Tag Archives: talent

Spotlight on Youth Progress

Freddie Ljungberg’s move to Assistant Manager from his previous role as Under-23’s boss heralds a shift in focus for our club.

The statement that accompanied the Swede’s move to Unai Emery’s bench chose to underline this, mentioning that Ljungberg’s intimate knowledge of our youth system and the products that have rolled off the conveyor belt recently was the reason that Freddie has taken Steve Bould’s role – with Bould going in the opposite direction.

It is this hands-on, daily intel that Ljjungberg possesses, that gives him the best position to determine who can move up from the Academy and bolster our squad.

With our self-sustainability model in full effect, the dream situation for our club hierarchy and our bank balance, would be finding the answers to bolstering our squad within our current ranks – unearthing the latest rough diamond and polishing it in front of our very eyes in the stands.

Freddie is meant to be the conduit between the kids trying to make that step up, to the ear of Unai Emery, who knows that his budget will leave him hindered in his attempt to reclaw our Champions League prospects back, after last season saw us confirm we will miss out for a third consecutive season.

With Champions League omission comes a shrunken budget, so Ljungberg moving up to provide Emery with another eye, perhaps the most important eye amongst our coaching personnel, means that Emery can have a true gauge on whether our prospects can supply the fillip that our first team and squad we so desperately require.

Freddie-Ljungberg-4

Jo Willock and Eddie Nketiah spring immediately to mind in regards to who will make the step up, but there are others who will be in with a shout.

Bukayo Saka and Tyreece John-Jules are others who are in with a shot, and Emile Smith-Rowe, along with Reiss Nelson, are champing at the bit to get the nod.

Much like last season, Emery’s first, we can tell a lot from Emery’s team selection for the supposed ‘friendly games.’ He rotated heavily, and with a hectic warm-up schedule, thanks in part to sponsorship deals, games were thick and fast. That meant plenty of chances for the kids to impress, but what will also help these kids show that Freddie’s testimonials were all true – is squad strength.

There has been talk of Arsenal going in for Keiran Tierney in a bid to boost our defensive strength, and it is obvious that our backline is in dire need of reinforcements.

So, with Freddie swooping in and having Emery’s ear in regards to what kid can help out in our hour of need, or who has what it takes, our kids could well be the salve that eases the burn on our backline.

Freddie is meant to help the transition between the youth and first team sides, and with our defence on its knees last season, Ljungberg will be instrumental in ensuring the likes of Calum Chambers, Zach Medley and Jordi Osei-Tutu, currently on loan, make the big leap from boy to man in terms of football.

Whether the Swede truly has enough sway to ensure Emery listens to him regarding our players is another matter intirely, but it is irrefuteable that our club would enjoy a ‘signing’ that came straight from our youth team.

We can only wait and see if Ljungberg is starting to have an effect on proceedings. With the precociousness’ of youth also means we should remember that they will have to be given a little flex in order to weed out the mistakes their game demands they make in order to learn vital lessons.

Without patience, then those opportunities that Ljungberg will fight so hard for might as well not happen. We need to keep that in mind when these kids light up the pitch.

Guendouzi Appreciation Society

Let us take a moment to appreciate Matteo Guendouzi.

The young Frenchman has taken to the Premier League like Tottenham to a semi-final exit and defied his years to put in performances that have filled us all with optimism for his near future.

Joining as a 19 year old, we had been linked with some promising players prior to Guendouzi putting pen to paper, but all had fallen by the wayside. Guendouzi was the kid chosen, and from his displays so far, it appears we have made the right choice.

What makes him so special though? At the time of writing, the kid with the untamed hair has made 28 appearances so far in the campaign, a huge number for a player touted to make his mark first in the Under-23’s.

Guendouzi crazy hair
Guendouzi – The Lion-Haired Talent

Why has Unai Emery invested so much trust in the precocious youth? From what we have seen, one of the main reasons is his fearlessness.

In tight situations, both on the ball and in scoreline, Guendouzi has shown an incredible hunger for possession. He always shows for the ball, and even better than his desire to be on the ball is his instant decision to always be on the front foot.

What makes him different to the midfielders we have is that the sideways pass is his safety net, but his first choice is always to progress up the pitch. He can make that happen with or without the ball – Guendouzi is a decent dribbler and can carry when the need arises, and his eye for a pass highlights a decent eye for someone so young.

His transitional play gives us something we don’t have in our ranks and he has stamina to burn. We must remember his age and lack of experience, however.

At times his decision-making – the last skill normally developed by kids as they grow – has been found wanting, and the negative to go with the positives of youth is that they will make errors on the pitch. That is how anybody learns, and footballers are no different.

We as fans are an impatient bunch, and mistakes on the turf are always met with groans, but when he inevitably makes a boo-boo and puts the team in danger, we must give him the time to learn.

The problem with Guendouzi is that he has made remarkably few since joining the team. He has made a rod for his own back as we expect so much now from him.

Emery obviously realises that Guendouzi is a real talent, and his box-to-box mentality and style is an arrow in our quiver that gives us the ability to adapt tactically. Guendouzi’s midfield versatility is perhaps his biggest strength and it will make him a lynchpin in the side in a year or so.

We have an opponent with a high press? Play Torreira alongside Guendouzi and have the Uruguayan and the Frenchman sitting deeper and tracking. What if we have a team that are sitting deep themselves and willing to hit on the break? A midfield 3 perhaps or Xhaka with Guendouzi, to push forward but have Guendouzi’s pace as a contingency.

Either way, whoever partners Matteo will know they have a player who puts it all in, and leaves nothing behind. They will have a partner willing to muck in when the going gets tough, and the ability to make thing happen or at the very least, get the ball quickly to the dangermen who can create.

Guendouzi is a real find, and his progress rate is quite astonishing. Let us hope he is given the room to grow into the player we all know he can be.

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Youth

We seem to have a pretty settled and well stocked squad this season.

Depth in every position, competition to drive our players forward and avoid resting on any laurels, our team appears to have the necessary resources to last through a rigorous season, even if injury bites.

What about the near future though?

It would appear we have that covered too, thanks to our promising youth starlets pushing through the Academy.

In Eddie Nketiah, Ainslie Maitland-Niles, Emile Smith-Rowe and Alex Iwobi, we have players ready to be the next spine of our side. It doesn’t stop there either.

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We have Gedion Zelalem now back from serious injury, and with previous loan spells giving him the experience he needs to push on further, it could be that Zelalem pushes out from the shadows and thrusts himself back in the limelight once again.

We have Ben Sheaf and Josh DaSilva, players who our backroom staff and those who have seen them have been raving about.

We also have Chris Willock, the midfielder who has impressed Emery enough to remain part of first team plans. Willock may not have many minutes under his belt, but the fact he has remained in the squad and hasn’t been sold or loaned points to a talented player who has kept himself in full view of the manager.

Let’s not forget about Reiss Nelson as well.

Compare this to our rivals for honours.

tottenham have the likes of Kyle Walker-Peters who seems promising enough, and Harry Winks is earning international recognition, but the best of the rest of their youth system is nowhere to be found.

At City, Phil Foden aside, there are no kids pushing through whatsoever.

United, before Mourinho anyway, were a conveyor belt for talent, and they also had a slim chance of making it into the team. Now, aside from McTominay, they have the likes of Tuanzebe who are being sent on loan as they have no hope of making an impression on the first team.

Chelsea have no representatives from their youth pool, and their recruitment policy may have calmed down, but their large amount of kids sent out on loan to the purgatory that is Vitesse Arnhem speaks volumes about what is required to be a first teamer at the Bridge.

We have not only increased the amount of our youth products coming through, but we have increased the quality.

Just look at Maitland-Niles last year. In amongst international class but a poor team, Maitland-Niles adapted in his full-back role, used his defensive nous to forge himself a slot in the squad, and impressed both Wenger and Emery enough to consider him in his preferred capacity and a s a certified first team player.

Emile Smith-Rowe made his splash in pre-season, and swayed Emery so much that he never left the first team fold. The teenager is making sporadic appearances, and is well on course to achieve great things with Arsenal. He has now got off the mark in terms of goals too.

Nketiah made a big splash last season by rescuing us with a superb brace in our league cup win over Norwich, and despite struggling to get into the team, has impressed when on the pitch, and is constantly in the squad and on the bench to be called upon.

When injuries bite and inevitable departures occur, these players will form the backbone of Arsenal – if all goes well, injury and mentality permitting.

Alex Iwobi is the target the kids have to aim for, and the Nigeria player is coming on leaps and bounds this season. He hauled himself up through the youth system, and now stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ozil’s and the Aubameyang’s in the team.

When players depart, we have the ideal fillers, and they will be one of our own.

Sven Mislintat – the Diamond Eye of Talent Spotting

Arsenal have been busy overhauling their backroom staff in the last couple of years.

Shad Forsythe, Jens Lehmann, Huss Fahmy and Darren Burgess are all recent additions in varying capacities to Arsene Wenger’s network of coaching.

Now, the latest name to join that list is perhaps the most exciting – Sven Mislintat.

The German has joined us from Borussia Dortmund, and he will be taking up the role of Head of Recruitment. Mislintat will be taking over from club stalwart Steve Rowley, who will still be helping Arsenal on a freelance basis.

So, who is Sven Mislintat? And why is there such a fuss over him?







Well, Sven created a bit of a legacy at Dortmund. He started as a green scout just after BVB were declared bankrupt. Money was inevitably strictly budgeted, so a shrewdness to player acquisition had to be be a priority. This is where Mislintat grew into the man German journalists have dubbed ‘Diamond Eye.’

Mislintat is credited with the stellar careers of Shinki Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Aside from Kagawa, Mislintat didn’t discover these players from ignominy, but he is responsible for highlighting that these players were destined for greatness. This is his talent.

He learned his trade from the old-school scouts who were at Dortmund, but has also embraced data into his vision. It is this all-encompassing view that has enabled Mislintat to alert his respective managers to players that they need to nurture rather than offload.

Simply put, Mislintat knows when a player is the real deal rather than a waste of time.

Old Diamond Eye is a Dortmund pedigree and was not seeking a move away from the club, but a falling out with Thomas Tuchel that led to Arsenal making enquiries. Apparently, Tuchel banned Mislintat from the inner circle of the club, and it was this that pushed the German into the welcoming arms of Arsenal.

His hiring has led to many questioning voices, wondering if this is a step toward preparing for a Wenger departure? You would have to say yes. Arsene has the rest of this season and one more until his latest contract extension ends, and it is looking doubtful that he will sign another with such doubt over the last few years results. Sven will not be joining for just a year, so if he is indeed in it for the long haul then he will be staying on when Wenger does depart. It is a necessary step in preparation to future-proof the club.

This move takes a smidgin of responsibility away from Wenger. He will undoubtedly still have the final say on any recommendations for players, but Mislintat will most likely take the lead on acquisitions. They both share the same vision on transfers, so this will help Mislintat acclimatise at Arsenal.

We have hired the cream of the crop in fitness, we have a new and un-ignorable voice as a coach (just try and not listen to Jens Lehmann) and from December, we will have a man who can revolutionise our recruitment policy.

Our club prides itself on creating diamonds rather than buying them, and with Sven ‘Diamond Eye’ Mislintat in our ranks, we can be hopeful this will continue. 

​CL Final Shows Gulf In Class

Posted on Goonersphere.

A Champions League Final is not normally a hive of frenetic action, sandwiched by thrilling passages of play.



No, European club football’s crowning glory is usually poster child for tedium and anti-football. Y’know the types of games I’m referring to – just picture a game involving a Jose Mourinho team in an important fixture and you’ll get the idea.



It is completely understandable though. Since the European Cup transformed itself in the early 90’s, the current format has gone from strength to strength and is now the pinnacle of all achievements for any club on the continent.



So for a team to play ultra-cautiously in fear of losing is just another effect of the Champions League gravity ensuring everything in its orbit is affected.


The latest Final though, in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, was markedly and pleasantly different.



















Both finalists – eventual winners Real Madrid and beaten finalist Juventus – went at each other with vigorous enthusiasm, and the first half especially was a joy to watch. The ebb and flow of the game was akin to a tennis match, but don’t for one moment think that the defensive arts were maligned. With each attack, the defence for both teams were the craggy rocks which the marauding waves crashed upon.


Juventus’s almost mythical defence of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini were eventually found wanting in the face of the Real forward line, but Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos also had a tough time tracking the movement of Paolo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.


All parameters of skill in football were crammed into the ninety or so minutes, and what became increasingly apparent as the minutes whizzed by was that Arsenal – and the Premier League – are miles behind the level on show.


The Premier League’s biggest strength – it’s physicality and fizzing speed – is also its biggest flaw. It means that the technical ability that Real and Juventus possess and dole out on the pitch can slice through the crash and bang that PL sides bring to the table.


We have players in every PL team that can play in this manner. Some clubs have more than others, but the bottom line is that it isn’t just the Champions League finalists that have climbed above our best sides.


Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Monaco, Barcelona. These teams, if drawn against one of the big PL sides, could slice us to ribbons on demand. Of course, Dortmund have seen better days, and PSG haven’t been at their best, but five English sides making the Last 8 in the last SIX seasons pretty much underlines it.


There are matches when English teams can raise their game and occasions when their play is breathtaking. At their best, they can stand shoulder to shoulder with these Euro giants.


The problem is though, is that they are standing on tiptoes, and this can’t be maintained for long.


We have some of the best coaches. We have the most money. We have the platform to grow and become giants, like we once were. 


There are other factors. A lack of a winter break leaves English teams with less capacity than their Euro brethren, and the frenetic nature of our League means stamina becomes an issue.


These are not the main reason though, and that is why this summer will be a big one for the big boys of the Premier League. 


These clubs are now the richest on the continent, and despite this, they still don’t possess the best talent that money can buy. Suarez, Neymar, Dybala, Higuain, Bale, Ronaldo, Reus, Douglas Costa, Lewandowski. These men are at the very top, and none play in England.


Hell, Real Madrid couldn’t even fit James Rodriguez onto their bench!


We have Ozil, Sanchez, Hazard, Aguero, Pogba, Koscielny, Kane. These players can hold their head high amongst these esteemed names, but on the whole, we have a huge amount of catching up to do.


On the pitch, and off of it, we will see a big change. This summer will be the start, as silly money gets chucked around so City, United, Chelsea and hopefully Arsenal, attempt to claw back their shortcomings.


The CL Final may just serve as a wake up call for the Premier League big clubs. 

Summer Clearout? Or Second Chance?

Published in Arsenal Mania.

At the start of this season, the majority lauded what we perceived to be the finished article. Finally, after what had seemed an age, our squad had the necessary tools to compete with the very best in our league.

Year after year of putting up with strict budgets and excuses from the Board and Arsene Wenger had begun to take its toll on our patience. Promises made and subsequently broken regarding our competitiveness only served to push our tolerance levels to their highest.

It was time, and like a Hollywood script, we finally rode into the screen in the nick of time with the winning formula.

Granit Xhaka had performed admirably for Switzerland in Euro2016, and his displays in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach had the experts purring about his talent. Our midfield had been crying out for a potent mixture of pugilist and transitional master, and Xhaka from deep had shown he was adept at both.

We had all been painfully aware of our defensive shortcomings, with Mertesacker getting no younger and Gabriel yet to prove his worth. When we finally met the asking price Valencia were asking for German international Shkodran Mustafi, it appeared excellent business.

Mustafi was in La Liga’s team of the year in his time with Valencia. He was a regular in Joachim Low’s Germany squad. In his first months as a Gunner, he did not taste defeat.

It appeared as though we had finally found the secret recipe. Our patience had been rewarded. 

The cherry on the cake was Lucas Perez. 

The striker from Deportivo La Corun had an impressive goal return, and his clever touches in and around the box looked like we had the perfect attacker to complement our style of play.

Fast forward to the present day, and a large percentage of our fans think our players are suddenly not good enough.

What has changed, aside from results? 

Results are the currency on which football lives on. When we are not achieving results, then everything is open for discussion. 

Our level of talent in the squad has not changed, so why do a large percentage of our fans now think we need a clearout?

It is down to mentality.

When the chips are down, it is the competitiveness, the desire for victory that picks up players from their haunches and ensures they carry on. Well, an unacceptable run of results from January through April cost us dearly and have left this season as the worst under Wenger, but nearly every player has at times appeared to be downtrodden and lacking the spirit to fight their way out of this problem.

And it is exactly this that we need. That Arsene Wenger needs in order for our team to start crawling back up the league. As the players seem unable to reverse the fortunes on the pitch and sometimes don’t appear as if they want to – does the blame for this fall at the manager’s or the players feet?

Both. The players we have at our disposal are far better than results suggest, and it is quite obvious the current regimen does not fit well for our players. They have seemed ill at ease. Our players don’t look like they want to put in the effort.

Whether that is because they are assured of their place and have lost their edge, or it is down to tactics is unanswerable. The only people who know the root cause of our apparent demise are the ones who are in our dressing room every week.

A clearout of our players may be a bit hasty though. Early in the season, they were good enough in all of our eyes, as results were of a sufficient standard to see us near where we perceive them to be. Now the results have dried up, but these are the same players as before.

A different manager may just be the exact ingredient needed to summon the best from the players who are not doing the business for us right now. It may need someone in the squad to finally step up and give them the tongue-lashing they sorely need. 

It may require this group to wake up and realise they are doing our club and our badge a great disservice, and they MUST do better.

Either way, we have seen they are capable of doing better than they are right now. Have we all become unable to discern what is simply bad form and what is a lack of skill?

Some players have worn out their ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, and some deserve the benefit of the doubt. A lot will happen in the summer and pre-season, and it will tell us if these men have the fire in their bellies that we need, or if the fire has been put out. 

Bellerin To Leave In Summer?

When a player makes the grade and comes through the youth ranks at the club, the ties which bind them to the club are stronger.

The fanbase especially, share an affinity with this talented youngster. They see them as one of them. This starlet has fought through all the barriers and long odds which face any fresh-faced hopeful, and every time they pull on the shirt, it is a victory and something to cherish for the adoring support in the stands.

Hector Bellerin is one of those who the fans adore. From his baptism of fire in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 through to the present day, the floppy-haired defender has risen to every challenge he has faced.

His beginnings in the first team were borne from necessity. Our squad had been ravaged thanks to an annual injury crisis which Arsenal Football Club seem to have inflicted upon them without remorse. Hector had been pulling up trees for the reserves, and his sporadic appearances on the Arsenal bench were a signal that the Spaniard was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The match that marked his debut was one to forget, as Dortmund’s intricate teamplay and movement were a living nightmare for every Gunner on the pitch. It ended in a well-deserved defeat for Arsenal, and Bellerin was mercilessly handed a reminder of the significant step up from what he had been doing, to what he actually required.

The transformation from this bamboozled youngster into the player we have on our hands now is startling. His rise has seen off established international rivals for his spot. His rapier runs forward have allowed his team a lifesaving pressure valve. His pace has been the inflatable ring that has been chucked into choppy waters when all around him are floundering.

In short, Bellerin has shown his impressive talents in all aspects of his role. He is a modern day full-back that is improving with every season. His full-bodied flavour has not risen to the palatte yet, but thanks to his age, we have many years to wait before his full potential is realised. 

Or do we? 

Revista De La Liga and their newspaper column at the end of the show report that Bellerin is interesting his home club, and that the Catalans refuse to rule out a move for our man. Guillame Balague, the Spanish presenter and self-proclaimed expert of Spanish football, went as far as to confirm that talks had taken place between the two clubs, although these were only tentative enquiries.

Tentative they may be, but as Arsenal fans, we are painfully aware of how this goes when Barca come sniffing around our key personnel. We have seen this horror movie countless times and the ending is depressingly familiar. Could Bellerin ignore the best advice and actually depart from Arsenal?

Hector has only recently signed a long-term contract extension, but all this means in today’s money-tarnished footballing world is that the transfer fee would be further inflated. We as Gooners can at least find comfort in the fact that, in his own brand of Spanglish twangs, Bellerin has reaffirmed his intention to stay at the club.

It isn’t just Barcelona who wish to lure Bellerin away from Arsenal. Man City are also rumoured to be in the hunt, with former Gunner Mikel Arteta pivotal in their supposed plans to snatch our Spaniard from under our noses.

He did confirm his wishes to stay before the uncertainty and fall down the table enveloped the club however. Has his position changed? If Bellerin left, it would smart nearly as much as when Cesc left – also for Barcelona.

It is all conjecture of course, but any rumours surrounding our best players are bound to make us all nervous. We have all seen the countless bilge circulating around Alexis and Ozil, and it certainly appears that the Chilean at least is set for pastures new. 

But Bellerin  has Arsenal DNA. Never mind that his roots are firmly entrenched in La Masia ground. He has come through the ranks at Arsenal, and we have made him the player which is so coveted by those at the Camp Nou. 

So much depends on our where we finish this season. Champions League qualification may be scoffed at by some – especially when we are not close to winning the competition – but it means that our best players are dining a the top table where they belong. It means so much for us to stay competitive. 

We have made him who he is. We have given him everything. Let us hope that Bellerin repays that faith. 

Alex Iwobi – The Real Deal

When youngsters make their breakthrough, it is quite tempting to get carried away and adorn them with lavish comparisons and tags that only serve to add pressure to their slender shoulders.

So many have tumbled down the leagues and out of the glare of the public eye after such a dazzling birth onto the footballing stage. Was this purely down to the weight of expectation? No, but it certainly doesn’t aid them.

If these starlets push through the inevitable difficult times that succeed their bursting onto the scene, then that is the watermark for a long and prosperous career, for if they can overcome such testing times at such an age, then their much talked of ‘mental strength’ is exactly where it needs to be.

There are a few who fit this bill that currently ply their trade in the Premiership. Kelechi Iheanacho and Marcus Rashford certainly have grabbed the plaudits, but crucially, they have continued their incline towards the stars in the face of doubts from their respective managers, and reduced playing time.

They have shown they have the mettle to ally with their gargantuan talent, and our very own Alex Iwobi deserves to be included in this exclusive group – and perhaps even eclipse them both.

The second half of last season was Iwobi’s moment, and he grabbed it in spectacular fashion. Arsenal’s annual injury crisis affected their midfield last term, and it was the opening that the Nigerian craved. 

It is all well and good being given the chance, it is another thing entirely to take the chance. Coming into the side, and with the team struggling for form, Alex showed maturity beyond his years, and his displays were ample to sway Wenger in including him in his long term plans.

So, this season, the expectation was there, where previously there was none, yet you could be fooled into thinking that Iwobi hasn’t noticed. He has continued where he has left off, and maybe even shown growth in such a short space of time. 

To be fair, for a yongster learning his trade, is there a better place to be? Every day he turns up to Colney, he has the pleasure of suckling at the teat of greatness in the form of Ozil, Sanchez, Cazorla and others. Players who Iwobi can glean so much from, and it has certainly started to show.

Five goals and four assists in sixteen Premier League appearances (correct at the time of writing) only tells half the tale of the burgeoning talent that is our Number17. 

As a fan, the natural tendency is to err towards bias, but with close scrutiny – and with zero bias – Iwbi’s first touch ranks alongside some of the best at the club, falling just short of Ozil standards. His vision has repeatedly been the key that has unlocked the tightest of defences, and his passing has not been missed by fans watching his every move.

He really has shown that he can cut it at the highest level. All of the above superlatives would be complimentary to a 25-26yr old player, but Iwobi is just 20. 

Standing shoulder to shoulder with our finest players and rightfully belonging in their company, must mean staying grounded is difficult, but the signs are good thus far.

What really stands out, is that Iwobi is this good already, and he has so many formative years left to become an absolute monster of a player. If you consider a growth chart of a child, then put into place the first five years of a players career as the time that builds a players style, strength and touch – then the Nigerian’s end point would be off the scale.

Iheanacho, Rashford and especially Iwobi are destined to make an impact, and their talent is just half of the story. Football players may lead a charmed life in many respects, but the fact they have overcome the tough period that follows their breakthrough speaks volumes.

Alex Iwobi could be a vital part of Arsenal’s future for the next ten to twelve years. He has everything we could ever want from aplayer, and after coming through the ranks at London Colney, the affection he has for the club could be the key to keeping hold of him, because let’s face it – everybody is going to want him. 

Alex Iwobi – Fruits of Youth

Published on Goonersphere.

With the impending TV deal set to not only revolutionise Premier League football but change every parameter, fans may well revel in the dreams that the cash can create.

Every team that participates in the Premiership can now duke it out with the big boys in terms of transfer fees as coffers swell with TV cash. There are drawbacks however.

As each European club braces itself for the slew of bids for its stars by pumping up prices, it also means that the Premier League will have more imported players – which means the already miniscule chances youth players have of reaching the top shrink rapidly with every import that is brought to these shores.

So we should embrace every youngster who bucks the trend and squeezes through the doors to force their talents upon the Manager.

Step forward Alex Iwobi.

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Continue reading Alex Iwobi – Fruits of Youth

Talent Is Only One Part of The Puzzle – The Story of Fran Merida

Published in the Gooner Fanzine – pick up yours outside The Emirates at every home game!

Some players are blessed with natural talent. You know those embarrassing occasions in a club or social gathering and you attempt to ‘cut up some rug’ ( I believe that is the correct youth vernacular ) and the person next to you starts to dance and in comparison, you end up looking like you’ve recently spent months in a full body cast. He is endowed with natural rhythm, whereas you can do a mean ‘Robot’ but not much else. If you chose to put the effort in and purchased dance lessons, then you too could ‘shake what your mama gave ya’ ( again, I’m not too familiar with this, so feel free to correct me ).

My point, although, tenuous, is that talent isn’t all that makes up a professional football player. If Phill Nevile, Lee Cattermole and Tony Hibbert can claim to be football professionals, then this is the perfect testimony. Lionel Messi is absolutely saturated with talent on the pitch. There is nothing he cannot do and he proves this season after season. Cristiano Ronaldo is the only man that can claim he is on the same stratosphere as the diminutive Argentinian, but would the coiffured Portuguese idol have kept up his phenomenal goalscoring record if he was the same player in his first two seasons at Manchester United?

Continue reading Talent Is Only One Part of The Puzzle – The Story of Fran Merida