Part of Arsenal’s recent demise has been down to Arsene Wenger’s persistant faith in a group of under achieving youngsters.
In September 2008, Wenger named 13 teenagers in his 18 man squad to face Sheffield United in a League Cup match at the Emirates, with the oldest member of the squad being just 23 years of age. Arsenal won the match 6-0, but where are the men that showed such promise now?
Have any of them gone on to be regulars at Arsenal?
Lukasz Fabianski (23) – A combination of injury and high profile clangers prevented the polish stopper from making an impression at the club. Out of contract this summer with no extension offered as yet.
Gavin Hoyte (18) – Justin’s younger brother was released at the end of his contract at the end of the 2011-12 season. Now playing for Dagenham & Redbridge.
Johan Djourou (21) – Swiss defender Djourou continually used as last resort at centre half during his time at the club. Currently on loan at German side Hannover.
Kieran Gibbs (18) – Considered by many as Arsenal’s first choice left back, although still inconsistent and injury prone.
Aaron Ramsey (17) – Struggled for form following horrific leg break and the emergence of Jack Wilshere. Would benefit from move away from the Emirates.
Alex Song (21) – Made the defensive midfield position his own before joining Barcelona in search of silverware in the summer of 2012.
Jack Wilshere (16) – A star of the future and the star of this Arsenal team even at just 16. Currently the jewel in an otherwise very rusty crown.
Fran Merida (18) – Allowed to leave for Atletico Madrid on a free transfer in 2010. Now plying his trade in Brazil.
Mark Randall (18) – Released from his contract in 2011 following a number of loan spells. Now playing in League Two for Chesterfield.
Nicklas Bendtner (20) – Surplus to requirements but the high earner proving difficult to get off the Arsenal wage bill. Currently struggling for game time on loan at Juventus.
Carlos Vela (19) – Despite early promise, Vela was sold to Real Sociedad in 2012 after just a handful of goals in seven years with the Gunners.
Looking at the success rate of players, only three players in Ramsey, Wilshere and Gibbs are still considered first team players at Arsenal. Of those three, you could only point to Wilshere as demanding a place in the starting XI with all others either fringe players surplus to requirements or having been moved on, in many cases for nothing.
At many clubs, a strike rate of 3 in 11 players out of a group of players so young would be considered acceptable. However with a manager that has placed a huge proportion of his faith in youth this strike rate is desperately low and one that will only result in a downfall in results at first team level later down the line. Youth needs to be supplemented with experience, and it is Wenger’s failure to do this that has piled on extra pressure on the clubs youngsters.