“Man Utd had a golden generation with Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, the Nevilles and Butt and they won together because they stayed together. This team can have similar success. Normally big clubs do not educate young players any more.”
— Arsene Wenger
As shocking as it may seem, earlier this season, fans and the media were questioning as to whether Arsene Wenger should continue his reign at the Emirates. The man lives, breathes and spits Arsenal FC.
Most of the fans still have faith in his abilities, but he has not won a trophy since that penalty shootout win against Man United in the FA Cup in 2005 — and that just won’t do.
He promises fans that their time will come again. His unbeatables are long gone now, replaced by another team of stars that are different in so many ways from his teams of yesteryear. His new squad was built in a way that he claims is like no other approach in Europe. He moved to explain his philosophy, his “golden generation” that will become a dominant force in Europe like the Manchester generation has done.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
His long terms plans for the club involve a firm wage structure and the desire to “educate” the young stars they have. He highlighted the many gems at the club, the nucleus to a golden era ; Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby. He has assured the fans that if the core of the team can stay together and if the desire is there, then Arsenal will be a dominating force in 3 years time.
Three years is a long time to fans. Especially when they have already waited nearly four years, and when some of the talent at the club has already been tipped to move on. Adebayor rumoured to be cashing in on a fantastic goal scoring campaign last year with a move to AC Milan or Barcelona; Cesc Fabregas linked with a move back to the club from where he was poached, Barcelona; Denilson was linked with Real Madrid in January. Will the kids wait for three long years for the trophy cabinet to begin to fill up? Will they be able to resist the pound signs that other clubs dangle in front of them? Who really knows for sure.
THE BEST OF THE REST
What of the league rivals? Chelsea have curbed their spending considerably, Abromovich tightening his purse strings in recent seasons. They have an aging squad, as Ferguson pointed out in pre-season. Drogba, Lampard, Ballack, Deco, Terry, Carvalho; just a few hovering around that landmark 30 years of age. In three years’ time — 2012, to be exact — many of these will no longer be able to cope with the speed and stamina that the Premiership demands.
And what of European Champions, Manchester United? Do they have what it takes to dominate Europe in the long term? Rooney should still be there, but is his world class presence enough? Wenger scoffed as the names of Nani and Anderson were put to him in a press conference. He dismissed the Brazilian twins of Rafael and Fabio, pointing out the inferior Champions League “education” in comparison to his own batch of talent. Scholes, Giggs, Neville will be gone. Ronaldo is constantly linked with a move to Spain. How long can Manchester United resist his inevitable Real desires?
Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, the key at the moment to Manchester United at the back, will be nearing the end of their careers. Both will be into their thirties. Can they maintain their form into the latter stages of their career? Indeed. the big question is what will be of Sir Alex? His eternal tutelage must eventually come to an end. A lot of it depends on who replaces him. Jose Mourinho is tipped as his successor but will this prove true? And does he have what it takes to take Manchester United to further success?
Then there is Liverpool. Gerrard is close to his 30’s. Retirement or at least a fall in his excellent form is going to come to an end. It looks like Benitez will still be there, but Liverpool’s form going forward seems to depended on his latest batch of signings. Fernando Torres is obviously world class, but he needs the stars around him. Can the likes of N’Gog and Lucas really compare with Arsenal’s future talent?
Then there is the latest team to enter the fray: Manchester City. The billions. How will they use them? Will they buy the success that Chelsea have done or will they simply skim through an endless list of illustrious global managers and players without ever finding the winning formula? Will the men behind the billions grow bored? Will they stick with the club or leave them in the lurch as 2012 arrives?
So many questions surround Wenger’s rivals. He can only guess what challenges and even what managers will face his squad in 2012. All he can do is look to his own squad. His promise to “educate” the stars and the potential that he boasts must be delivered. They all feature on a continental and domestic front week in week out. At such tender ages they are in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League.
How good can and will the current mix of talent really be with another 3 years of top class football and experience under their belt? As Wenger’s golden era comes in 2012, how far will the squad have come?
WENGER’S MAIN MEN
Cesc FABREGAS: NOW 21 / GOLDEN ERA 24 — Captain of the club and already a world class midfielder and will just get better and better. If he adds the goals to his game that Gerrard and Lampard offer their clubs, it is a scarey thought for opposition players. If the golden era comes, this Spaniard will be at the very heart of it.
Emmanuel ADEBAYOR: NOW 25 / GOLDEN ERA 28 — This season has not see the riches that last did. His injuries preventing him from building his goals tally. He has been tipped for a move away, but if Arsenal can keep him his goals will be instrumental.
Robin VAN PERSIE: NOW 26 / GOLDEN ERA 29 — When fit, he is already one of the best strikers in world football. He has a fantastic strike, an air of ease in his style and control, and an ability to transform a game with sublime skill. He has deputised as a makeshift target man to try and fill a void left by Adebayor’s injury. Usually playing behind a front man, he has expanded and developed his game and will continue to do so as he moves into his prime.
Samir NASRI: NOW 21 / GOLDEN ERA 24 – He has shown glimpses this season of true class. One of the creative flair attacking midfielders than Arsene likes so much. He can strike with both feet, has a great bust of speed and control and will chip in with a few goals. He plays on the left right now, but will experience other positions and develop into a world class star. His style compares to the old Pires and Wenger has tipped him to reach the talented heights of his compatriot.
Theo WALCOTT: NOW 19 / GOLDEN ERA 22 – Fan favourite. He has already struck a hatrick at international level and played a number of games in the Champions League against the likes of Chelsea, Inter and AC Milan. At just 19, he has so much time ahead of him and will wreak havoc on many more defenders in his career. If he can fine tune his final delivery and chip in with a few more goals, he too can be one of the best players in the country. Theo remains the only major English player in Arsenal’s “golden generation.”
THE GOLDEN OLDIES
Manuel ALMUNIA: NOW 31 / GOLDEN ERA 34 — It is doubtful he will still be part of the squad during the potential ‘Golden Era’ but his role is vital until then. He has the experience that can help the squad “educate” and develop. He may be vital in securing the trophies that will keep the young stars at the Emirates.
William GALLAS: NOW 32 / GOLDEN ERA 35 — His Arsenal career took a hit earlier in the season and he is coming to the end of his career in the game. He will almost certainly be leaving the club over the next couple of years. His experience will be vital however until he departs. Goals like the one in the FA Cup tie against Hull could help clinch some silverware to feed the hunger and keep the “golden generation” at the club.
Kolo TOURE: NOW 28 / GOLDEN ERA 31 – He has the pace to be at his best into his thirties and could feature highly if the golden era is to come. His role at the back will be vital to any success and he is a model professional. He will hope to enjoy a better relationship with his next partner in defence than he does with William Gallas.
Andrey ARSHAVIN: NOW 28 / GOLDEN ERA 31 — An unusual signing for Arsene in cost and in age. He is already a class player, a creative genius and a scorer of great goals. He took Russia to the late stages in Euro 2008 and has settled early on at the Emirates. He will be in his thirties when and if the golden era arrives, but can still play a major role with a cool head and an understanding of the world game. He could adapt his game, drifting into a similar kind of influence and player to Ryan Giggs. Relying less on his pace off the mark and using his vision and experience to break open stubborn back lines.
Tomas ROSICKY: NOW 29 / GOLDEN ERA 32 – As this playmaker moves into his thirties, his injury record would not look like getting any better. It is difficult to know what role he will play in Arsenal’s fortunes over the next few years, but as the golden era approaches, he may be forced to move abroad to continue his career.
THE REST OF THE BEST
Carlos VELA: NOW 20 / GOLDEN ERA 23 — Could be a huge player for Gooners for years to come. He has already shown the crowd some great goals, already establishing a trademark move where he chips the ball over the keeper, leaving him red faced. His left foot is magical and the Mexican has ardently been compared with the great Hugo Sanchez. Darting runs and a bubbly charisma could take the striker into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Nicklas BENDTNER: NOW 21 / GOLDEN ERA 24 — A big question mark continues to hover over Nicklas Bendtner and his future at the club. But Arsene has faith, and so should the fans. He is having a season that reminds me so much of when Adebayor first came to the club. Gets into goal scoring positions, shows many great touches around goal, but mising the final finish. He could be a big big player for Arsenal in years to come, or leave before the era arrives. He certainly has potential and confidence could easily bring over 25 goals in a season as he learns his trade and continues to develop.
EDUARDO: NOW 26 / GOLDEN ERA 29 – Amazingly, yet another world class striker will be at Arsene’s disposal in a few years time. No wonder Arsene fancies his chances. He has one of the best finishes in world football, and his Brazilian routes are displayed in his exquisite technique and comprehension of the game. Unlike some of the club’s other centre forwards, there is no conspicuous style to his play. Many won’t notice the Croatian international is even on the pitch until the ball is nestled in the net.
Bacary SAGNA: NOW 26 / GOLDEN ERA 29 — The Frenchman already looks like a quality right back. He goes forward well and defends with assurance. A top player already and will get better, covering for Walcott as the winger ventrues on his trademark runs and assisting him in delivering into the box.
Gael CLICHY: NOW 23 GOLDEN ERA: 26 — A fantastic left back with gallons of energy and pace to burn. He is partial to the odd error due to his youthful exuberance but should eradicate these with another few years of Premier League and Champions League experience. He will stand amongst the best left backs in the world in a few years. Without a doubt.
Emmanuel EBOUE: NOW 25 / GOLDEN ERA 28 — Once booed by his own fans but things seem to have picked up for the Ivorian in recent games. He can play right back and right midfield and is not afraid to get in the box to add his name to the goalsheet. If he remains at the club, he will be a great player to have in the squad and will have had over five years playing in the Premier League and Champions League. A fantastic squad player at the very least.
Alex SONG: NOW 21 / GOLDEN ERA 24 — A big favourite at the Emirates and often underestimated member of the young Gooners. He has power, pace, can pass the ball well in all directions and can fill in a number of roles around the park. He his best role is in defensive midfield where he can provide a stronger presence than many of the ‘lightweights’ in the squad.
Johan DJOUROU: NOW 21 / GOLDEN ERA 24 — May be the man who steps in for Gallas when he departs. He has been given great experience and has the usual pace and strength of Wenger’s young defenders. He has the odd lack of concentration and mad moment but once again, game at the top level will help this no end.
Abou DIABY: NOW 22 / GOLDEN ERA 25 — Central defender/striker/central midfielder/ticket office attendant. This guy can do just about any position. He has played in attack in the Chamions League and scored, and has held off the likes of Drogba for 90 minutes in the league. Powerful, aerially superior, and moves forward like a steamengine. Players appear to move out of his way to avoid being flattened. One hell of a talent and the only question will be where and not if he makes his name as a top class player. Position that is, not just club.
DENILSON: NOW 21 / GOLDEN ERA 24 — A Brazilian who seems to be filling in a role he has not yet adapted to. Since Flamini departed, he has come in as the main tool to sunder opposition attacks and breakaways. He has skill and flair in abundance and his ability to pass a ball is not in question. Wenger may look to him as the long term partner for Cesc in midfield, and has directly tipped him as a key component of his “golden generation.” Perhaps a fancy “Nicky Butt” in his mind. He still has plenty to show the fans at the Emirates but already has plenty of European and Domestic games under his belt.
Lucasz FABIANSKI: NOW 23 / GOLDEN ERA 26 – Wenger is fan of the young Pole. Very young for a keeper he will likely have another 15-20 years left in his career. His few displays have been promising but he will not get the experience that some of the youngsters will get. He will probably be a backup keeper for whoever is the ‘Golden Era’ goalkeeper.
Jack WILSHIRE: NOW 17 / GOLDEN ERA: 20 — Maybe an even more long term member of the Arsenal crèche. He has displayed evidence of his touch and ability in the league cup, against the likes of Wigan and Sheffield United. Wenger has not yet began the real “education” of the English kid, and his appearances may be more plentiful as the potential golden era closes in.
Aaron RAMSEY: NOW 18 / GOLDEN ERA: 21 — As above, he is still on the periphery of Wenger’s plans and is being eased into action. Tipped as a big talent, he came from Wales with big hopes and we will learn more about the player over the next couple of years. He would not appear to be a first team player in the golden era but could be essential cover in the squad of depth required in the Premier League.
There it is. A brief glimpse at how the Arsenal’s current crop will look in 2012. Whilst we can only guess what the quality of their rivals will be, there is still an abundance of talent and plenty of potential for silverware just like Sir Alex achieved with his own generation. The squad will have developed, gelled together, and completed their apprenticeships in European and Premier League football. They will have sponged plenty of experience and be fully adapted Premier League and Champions League stars. But, can Arsene convince the kids to stay? Will they complete their “education” under his charge?
There is no doubt that there will be a “golden generation” of world class footballers in three years’ time. There is little doubt that these golden stars will include Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby, Denilson, Carlos Vela, Theo Walcott to name but a few. The big question, however, is whether this “golden generation” of world class stars will be bringing success to Arsenal Football Club, or to another club.