Should Arsene Be Wary Of The Age Gap?
A policy which he appeared to hold very dear is one that might help Arsene through the current trials and tribulations.
At Arsenal, once you hit the age of 30 a new contract was only forthcoming if you agreed to it being agreed on a rolling basis. That was fine for Dennis Bergkamp, not so good in the books of Robert Pires who understandably felt he was worth a first team place. His years at Villarreal suggested that he at least had a point worthy of discussion.
To Arsene, the key has been whether the older players will prevent the development of youth. To use his own word, “kill” them.
In some cases this might be true. Yet the manager has never fought shy of promoting youth and very few have been ahead of schedule. Jack Wilshere is most notable in that respect but his season has proved fruitful, the Young Player of the Year award well deserved.
Goodplaya notes in his post yesterday the following:
- 2010-2011: With 11 games to go the title was in our hands. We’ve won once in seven and now the title is gone
- 2009-2010: With seven games to go we were two points adrift. We won one of our next six and finished 11 behind Chelsea.
- 2007-2008: We were five points clear with 12 to play. We won one of our next eight.
There are extenuating circumstances such as injuries which need to be factored into these collapses in form, the squad system is designed to compensate for them.
In those situations, older heads might have kept calmer in certain matches, stopping runs developing. Yet there is evidence that this is not always the case, the inclusion of Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre suggests that age and experience in isolation is not enough. Similarly, William Gallas fulfilled all of the requirements but was unable to stem the flow.
Much of this is linked with title-winning experience. The two centre backs had that in abundance so that is not enough. Indeed the demands of a player ready for the Premier League and be an experienced title winner are mutually exclusive for Arsenal. Whom of United and Chelsea’s squads could they tempt that would be good enough to improve the squad we have?
However, those three seasons reflect a more worrying trend; the squad are not learning from their failures. Whilst they are capable of getting into good positions, the next step is beyond them. As much as that is the fault of the manager in adapting the sides tactics to key absentees, there is a collective responsibility for the players as well through the failure to learn.
So can Wenger benefit from a smattering of experienced heads throughout the team? Certainly, the centre of the defence is not the only place from where play can be influenced. Midfield and attack can equally benefit from experience, especially in the absences of Robin van Persie.
The question is whether Arsène sees this as an admission of failure in his belief in youth or if he is persuaded that it is beneficial in the longer term to have a short term solution. Aside from perhaps establishing silverware, there is another benefit for the manager to consider. As the squad matures, the older players leave and are replaced organically, the remaining players assuming the senior positions.
Cesc noted last week that he had the likes of Henry, Bergkamp and Gilberto to look up. Perhaps, with a little help now, he and some of the current squad can be the ones looked up to in the future.