Thursday, July 18, 2024

Column: Arsenal must build around exciting youth

Graham Dougan was a youth prospect at Arsenal in the 1970s but never quite made the grade, making his career in the upper echelons of the old division two. He was also a Scottish U25 international. He is a regular pundit on TV in Malta and Luxembourg, and an after-dinner speaker of some repute.

He writes exclusively for the site and we sure you continue to enjoy his keen and unique insight into the game. In this column, he urges Mikel Arteta to embrace youth for his summer rebuild.

Like many of you, I watched in admiration as Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka put in man of the match performance in England’s scintillating 1-0 win over the Czech Republic at Wembley on Tuesday evening.

The 19 year old ran the show, taking the kind of responsibility that should have come from more senior colleagues like Harry Maguire, John Stones and Deacon Rice, but not Harry Kane because he’s only in it for himself as his ridiculous boots demonstrated. It was a showcase of Saka’s immeasurable talent, and on the sideline, England boss Gareth Southface looked on like a proud dad who has seen his adopted foster-son stand up to his wicked step-mother. I think that’s a feeling we can all resonate with.

It also made it very clear that as Mikel Arteta and Arsenal look to reshape the team ahead of the new season, the focus has to be on the young up-and-comers, rather than the so-called experienced players. Football, as an industry, is very much like the construction sector. If you’re brought in to do up a house which has become ramshackle and dilapidated, you don’t build new foundations with crumbling bricks. You use young, supple cinder blocks, with their glistening thighs and lithe bodies who can form the sensual bedrock of the new home.

In the past, coaches have been too conservative, preferring to stick with players of a certain age, rather than trusting talent. It happened during my time as a player too. After I left Arsenal, a decision I have no complaints over by the way (especially after that unfortunate Christmas party misunderstanding with Wilf Rostron’s wife), I found myself playing my trade in Division 4 with Lincoln City.

We were a team of honest, deceitful professionals. Reasonably good players but none of us would ever be held up in the same kind of category as your Johan Cruyffs, your Bobby Moores, Frank Benzenbauers, or your Oleg Blokhins. We knew our job though. Play hard but unfair, win games, destroy the ankles of the opposition, and then share a communal bath after which we’d drink countless pints of bitter before driving home. That was the very essence of football back then.

Every so often though, a young player comes along who bucks the trend, and at Lincoln we had one in the form of exciting winger Ted Brimwell. What a player he was. He could murder the opposition full-back with a wiggle of his buxom hips, and the pace he had was literally frightening. He used to give me goosebumps in training as he flew past me like Conkercord taking off for a TransAntarctic flight.

Even us old grizzled pros, not particularly keen on anything new that might put our own places at risk, couldn’t help but admire the way he played and we urged the manager, Fred Swaddle, to put him in the team. We wanted those win bonuses to spend down the pub (and to bring in a plumber to unclog the bathtub due to a years-long pube build-up in the pipes). He was reluctant though, as he was afraid of the impetuousness of youth, in part because at his previous club a young player had made a mistake which cost them promotion.

It was a very frustrating situation for all of us, not least for Ted himself who just didn’t get the chances his talent deserved. In the end, he grew disillusioned with the game, turned to drink, and sadly passed away in the early 1980s when, on a trip to Las Vegas, he was mauled to death by a tiger who had escaped from one of the casino’s entertainers.

That is literally the scenario facing Mikel Arteta this summer. Does he embrace the young talent and let them flourish, or does he drive them to a grisly death, their tender heads ripped apart by the jaws of a big cat who has been caged by two flamboyant men and has basically lost his mind?

When you look at the Arsenal squad, with Saka, Emily Smith Rowe, my fellow Scotch Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Martini, and his fellow Brazalian William, you can see what the future might hold for the Gunners. It’s time for Project Youth Part 2: Eclectic Boogaloo, while the old ‘reliables’, your Xhakas, your Lacazettes, your Cedrics, and your Melnenys, need to make like cows and find pastures new.

It’s a risk to go all in on youth, but after a disappointing season, Arsenal fans will be hoping that the club can see conservatism in all its forms is no way to make progress. Arteta, along with Technical Director Doodoo, and new executive Tricky Dicky Garlic, can shape the future, and I hope it’s so bright that I’ve gotta wear shades.

PS: Thanks to all of you who sent correspondence asking about my whereabouts. It’s been a while since my last column, but it turns out when you insult the great leader live on Maltese television, there’s a price to pay, and that price is solitary confinement with only two cell-mates to keep you company.

Till next time, your pal. GD.

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Welcome back, glad you are free at last.

Lots of good points, especially as Saka has been MOTM in 3 of the 5 England games he’s played. More of his quality please!

Look forward to seeing William progress, that’s the only way he can go adter last season…

A Different George

Is that true–MOTM in 3 of 5? Even Southgate can understand that.

Ben M

‘my fellow Scotch Kieran Tierney’ made me chuckle and reminded me of this


I usually like the analysis on arseblog but this guy fkn sux wtf?!

The optimist with little hope



It’s a column.


There’s always one new guy who doesn’t get it. I remember being one a few years back. Glad GD is back


With a name like Jake the Peg you’d expect him to get humour😃



The optimist with little hope

What a return!


I always long for your articles. Those Kane boots must end with him.


Graham Dougan, still smashing them into his own net after all these years.

Not wrong about Saka though.


This is the kind of searing insight which this site needs more of. I can remember The Doogster as he was known on the ClockEnd back in the 70’s. He’d always be up for a chat with the fans after a long night at The Sutton Arms on Caledonian Road, as long as you collected some fag butts from the gutter along Copenhagen Street and made him a roll up.
Simpler times. Happier times.

Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

Garlic and Doodoo sound like things associated with the upper end of the GI tract and the lower end of the GI tract, respectively. Luckily, we have Arteta… and welcome back, Graham Dougan. I really missed you!

Teta's cult of personality

So which one of the Arseblog staff has been hitting the Extra Stout again🍻🍻?


Graham Dougan, his name is literally right there?!?!?!


This so true, one of my heart’s biggest cry…our young prospects have shown so many times that they are the ones to carry this club forward, they give their all on the pitch…they destroyed teams in the group stage of the Europa league last season. Arteta must wake up… otherwise I don’t see him staying longer at Arsenal.


Stop with the serious replies to the Doogster! His team building resembled his famous building work on Fawlty Towers. Priceless.


Sure our young lads are great & we’ll need a bit of experience for sure.. I truly wish we could get Sergio Ramos like Chelsea got Thiago Silva but it’s cool.. I’ll still go with the idea of keeping lacazette for a year at least. We can sell xhaka, Willian, and the likes.. Let’s just clean the team once and for all..


Ramos would be the best signing since Henry.


He looks to me like the ‘white’ version of Indykaila.

A Voice in the Noise

solitary confinement with only two cell-mates to keep you company.

Brilliant stuff!
And I agree witht the sentiment of the article; focus on youth! We’ve cried out for this for the past few years and with Saka and ESR coming through we’ve finally got a bit of what we asked for.
Of course you have to mix it with the right amount of experience and maturity within the team, but our main core for the next years has to be our youth.


Armless inciteful piece, glad to hear in gay pride month references to young lithe shining limbs… Never confused!


Youth alone won’t get us back to the top.

We need to make a few clever signings this summer to compliment our exciting youth players. A couple of experienced leaders would not go amiss.

It’s worrying that we still not have even been linked with the two full-backs that we desperately need.




My first ever time I’ve commented on an article but this was so different and intelligent to what I’m use to that I had to say well done and thanks. Keep up the good work 🙂


Not quite Spinal Tap


Deacon Rice 😆


I knew it was gonna be good after Deacon Rice

Paul Roberts

If indeed an Arsenal fan gets a chance to sit on the Arsenal board then I say Graham Dougan is our man! 🙂

Teryima Adi

@Technical Director Doodoo- Hahahahaha

Ronald Gullabal

Good to see Graham back. He probably doesn’t remember me but he once hit me on the nose with a stray golf shot when I was on holiday in the Algarve in the early 90’s. June 3rd, 1993, to be precise. As an avid football fan I recognised him, despite his denials, his efforts to cover his face and attempts to scuttle away. I had no idea he was so shy! The poor fella barely muttered an apology but I put him at ease by asking him to sign and give me the ball that he’d hit me with. He… Read more »


Loved this. There must be so many other fans who could regale us with their stories of The Doogster and his exploits…..


I understand from this article that in Graham’s opinion on the people he butchered the names of is very bad and he really wants them to go… and the names he spelt right are people he likes and are players he’d want to see remain at the club, if possible.
Anyone else sees this as well?

Hakuna Matata

All of us saw it


Onya Doogster…great article mate.


Elneny in. This column out.

Martin Haze

I just want to know — is that Ted Brimwell story actually true?


😆😆😆 great stuff


Fantastic Mr Dougan, you foxy writer you, miaow X


Sell, selll, sell if AV come back with another offer as he won’t be worth this much come next summer. I think he’s talented and has a good attitude, but he’s not as good as Ramsey or Wilshere at the same age. There’s maybe an value in keeping Saka for another year or two, but he also doesn’t match the other two or even Alex Iwobi or AOC.


Rambling Pete has a column!!!?

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