The departure of Cesc Fabregas, injuries to Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny and Kieron Gibbs, and the protracted saga of Samir Nasri and Manchester City have left Arsenal with a squad still high on quality but desperately low on numbers. With manager Arsene Wenger thus far reluctant to dip in to the transfer market in order to plug the gaps in his squad, the Gunners’ latest group of young talents are being pushed further into the limelight.
Emmanuel Frimpong and Carl Jenkinson started the 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, with Ignasi Miquel coming off the bench in the first-half and Henri Lansbury in the second, and, although Frimpong’s second-half red card meant the midfielder did not finish the game, there was enough from the burly 19-year-old’s 70 minutes to suggest he can contribute to the Arsenal cause this season. The BBC
Of the central midfielders currently at Arsenal, only one is over the age of 25 – Tomas Rosicky, while Abou Diaby turned 25 in May. In 2006, Fabregas, while paying tribute to Wenger, revealed how important training with the established, experienced names in the Arsenal squad had been to his development. Quoted in The Independent, he said: “I was playing next to Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira. I was lucky to learn from the big players when I was only 16 and for me that was a very big step forward.” There is no Vieira for Frimpong to model himself on, nor is there an Henry for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It is an issue that has been raised before and will continue to be raised, until either Wenger adds more experience to his squad or one of the young players pushed into a leader’s role proves they can take the mantle of the names of the past.
There are advantages to giving young players the freedom of the squad, which often get overlooked in the rush to condemn Wenger for his policies. The price of signing a 19-year-old midfielder with the capability of Jack Wilshere would be astronomical, even without figuring in the usual increase for the premium on English talent. There is also the opportunity to create a bond between players who progress together through the youth ranks that is much more difficult to manufacture with a raft of imports, each of whom brings their own preferred way of doing things to the club. The likes of Wilshere, Frimpong, Miquel and Lansbury have either been brought up understanding what is expected of them by Wenger, or came to the club at an early enough age to take Wenger’s lessons on board. Translating those lessons into the first team and succeeding is now the challenge facing this generation of young Gunners.