As Arsenal are weathering the early home pressure and I search for ways to cope with the rising anger at the hapless biased negativity of the truly horrible commentary team, my thoughts drift to The Plan. Some people have called it Project Youth some have seen it as a series of decisions based entirely upon financial straight jackets while a frankly silly minority have attempted (unconvincingly) to propagate the belief that there is no plan. Personally I’ve never thought that The Plan was particularly complex, elliptical nor difficult to grasp. Arsène has always been up front and honest when it comes to explaining The Plan. Put simply, he has striven to build a squad of exciting young talent either bought in or home grown and to blend it with experienced players of international renown. He then adds a dash of stardust seasoning in the shape of one or two truly world class footballers. The over riding criteria being that whether callow or seasoned these players should be inventive, intelligent, clean living and good looking and able to adapt themselves to the wonder that is Wengerball. See? Simple isn’t it? Of course high profile defections in search of money and a sickening spate of injuries have often robbed him of both the older and younger players forcing him to promote, buy and borrow in successive rebuilding operations which have disrupted the personnel but never derailed The Plan.
I feel that the current squad may be the most perfect realisation of The Plan that we have seen. Others would disagree but yar boo sucks to them. This is my turn and I’ll paint the blog whatever shade of red and white that I like. If you take the defensive side of our team for example it really is the perfect encapsulation of The Plan in microcosm. I think of our defensive unit as comprising Szczęsny, Bac, Gibbs, Per, Kos and Mikel Arteta. I include Mikel although the Flaminator could just as easily fit the bill. Either way the midfielder most likely to be found protecting the back four is an integral part of our rearguard. So that’s three young players either bought from obscurity or groomed from a very young age in-house and three massively experienced hugely knowledgeable footballers the whole shebang combining grace, speed, enthusiasm, maturity, skill, anticipation, acceleration, pace and power into a big gumbo of footy loveliness. As I say an encapsulation of The Plan.
One element of The Plan has undoubtedly been Project Youth. I don’t deny the existence of The Project. However this has never been, is not and hereafter never shall be the whole plan. Never ever ever no matter what you may have heard or thought, so clear your muddled head of such zany baloney. Any sensible well run responsible club will have a decent youth set up and will give very many young sportsman the best possible start in their sporting life and at Arsenal that’s precisely what happens. Some of those youngsters will gain first team experience and some will go on to become first choice. Not many of course but more than you’d expect to see in most top teams. But Project Youth is only a part of The Plan. The reason I highlight it here and the reason I believe our current squad to be such a fine example and realisation of The Plan is this. Project Youth takes time. Buying a player takes a bit of scouting, negotiating and cheque writing it’s true but this is peanuts to planting and growing your own young players. What age were Jack or Kieron? They were still in red and white nappies when they first started for us and it has taken a very long time to get to where we are today. Similarly Theo and Aaron. They were bought in for sure but before they’d done their GCSE’s. Or thereabouts. My point is it took time for them to bridge that boy to man gap. And now we are here. The vast wealth of experience possessed by the likes of Per, Mikel, Podolski, Tomas, Bacary, Santi, is now combined with youngsters who are now actually no longer boys but professional footballers just entering their best years. Look at Aaron. He is merely a junior member of the team. And he’s the best player in the country right now. By a country mile. And that’s my point. The youth/experience balance is still there but now the young players have enormous experience. Still learning of course but not kids. Not in footballing terms. Not any more.
57.27 seconds. Aaron Ramsay pulls off a tackle on the edge of our area that Bobby Moore would have boggled at. And then he instigates a counter attack that ends with their keeper making a good save at the near post from a Jack Wilshere volley. It just happened. At the moment that I finished writing the last paragraph. Kind of proving my point. There’s really only one ingredient missing as far as The Plan is concerned. The players need to know how it feels to win. Not just matches. They know how to win big and important matches. They need to know how it feels to win competitions. To know that together they can see the job through to the end. I see no reason to suppose they can’t do it and that their time is now. And as I typed that Theo banged it into the net. Like we all knew he could. And he also kind of proved my point. He is ready now, no longer a kid. His misfortune in hitting a keeper in fine form on Saturday counted for nothing when his chance came this evening. He is young, quick and a menace to defenders but he is also sufficiently experienced to have patience and perspective. Those precious commodities so transparently lacking in so many supporters and yet so absolutely essential in the psyche of a top professional sportsman.
Well it’s 71 minutes in and I’ve stopped typing so I can enjoy the last 20 minutes of the game. I wonder when Giroud will score. I wonder what will happen if he doesn’t? Will the ravens flee the tower? I wonder if Sky’s commentary apparatchiks ever lock themselves in a cubicle in the gents with their faces in their hands sobbing quietly at having to repeat such Orwellian doublespeak as “Arsenal have always drawn easy groups” and “Arsenal’s squad is looking thin”. I know they need the money, we all have bills to pay, but I’d like to think that if I was called upon to do something so blatantly immoral and clearly wrong in the course of my working day that I’d have the courage to say no.
I suppose if I told you I was wondering just when Aaron would score as the clock approached 83 minutes you wouldn’t believe me would you?
Still sat here concerned about the ravens though.