Arsene Wenger says it’s vitally important that Arsenal continue to focus on giving youth academy prospects a chance in the first team despite the pressure to spend big money on new signings.
Frustrated by the apparent failings of the half-heartedly introduced Financial Fair Play regulations and against a backdrop of transfer market prices spiralling out of control, the boss, in words that echo sentiments he often expressed eight years ago at the peak of his ‘project youth’ experiment, spoke of his desire to maintain competitiveness by combining ‘internal solutions’ with sensible spending.
Arsenal’s financial muscle may have grown considerably in recent seasons – in part down to healthier commercial partnerships – but the gap between themselves and the new era’s super-rich remains as wide as ever, especially with repayments on the Emirates stadium still on the agenda.
“You can’t forget we have financial restrictions from the banks because of the stadium. We have to respect the financial plan,” he told his pre-Chelsea press conference on Friday.
“We worked very hard to become richer and after that we have to spend the money in the most intelligent way we can in a transfer market that has become a bit out of control.
“Despite the financial superpowers we have now in our league and in Europe, I believe it’s important that we keep the basis of our focus on getting people from inside the club.
“The way football is going is maybe not necessarily only to buy players for a huge amount of money, but to have players in the team who care about the club, who have a sense of belonging to the club.
“I’d rather encourage the club to push more on the quality of youth work rather than go into a way where it’s only about millions and not about values. We are the only team to play with four, five players who have come out of the club.”
While Arsenal’s policy of blooding young bucks is one to be proud of, it’s hard to ignore the fact we’ve not won the title in 14 years and that during that period, plenty of players have risen through the Academy only to burn out with injury, not live up to expectations or, if they have been successful, leg it to the first club waving more cash in their direction.
Wenger may yearn for players loyal to his values but ultimately such players are few and far between in the modern game.