After moving to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal began a youth project as they could not compete financially.
Despite coming desperately close (League Cup 2006, Premier League 2008 just to name two examples) the young Guns never won a trophy, and were deemed a failed experiment.
Now the Gunners can afford to splurge on one superstar a year, and can offer wages to compete with the other top clubs around Europe. One problem does remain, though. Unlike financial powerhouses Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, Arsenal can’t afford to blow money. Big transfers must be successful. Chelsea and Manchester City don’t share the same concerns, with rich benefactors happy to aid their transfer habits.
So Arsenal, certainly at the top of English football, are in a fairly unique position. World class players can be signed but the Gunners will have to continue signing and developing young talent. That’s where we seem to have stepped up lately, and seem intent on continuing our endeavours.
According to various reports Nigerian pair Kelechi Nwakali and Samuel Chukwueze have rejected huge clubs around Europe and agreed terms with Arsenal, they only need work permits to complete their moves to London. (You can read more about Nwakali here.) In 2015 both players were crucial in the Nigerian u17 team’s successful World Cup campaign and they will join a number of talented foreigners already added to the Arsenal youth setup in the last year.
12 months ago Krystian Bielik was signed. The Pole has just turned 18 and was joined by a flurry of continental talent in the summer. Jeff Reine-Adelaide (who instantly became a cult favourite with an impressive Emirates Cup appearance against VfL Wolfsburg and has already made his first team debut) signed from RC Lens along with Yassin Fortune, and there was still one more to come from France. Ismael Bennacer snubbed Manchester City to sign for Arsenal towards the end of the summer. Romanian u17 captain Vlad Dragomir also became an Arsenal player during the summer months.
Perhaps the most exciting talent Arsenal have signed is Donyell Malen, who is already represented by super agent Mino Raiola at the age of 16. The Dutchman left the AFC Ajax Academy against the wishes of the Dutch giants and has already started scoring for the Arsenal u21s and u18s.
With two new teenagers set to join them, and English players like Reiss Nelson and Chris Willock impressing and developing, we may be seeing Wenger’s next team already assembled for him in the youth ranks. Arsenal can afford to sign superstars now, but signing raw talent and huge stars before they emerge is a much cheaper way of doing things. Watch this space.