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Oh Sweet Chelsea Youth Policy


Dorset

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Whilst watching the next generation of puckish, Peter Pan-ish, young Gunners demolish Wigan the thought crossed my mind that there has never been a better time than this week to compare the respective approaches of AFC and CFC as regards development of young players. I figured that timing was everything in these matters and Roman’s reign was an ideal length of it to run the rule over the situation because it encompasses, by common and frequent consent in Arsenal’s case, a suitable period of transition. As it turned out, in last night’s defeat, the battle royal blue half of the comparison with Arsene Wenger’s latest little kiddies didn’t happen because only FDS fought in our corner. No doubt there will be endless Shed End debate on why the Carling Cup competition was not used to showcase our youngsters, but that is only a small part of a bigger picture that combines youth development, future UEFA player regulations, English player priorities, cost cutting and the winning of silverware - and all in one vast Chelsea scheme of things.

That is not to say that a current comparison with Arsenal is not relevant or helpful - it definitely is and Chelsea, since Roman’s arrival, have had the advantage of being able to learn from the one and only Wenger, the master butcher of the youth meat market who can make a silk purse out of a young sows ear, but also has more forgotten about off cuts than a small, deprived African state has had hot dinners. In short, the real questions to be asked are:- Should we be slavishly following the Wenger blueprint and, if so, how do we expect to end up with the tangible reward of silverware when, to date, even the acknowledged fount of all knowledge on fledglings hasn’t managed to do so? Or are we in effect pursuing a markedly different youth policy that it will soon manifest itself in a team full of home grown players and cupboard full of trophies?

Of course these days, if you are an interested observer with no allegiances, it is difficult to form an opinion that isn’t influenced by a Media obsession with Arsenal youthfulness that borders on a fetish. Tuesday was no exception, as Alan Parry and ex-Gunner Brian Marwood positively drooled over the team’s performance and the newspapers were no less gushing in their praise, with Wilshere’s pass for the first goal being described in the Times as one that [at the last count] ’effectively took six Wigan players out of the game’. What chance realism against this backdrop of over-hyped nonsense? Well, let’s just look at the picture more closely, comparing our own current situation with that of Arsenal’s by dipping in to the Carling Cup to gain evidence and not, as one Premiership manager does, merely to gain work experience for the kids.

For me, despite all the tub thumping for Wilshere, Gibbs, Randall and Ramsey, Jay Simpson looked to be the Brit most likely to make a breakthrough, being both physical and quick. He, along with Ramsey, had had league experience [with Millwall] and it showed, whereas the likes of Wilshere and Randall seemed a little lightweight. Perhaps more to the point is the fact that substitute Carlos Alberta Vela showed himself to be at a higher level than any of them, yet he really has little chance of first team action with Adebayor, Van Persie, Bendtner and [eventually] Eduardo established and, presumably because he was already on the park, Simpson ahead of him too. Somewhat ironically, Wilshere could leapfrog everybody due to being a rival to Rosicky, who is fast becoming a martyr to injury.

These players are supposedly the next crop in a harvest festival of Wenger talent that, during the period under revue, has seen the likes of Upson, Sidwell, Bentley, Aliadiere, Hoyte (J) and Stokes mature to Premiership standard, but ultimately perform for other clubs. Naturally enough, these forgotten heroes are just that when Wenger makes his latest pronouncement - “If Capello wants to have a good selection, he has to come to our Carling Cup games. If you give me time, I will produce England players.†Now let me see, if God’s Creation in six days equates with Wenger’s twelve years at Arsenal, then there really is no time left to rest for a mere mortal still trying to produce another England player to follow in the footsteps of Ashley Cole - would you Adam and Eve the laziness of these Frenchmen!

In complete contrast [not that it will ever be reported as such] Chelsea’s primary crop are now ready to be picked and the Burnley match provided the perfect opportunity to compare on every youth assessment level you care to mention. Except that the primary difference between Chelsea’s long term strategy and Arsenal’s prevented this from happening because most of the comparable youngsters are loaned out players - Jimmy Smith, Ben Sahar, Shaun Cummings, Lee Sawyer, Jack Cork, Ryan Bertrand and, most significantly of all, Michael Mancienne. Alright, Smith and Mancienne have reached the ripe old age of twenty, but you get my drift and maybe you will also understand my contrasting of this group of players with those of the Upson ilk, the difference being that Wenger got rid of that strata whereas we have pursued the development of our lot over a longer period and without any Media recognition whatsoever.

All of these players are likely to emulate their Gunner equivalents and at least three, Cork, Bertrand and Mancienne, will probably end up in the full England squad inside the next five years, or at least by around about the time Wenger expects to nurture through another Englishman. These time spans are difficult to gauge, but impending UEFA home grown rulings somehow have a habit of concentrating even the greatest of minds and this leads us on nicely to the Wilshere age group and the Gibbs/Randall comparable alternatives in the Chelsea set-up. By my reckoning we can include in this patriotic list Liam Bridcutt, Carl Magnay, Tom Taiwo, Jacob Mellis, Nana Ofori, Sam Hutchinson and most significantly of all, Michael Woods, who is already featuring on subs benches with some regularity.

Substantially more in number than their Gunner equivalents, these player may have nationality in common, but if you ignore this and ‘go foreign‘, as Wenger has done in the main over the last twelve years, we can also match them talent for talent and more of it to boot. Rhys Taylor (he’s Welsh, you know), Patrick van Aanholt, Sergio Tejera and Fabio Ferreira spring to mind while Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma almost match Wilshere in the no age at all category and, for my money, have just as much ability. What we do not have in this bracket or indeed any of the others is a forward to rival the goal scoring potential of Vela, excepting the fast tracked FDS, and the nearest comparisons I can come up with are wingers Scott Sinclair and Miroslav Stoch, the players who by now, in my opinion, should really have been given some outings at a higher level.

So there we have it, from my viewpoint the approaches of both clubs have their differences, the major one being the use of the loan system, and it is only on the oooh-look-how-young-we-are nights in the Carling Cup, when the much feted Arsene Wenger once again gets his ego massaged by a myopic and besotted Media, that we are made to suffer the unrealistic rather than true extent of those differences. During the Roman reign plenty has been done for us, not least in the establishment of an Academy fit for future kings of the game. Just how many kings are in our particular pack is as yet unknown, but it wont be too long before we start finding out, especially if we keep losing to the Burnleys of this world. So Fabio please take note if you will - sod going to Arsenal Carling Cup games - we’ve got a much bigger and better selection at Chelsea after five years than Wenger‘s ever produced at Arsenal over twelve.

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Very original and perceptive analysis.

You could have pointed out that our reserves comfortably beat their reserves earlier this season, and that our reserve team is used to develop our young talent before it gets sent out on loan.

However, the unwillingness to use last night's game to give our youngsters (bar FDS) a chance is both depressing and short-sighted. I know Scolari has a juggling act of keeping a large pool of top-class players both happy and match fit, and so has to use the CC to give fringe players valuable game time in meaningful matches, but when those players can't even beat Burnley you wonder what the hell we've got out of the whole experience when it hasn't moved a single youngster's career forward an inch.

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Good post as usual Dorset. I really hope that we do eventully see one or two break into the 1st team but from what ive heard Jack Cork wont be one of them, theres quite a few Southampton fans at my work and they say he's good (he's a first team player for them) and has played centre back aswell as right back but apparently he's not premiership material.

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Good post as usual Dorset. I really hope that we do eventully see one or two break into the 1st team but from what ive heard Jack Cork wont be one of them, theres quite a few Southampton fans at my work and they say he's good (he's a first team player for them) and has played centre back aswell as right back but apparently he's not premiership material.

And his dad was a clogger at Wimbledon, too.

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Call me cynical, but I don't subscribe to the 'fact' that Arsenal develops young stars.

The results of previous Carling Cup-storming squads are now plying their trades in other Premiership squads; these are overwhelmingly English kids that were never given a chance at Arsenal instead of foreign talent. Very few of Arsenal's foreign 'young guns' have made the grade elsewhere- two notable examples are Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Arturo Lupoli, arguably the most feared strikeforce at reserve level a few years ago.

Arsenal don't have a genuine youth development policy. Wenger chooses to buy young players rather than experienced stars. There is no difference between their policy and that of Chelsea, except that they spend significantly less because their scattergun approach is limited to players under the age of 24. The only difference is that Arsenal have three 20-year olds competing for the one position; good in theory, but in practice, all three players often fall by the wayside simply because they have no experienced role model. There is only so much coaching and experience can give; ask any world-class player how they got there and they would inevitably mention an instance where they modeled a more experienced player in training.

A proper, effect development policy is where the young players have the ability to be mentored and trained by members in the first team. Our aim should be to follow the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Aston Villa, who are the forerunners of youth development in the Premier League. These clubs have a history of producing proven top-class performers; Arsenal do not, they simply buy them.

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Call me cynical, but I don't subscribe to the 'fact' that Arsenal develops young stars.

Great post. Agree. Summed well up for me.

These clubs have a history of producing proven top-class performers; Arsenal do not, they simply buy them.

From time to time, Wenger even chooses to give them experienced players. Gallas was an experienced player when he started running for the gooners. But then, given the result, I doubt that it has the desired effect - if Wenger has had one at a certain point. Many in the tabloid who fancy the beautiful system of Arsenal have been thinking that the personality of the coach himself is enough for a young player to get inspired. But they do overlook that the coach - whatever his personality may be - is not on the pitch, not even for a minute. And players like Gallas just can't fill the gap.

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ask any world-class player how they got there and they would inevitably mention an instance where they modeled a more experienced player in training.

Exactly the reason i wanted Zola to come back and and help Felipe coach our young strikers, with an eye to replacing Felipe in 5+ years time. Remember Zola learned a lot from training personally with Maradonna whilst both at Napoli.

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