Arsenal may have fluffed their lines in the last couple of games but Mikel Arteta insists the club will continue to put faith in young players.
I was going to use this second paragraph to drop in some statistics that would back up how often we’ve been the youngest team on the pitch but with every word I type I can feel my hangover worsening and the screen suddenly looks piercingly bright.
Anyway, here’s the boss saying nice words about the kids who, for large parts of the season, have carried us to some big wins.
“Next season they are going to be more mature,” he said.
“What we cannot say is that we are going to use academy players and do that and the moment something goes a little bit wrong, we’re not going to do anything with them.
“I’m so grateful for what they have done and what they have brought to the team, and to the club, in this moment. We are going to stick with them and give them what they need because they deserve that.”
That doesn’t mean we won’t be looking for experience in the transfer market.
“It is all about the balance,” he said when asked about his squad building plans.
“Now we have cleared the deck and now we have a squad balance that is much more like what we want and much more affordable than what we had before.
“Now we have to start to add the top-quality pieces that they are not necessarily at 18, 19 or 20-years-old.
“We will do what it takes to get better in every department. Not only the age group but in terms of the quality, in terms of the leadership, in terms of the goal threat of this team, in terms of the physicality of the team that we need to improve as well so there are a lot of areas.”
Three years ago when we bollixed up our last real shot of qualifying for the Champions League – the instantly forgettable Europa League final against Chelsea – the players seemed unable to shake off the disappointment and played like drunk rag dolls until Unai Emery was sacked six months later.
The boss isn’t expecting a repeat. For one, he thinks the latest crop of players have more about them.
“I don’t think it will [happen again],” Arteta said. “I think as well, that squad was very, very different to the squad we have now in many senses.”
That’s not to say there won’t be some form of a hangover (very much the word of the day for me) if we end up settling for fifth.
“It will be [a missed opportunity] for sure because we were there and mathematically it was possible and in our hands. That feeling could be there if it happens and it will take some time to take away that – but that’s part of football.
“You cannot take notice of what happened a week or two weeks ago whether it was positive or negative because it is not going to have an impact on anything.”