Is it time to separate the Wheat from the Chaff….
…or is the jury still out on the Arsenal youngsters?
As another season draws towards its final leg, it seems time again to reflect on the development of those players which have been at the forefront of the Arsenal development programme for the past few years. We have lauded many of these players with the honour of being the future of our team, but have also deemed a number of them to be simply not good enough for the Arsenal squad. So have they improved? Who are the diamonds in the rough, and who do we think it is safe to believe are lost causes? Deep into this season, I’d like to look at the merits and developments of Arsenal’s first-team youngsters, and decide who is worth it and who needs a good dose of foot in arse.
At the top of my list, I couldn’t look past Alex Song. This guy’s improvement has been simply phenomenal. Song has copped a lot of criticism in seasons past, branded by many as being a waste of space, but I think it is apparent to us all now, even the doubters, that he is more than deserving of an Arsenal jersey. I’d go as far as to say we have a real gem, and a player who is fast developing into a truly top-class defensive midfielder. Credit to Wenger for his support and vision of what Song can and may still yet achieve.
Full name: Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong
Date of birth: 9 September 1987 (1987-09-09) (age 22)
Place of birth: Douala, Cameroon
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Playing position: Defensive midfielder, Centre back, Right back
Abou Diaby has proved his worth on more than one occasion this season, and will hopefully play a major part in the remaining matches. Although he is still hampered by inconstancy, I think we have seen gleaming glimpses of what Diaby can do; his goals against Aston Villa and Liverpool have been crucial, and he seems to be a true big game player. We have seen Diaby’s skill and confidence on the ball, but his game is weakened by poor decision making at times and a tendency to stay on the ball too long, and chance 50/50 passes. I’d look to his dilly-dallying on the edge of the area in the first game against standard Liege as a glaring example of this, and you can probably take your pick of every second match and find him losing the ball 4-5 times. Even so, Diaby is remarkably improved at times, and if this continues, I’d like to think he will be a barnstorming Arsenal midfielder. I feel very positive about him.
Full name: Vassiriki Abou Diaby
Date of birth: 11 May 1986 (1986-05-11) (age 23)
Place of birth: Paris, France
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Playing position: Central or attacking/left midfielder
What is there to say about Denilson. He seems to show glimpses of capability, but in all honesty, having this guy on the pitch is like a ticking time bomb. I just simply do not see what he brings to the Arsenal squad; he lacks technical skill, power, pace, and has simply NO defensive awareness. Although he has scored a couple of really nice goals this season (his goals versus Everton, Standard liege, and his freekick against Hull), these are few and far between, and simply cannot be justified when juxtaposed with the poorness of his average performance. And to consider that this guy is our second-choice defensive midfielder! Denilson lacks any capability on defence. Every time we get broken against, you will see Denilson jogging back, oblivious to the threat; look to Rooney’s goal against us, where Denilson’s apathetic defence was criminal. And in general play? He is nothing but a link man, and is often bypassed by the Arsenal players out of dread of what he may do. I can’t say I wouldn’t be happy to see the back of this guy, but he doesn’t look to be going anywhere.
Full name: Denílson Pereira Neves
Date of birth: 16 February 1988 (1988-02-16) (age 22)
Place of birth: São Paulo, Brazil
Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position: Midfielder
Carlos Vela has been a figure on the peripheral of Arsenal’s first team the entire season; however, injury and poor performance have hampered his stepping up to a more permanent role on the few occasions he has had to show his skills. Unfortunately, Vela to me seems to typify the wrong choices in forwards for Arsenal of late: too small and severely lacking in killer instinct. I don’t see a long term future for him at AFC, and things don’t seem to be getting better. I had high hopes for him, as I’m sure we all did, but he just seems a player who can’t cut it in an environment has tough and fast as the Premier League. Then again, he has recently signed a long term contract, so obviously Wenger thinks otherwise.
Full name: Carlos Alberto Vela Garrido
Date of birth: 1 March 1989 (1989-03-01) (age 20)
Place of birth: Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Height: 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Playing position: Striker, Winger
If one was to believe the hype about Theo Walcott, you would be more than disappointed with an encounter with the real thing. It seems the media has finally started to turn on Theo, and the general consensus is he’s more a case of a ‘never was’ than a ‘has-been.’ Personally, I don’t agree with this. I think Walcott still has something to offer, but the boy had better knuckle down, and knuckle down fast. Improve on your basic skills, Theo; your ball control, crossing, and decisions on attack. His pace still proves a benefit, as has been obvious in recent games, but his end product has been poor beyond words. He struggles to cross, pass and shoot accurately. You’ve still got a chance in my books, Theo, and evidently in Capello’s too, but you’d better shape up quickly or you’ll be out of the England squad for good faster than you can run a hundred metres.
Full name Theo James Walcott
Date of birth 16 March 1989 (1989-03-16) (age 20)
Place of birth Stanmore, London, England
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Playing position: Striker, Winger
My hopes couldn’t be higher for Nicklas Bendtner, and he finally has a chance to really show us what he can do. Bendtner, to me, is a victim of Wenger’s positional experimentation. His reputation has suffered a lot amongst the fans after many games being played as a Right-Attacking Midfielder; a position which he has neither the pace nor positional awareness to do well at. But put this lad in front of goal for a string of games and I was hopeful he would come right, which it seems he has. It’s great to see him on the score sheet, and he now has two goals into games, including a truly stunning one against Stoke. This may be just what Bendtner needs; a chance up front to show what he has been boasting he can do for so long, and it could prove CRUCIAL to our title chances that he does well, after Wenger opted not to bring a new striker in during January. Again, at the moment it seems like credit is due to the manager for his good judgement, as Nicklas’s performances have been getting better and better over the last few games. His tendency to stay on the ball too long, still evident at the start of the season before his injury, seems to have been squashed a bit. He is less wasteful in possession too, it seems. His finishing still has a long way to go, as he loves to remind us with his wayward shots on the edge of the area. But, hey, if he keeps pounding headers in like against Stoke, he can take all the crappy longshots he wants, in my opinion.
Full name: Nicklas Bendtner
Date of birth: January 16, 1988 (1988-01-16) (age 22)
Place of birth: Copenhagen, Denmark
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Playing position: Striker
I’m going to hold off on Ramsey’s analysis in light of his recent injury. Who knows how this could affect him as a player but my greatest hope is that he will come back stronger and better for it; he is looking like the most complete midfielder of his generation. My heart goes out to him as it is a depressing blow to suffer at such a young age. Similarly, I will withhold judgement of Wilshere until after his Bolton loan has ended, although he looks to be coming along nicely; although he still reeks of his extreme youth in some of his EPL matches. He has also had a few good showing for Bolton, particularly against Manchester City. Kieran Gibbs is another player I considered analyzing, but as his injury has sidelined him for so long, it is difficult to get an idea as to where he is at. He looked great before the injury though, and is great going forward. I wish him a speedy recovery too.
On top of this, we have seen precious little of Fran Merida? Why is this? He has appeared to be a quality player in the few games he has played in the past two seasons, and yet rubbish like Denilson still get to start ahead of him, even when he makes mistakes week in and week out. Most likely we will lsoe Merida, which will be a real shame.
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