprepared youth, they are not going to have the resources of previous years to buy ready-made players off the shelf.
Arsenal by contrast, has an increasingly strong squad built from within the ranks and augmented by external signings. It’s clear for all to see that we will continue to have the necessary financial resources to develop the club in all areas – not just the squad.
The trophies will come, but for now, it’s important to take a step back and recognise the significant milestones that have occurred, all of which illustrate the success that Arsenal has achieved over the years. Whether it’s recognised by the establishment or not, the performances of the top teams in this Carling cup week is a tangible illustration that Arsenal like it has done many times, is leading the way, and others are begrudgingly following.
The future’s bright, the future’s red and white.
Posted on September 24, 2010, in Arsenal, Carling Cup, Football, Premier League, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Carling Cup, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Stone Cold Friday. Bookmark the permalink. 312 Comments.