Cast your minds back to your childhood and most of you will remember that Hans Christian Anderson classic “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, a moral tale that has since been interpreted in a number of ways.
But for me the basic message was this: Convince enough people that something is true and they will swear it to be the case, regardless of what their senses may be telling them.
In that quaint little fable it took a child in the crowd to declare that the Emperor was in fact walking about with his crown jewels hanging out…….and, appropriately many of you will say, my role in this article is that of the child in the story!
At the start of the season I wrote an article on Arsene and his continuing quest to develop greatness from mere seedlings. At the time I said I wouldn’t bet against him achieving his goal and that I’d be the first to applaud if he realised his somewhat idealistic dream.
And so it has continued. The press drool, mostly; the fans get expectant….and then not; and the articles continue to flow on the Arsenal youth revolution and what it might produce.
Enough I say! It’s time to dispel the myth, to expose the hyperbole for what it is….to finally put this fantasy to rest. For that’s all it is in my opinion….fantasy! For something like four years now Arsenal have been hyped as a team about to produce a conveyor belt of young talent beyond precedent and season after season we wait for that precedent to be set. But just how long do you have to wait before you decide that maybe….just maybe….it ain’t gonna happen?
Having seen two thirds of the season pass since I last considered the issue my mind is now clear on the subject……it ain’t gonna happen! I say again, I like Arsene, a lot. He and Fergie are the undisputed ‘Emperors’ of the Premier league….and long may it continue, but on this one, I’m afraid, Wenger has clung too long to a misguided ideal. History and statistics alone were against Arsene from the start. Of course, there are no genuine stats available but I think it’s fair to say that for every 10 ‘teenage prodigies’ maybe 1 makes it at the highest level.
And so far Arsene has achieved that average with Fabregas, Fabregas and ….Fabregas! Yes, others have come through but right now who amongst them are likely to be Arsenal greats?
What brought me to this conclusion was the somewhat shocking realisation that Van Persie was so vital to Arsenal. This was not something I had contemplated at the start of the season. After all, they’d been without him for periods in the past hadn’t they? I never questioned their offensive wealth but was more inclined to look at their lack of defensive cover and question the quality in the DM role, all of which was hardly original as it had been their Achilles heel for some time.
Arsene may have invested more time and effort than the rest in seeking out the world’s best youth potential but he failed to beat the system and for that I offer no criticism. History shows that 15, 16 or 17 year old talent rarely translates into the latter day superstar that the premature hype invariably suggests. No amount of coaching, paternal encouragement or even praying will change this reality. The criticism due to Wenger is based on the fact that he has not realised this sooner….if not at the outset.
And it’s absolutely clear to me that he does still actually believe. He was truly gutted after Utd dumped his team out of the CL last season and his agitation during the recent defeats to Utd and Chelsea told its own story. Arsene has been incredulous. This was not how the script played out in his mind; not what he believed was destined. He has held steadfastly to his strategy…his belief…even to point of (seemingly) refusing to spend money that was available to strengthen his squad.
But it’s harsh to suggest that Fabregas is his only real success. After all, Fab is on a different planet to most but what of the others? Look no further than Walcott. The ‘England prodigy’ of the 2006 WC, having never kicked a ball in anger in the PL at the time and who saw zero playing time in the competition. Four years on and what do we have? A different temperament definitely but otherwise all the hallmarks of a Jermaine Pennant, that long forgotten prodigy of his own day! Yes, injuries have been a problem but in the intervening 4 years you can count the outstanding performances from Theo, for both club and country, on the fingers of one hand. And it was little over a month ago that I saw a debate amongst Arsenal fans as to whether they should cash in before his value dropped even further.
Nasri, Vela….not convinced that they will be around for the duration. Bendtner?….has yet to do anything to convince. Song has been, at times, lauded by Arsenal fans this season as potentially being the solution to the DM problem but I’m afraid he has a lot to do yet to prove that and I remain unconvinced. Denilson….ditto. Diaby? Blows hot and cold but who knows? Ramsey looks quality but maybe that will be needed….and then some….if Fabregas leaves what he may consider to be a sinking ship.
And then of course there is Jack Wilshere. Out on loan having just turned 18, Wilshere has possibly been the most hyped of all the Arsenal youngsters for some time now. It’s a huge burden to carry but I’ll wager this: Wilshere will make it in the game no doubt but I’ll bet a penny to a pound, like so many before him, that he doesn’t turn out to be a superstar at either Arsenal or for England.
I could go on, and the Arsenal fans will no doubt list off many more names, as they have in the past four years, but I’ll remain unconvinced. I’ve listened and watched for too long now and in the context of the analogy this ‘Emperor’ has no clothes, regardless of what the press, the pundits and the fans want to tell me. I am now convinced of this. But Arsene has lots of quality at his disposal and if he’ll just let his idealism go and take a more balanced approach he may still lead his team back to greatness!
But right now he and his ideals are as naked as a new born baby.
Yes, this Emperor truly has no clothes!