Lessons for Arsenal from Bayern Munich’s exploits.
Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Badstuber, Alaba; Gustavo, Schweinsteiger, Kroos; Ribery, Robben, Gomez. Muller (sub)
That’s the Bayern Munich side that defeated a free-spending, star-studded Real Madrid team to secure a place in a Champions League final.
A closer look at this team and you discover that 7 of those players came through the ranks in Bayern Munich. Four were quality (not necessarily expensive) signings, to give them that cutting edge.
You already know where I am going with this, don’t you?
Earlier in the millenium, Wenger was in charge of a team that boasted world class quality in almost every department. All of them were playing well and more importantly, playing well as a team.
His blueprint for winning was pretty much what people were used to, a top quality team of experienced internationals added to pre-season with a couple of experienced players (in this case French or African).
He would occasionally add a high potential youngster to the mix. (See Cesc, Wilshere, Anelka).
They won trophies, in style too. But when the time came, the team had to be dismantled, some may argue it was done too quickly.
A move to a bigger stadium was on the horizon and funds were tight, there was a need to balance the books. The club had to change its strategy.
While I think Wenger had already started this before talks of a move to the Emirates cropped up, he planned on doing it on a much larger scale.
He struck gold with the likes of Toure, Viera and Henry and that must have spurred him on. We went through 2003/04 unbeaten in the league.
The difference between then and what we have now is that the team then was quite strong, strong enough to allow young players get some experience.
However, fast forward three years to 2007 and only Gilberto, Toure and Lehmann managed to survive the chop.
So what happened in between? Two things:
First, the Emirates stadium, despite already reaping rewards financially, seems cursed cursed to never house a trophy. Costing close to £400 million, it left the club in huge debt.
But with much of the debt now wiped out and Arsenal in (according to the books) “financial heaven”, there is no better time to buy than now.
The other factor was the loss of a certain David Dein. Yeah yeah, you must be thinking “not David Dein talk again”.
But the truth is he supported Wenger throughout his best years and was never replaced (nah…Gazidis does not count).
To be honest, I didn’t see how much this would affect the club at first I mean…he is just another memeber of the board. But his backroom dealings brought Arsene to Arsenal in the first place.
Also, he was supposedly a major influence on the transfers of Cesc, PV4, RVP, Petit, Marc Overmars, Titi, Pires, and Campbell.
Just take a look at Daniel Levy across the road at Sp*rs and Milan’s Adrian Galliani and you’ll understand my point.
Now Project Youth has gone through two phases. Wenger, around 2008, deciding some of them weren’t good enough (Muamba and Aliadiere) or they deciding Arsenal’s didn’t match their ambition (Flamini).
And there is the current crop of youngsters (Coquelin, Jack, Frimps, Oxlade-Chamb, Yennaris) who are not doing too badly.
The only real Arsenal-bred youngsters who have grown to full fledged regulars from Arsenal’s academy are Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs. Then we have the likes of Cesc, Cashley, Song and Sz13 whom we ‘took’ while they were young.
This season we probably have the most players out on loan in the history of the league. Some players will not make the grades at Arsenal, and we can all see that.
Project Youth should be about developing the quality (maybe few) players, not holding on to many average players.
Now, we do have a relatively strong squad, a good basis for two (assuming we already have Podolski) quality signings. Wenger needs to take a look at players like Denilson, Vela, Lansbury and Bendtner.
He needs to decide whether to give them one more season to come good or just cash in while there is still interest in them.
Bayern Munich have shown that you do not need to spend all the money in the world (a la Real Madrid), to compete with the best.
They have a similar transfer model to Arsenal, spending reasonably within their means. Wenger started this last summer by recruiting Arteta, Mert4, Yossi and Santos.
We showed a lot of promise against the might and money of Manchester City, Milan and Chelsea this season. Imagine a player like Cesc hadn’t left and we have a midfield comprising Arteta, a player like Cesc, and Song.
Project Youth has not failed, completely, Sz13’s and Oxlade Chamberlain’s performances this season evidence of that. It just needs to be readjusted to fit with the reality of today, a few experienced heads (Robben, Lahm, Ribery, Gomez) to take the young guns past the finish line.
Wilshere can be our Kroos, Ramsey our Gustavo, and Song our Schweini. We already have a better striker than Gomez so that’s settled.
If Podolski joins, and Wenger sees the chance to build on what has been an eye-opening season by recruiting another (or two) experienced player(s), next season will be ours to throw away. Cliché?
What we have at the moment is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken by buying those quality players to persuade RVP et al to stay.
A quick look at our current youth set up shows a number of ‘next big things’; the task before Arsene is making them more Fabregas than Aliadiere.
That’s as much as I can take today mates! The race for 3rd place is still hot even though we’re in the driving seat. A preview of our visit to Stoke will be posted tomorrow morning. Watch out for that.
Birthday shout outs to Punkenstein, one of the three authors on this blog. It’s been an honour mate. Reach for the skies!
Then there’s the talk of Pep Guardiola refusing to sign a new contract at Barcelona. What do you guys make of that? Pep at Arsenal? Hmmmmmm….
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