Arsene Wenger has gradually been edging towards creating his very own Arsenal production line of a whole team of players from the Arsenal academy going on to form the bulk of his first-team squad. With each year that passes, Wenger gets closer to that reality with one or two players becoming key first-team players.
The Arsenal boss has taken a lot of flak for this policy and an alleged over-reliance on young players, despite having money available to buy instant success. But if last night’s victory over Sheffield United is anything to go by, Wenger’s Class of ’09 could be the best generation yet.
Wenger himself was delighted by what was a clear improvement on his usual Carling Cup second-string. He said: “The team showed a good mixture of talent. They also showed a mature collective spirit to play the way we want to play. They remained focused and they looked a complete team. I am very proud of that. We looked strong in every individual position and that takes a lot of hard work.”
The young Gunners – with an average age of just 19 – demolished United 6-0. The group looked like a genuine team with good balance throughout the team. As with any team, it does have its stars, notably Mexican youngster Carlos Vela and England prospect Jack Wilshere, but they fit into the team rather than dominate it.
Watching the performance must have been mouthwatering for Wenger, who you suspect has always had the dream of producing a crop of homegrown (in club if not nationality terms) youngsters capable of challenging for the title. While that might be a little way off for the current group of youngsters, if Wenger can keep them together for the next five years or so, who knows what they will be capable of by then.
In the meantime, it is going to be a joy to watch them progress in the Carling Cup this season.