Arsenal's youth team just laid into the Wolves first team in the Carling Cup today. Which is good because it means that Arsenal get another round in the League Cup. More significant though is that it means that despite the suspensions and injuries, the club has a shot at the Premership title this year, because we've got a lot of good youth and reserve players to fill the gaps.
One of the major criticism of Arsene Wenger is that he is really good at buying young talent at bargain prices (Henry as the prime example), but not so good at using the club’s youth system to bring players up to the first team. I think that is a valid concern. Only Ashley Cole has gone from the youth side to being a first team regular since Wenger’s arrived.
I’m not a fan of Alex Ferguson but you have to admit that one of the reasons for success at Manchester United is that he identified a strong group of youth players and decided to build the team around them. The first season he really centred the team on his youth (which included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and the like) it looked like he’d cocked up and was going to loose the league. In the short term the team gelled and won the league, and in the long term from that point forward with the exception of brief flashes from Arsenal the Premiership has been dominated by the Old Trafford squad. It’s that core of English, Man U youth team players that allow Ferguson to make terribly expensive mistakes like Sebastian Veron.
But the game against Wolves is significant because with a few exceptions (notably the return of injured Patrick Vieira) it was a youth side that won the game. Now granted it’s only Wolves, but then again they are in the Premiership this year. So while the Carling Cup isn’t anything to write home about (because let’s face it if all Arsenal win this year is the League Cup then us fans will all regard the season as a disaster) it’s an encouraging result. Especially with the club’s transfer budget next to nothing until the new stadium is completed.