In the end, they did it. After 38 games and a...
The English Revolution
For years now, mainly down to Arsène Wenger’s personal preference, Arsenal have been known as being a club full of foreign players. Before it became the norm for at least half a team to be filled with exotic flare from overseas, Arsenal were the butt of many jokes which regarded our predominantly non-English line ups, which sometimes even were so foreign, there wasn’t a single Englishman in them. However, when you think back to when Monsieur Wenger first took over, he had a strong, committed and quite frankly fearfully good, English defensive unit. The likes of Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown etc. were, I believe, half the reason Wenger was able to produce such a successful team in such a short period of time after joining Arsenal in 1996. This crop of nationally local players provided him with a base upon which to build. He did exactly that. Wenger added a lot of French players for example, players who he knew would work for him, even if they did not have the same inherent loyalty to the club itself. As we all know, Arsenal is held just as dear by a lot of foreign players as it is by English ones, with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp being prime examples. But as we also know and as Wenger recently pointed out, many foreign players, no matter how talented, can be less willing to commit their future to a club so far from home. You only have to look at the way in which Cesc Fabregas left the club to justify Wenger’s point.
“We couldn’t keep the good core of young, foreign players” – Arsène Wenger
Wenger has now turned to his crop of young, talented English players to provide a new, solid base upon which he can once again build a successful team. These players are some of the brightest prospects in the country, with Jack Wilshere arguably set to become the best midfielder this nation has seen for a long while. The rest of this group include: Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey (Welsh) and the man who’s ‘too-fast-to-tie-down’, Theo Walcott. Wenger truly believes that this group are the key to future success at Arsenal and, as I’m sure many of you do too, I agree.
Playing For One Another
I think one of the key reasons that Wenger’s ‘Noyau Anglais’ (English Core) is likely to lead to success is the fact that many of these players have played with one another for a while now, speak the same language, spend time with one-another off the pitch as well as on it, and have the same innate English loyalty and youthful desire to catch-eyes. Like Wenger has said himself, these boys have to play for each other, not just themselves for this Arsenal team to be consistently triumphant in the long-term.
“I believe as well that when a club gives a chance to young players the players must say ‘let’s do it together’ because if you educate players at some stage their fate is in their own hands.” – Arsène Wenger
Like at Barcelona Arsenal value themselves on their youth development and how they educate their young players in a particular way; teaching them fast, flowing, attractive football. But this style of football only works at its optimum level when there is good team morale, therefore part of this footballing education is the encouragement to bond with fellow teammates. Naturally, the more a team knows one another, the more understanding they will have on the football pitch. I can’t tell you definitively who is friends with who (only they know that!), but we can see, through social networking sites like Twitter and from interviews, that these English Arsenal players seemingly have a good relationship with one another. It’s this good team chemistry that I believe is an essential ingredient of any successful team, not least for a group of players who don’t have the experience of winning trophies, that other teams may have.
Another reason why I think this ‘English core’ is a sensible and effective way forward for Arsenal, is the apparent presence of something that most would be forgiven for thinking had been lost in modern football… Loyalty. These young English players seem to be the most committed bunch we’ve had at the club in a while, with maybe the exception of Theo Walcott (although, I remain hopeful he will agree an extension and stay at the club).
But this loyalty isn’t simply useful in tying down players for a long time (which I will talk about next), but it is also a demonstration of the passion that these young English players possess for the club. In my eyes, an abundance of passionate players is invaluable to any squad as it is arguably the driving force behind the beautiful game itself. What some of these players may lack in talent, at such a young age, they make up for in pure drive and enthusiasm. It’s refreshing for me as an Arsenal fan, given recent years, to see Wenger wanting to build a team around players who play for the badge on the front of the shirt, not just the name on the back.
I believe that the combination of these English players’ age and passion for the club is a valuable one in terms of persuading them (or not having to persuade them) to commit their long-term furture to the club. We’ve seen this in effect already, with Wilshere, Gibbs, Jenkinson, The Ox and Aaron Ramsey all signing new bumper 5 year contract extensions. Five players signing five year deals all at once? That’s almost unprecedented at Arsenal, in recent years at least. As for Theo, I’ve said my bit on him and I don’t plan to delve into the depths of his situation during this article… I only have one more thing to say to Theo: … ‘SIGN DA TING!’.
I think that the recent news regarding these contract renewals is extremely encouraging. Us fans can now rest in the knowledge that we have a crop of young talented players that aren’t going anywhere in the immediate future. They’re a group that will only grow closer and get better the longer they stay together at the club. They’re ours, only ours and nobody else can take them away from us!!! *Phew*.
Another key part of creating and also strengthening this core of young, English talent, that I think Wenger plans to employ, is the signing of more of the same. With the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Luke Shaw being linked to The Arsenal, it is easy to see that the gaffer is taking this new approach very seriously and not just settling for what he already has. What makes these transfer links even more satisfying to hear, is the fact that they both fit the mould of typical Arsenal players: intelligent, quick and skilful. Not only that, but Zaha is, as you probably already know, a self confessed Gooner. You only have to look as far as Carl Jenkinson to see what effect actually supporting the club you play for has on performance levels. I’m confident that Zaha will arrive at the club, but I also look forward to seeing whether we can secure some other bright, young, English talent in the coming year or so.
Of course there is also more promising English prospects waiting to roll off our academy production line. Players like Chuba Akpom and Chuks Aneke (who are having fantastic seasons in our U21′s and out on loan at Crewe respectively) are raring to break through into the first team squad and offer their marvellous ability and demonstrate their embedded commitment to the cause. The potential for promoting from with in seems almost endless and, to an extent, you can understand why Le Prof bangs on about it all the time.
However, if you find yourself thinking: “Yeah thats all very good, but we need more proven players.” Have no fear, because aside from promoting or adding more young, English players, Wenger’s plan seems to be to buy proven foreign talent to complement his crop of young lions. I think that, once again, Arsène has discovered a winning formula in this new plan of his. I look forward to seeing what signings he makes in January and even next summer, as I feel they will be definitive as to whether this very promising plan works out or not. Only time will tell, but at present i’m optimistic and excited about this new direction the club is taking. A new period of success may be around the corner and if it is, it will be thanks to the man who so many have relentlessly questioned and even (to my disgust) disrespected. Here’s hoping Wenger bows out as he began at Arsenal, a revolutionary genius.