A few days before last year’s CL final was to be played, Arsene was interviewed by Eurosport about his thoughts on the two finalists: Bayern and Dortmund. When he was asked who he believed would win he said it would be Bayern, and the reason he gave was the larger number of 28/29 year olds in the Bavarian team. This is what he had to say:
“If we analyse rationally, Bayern Munich are Champions League favourites.
First of all, experience weighs in their favour because they have reached three of the last four Champions League finals.
Secondly, they have the edge because they have reached a point of maturity both technically and tactically.
You need players who are 28 or 29 for that. Bastian Schweinsteiger (28) is their natural leader, while Franck Ribery (30), Arjen Robben (29) and Philipp Lahm (29) also play significant roles in the team.”
This is a link to the whole article:
At the time, I thought that was quite a remarkable thing to say by Arsene; after all, he has been investing heavily in bringing through young/inexperienced players since the move to Ashburton Grove, and the average ages of his teams have repeatedly been low in recent times.
Of course, it makes sense that having a team full of established, quality players at the perfect crossroads between physical health and experience, which I agree with Wenger is around 28/29, is a very good basis for winning a final against a far younger and inexperienced team. And although Dortmund played the better football, it was Bayern’s experience that saw them finish the final as winners.
The interview made me also reflect on our team, and what I find quite remarkable is how the age and experience profile of our first/best possible team has changed significantly over the last few years.
Although still buying and bringing through young/inexperienced players, Arsene has also invested heavily in quality/experienced/’older’ players. It looks like his attempts at evolution have been boosted by systematic purchases of experienced, yet fully to bloom (in most cases) quality players.
I reckon, this would approximately be Arsene’s strongest team if we were to face a top PL or European team and all are fit this season:
If we stretch the ‘ideal age group’ a bit, say from 27 till 30, Arsene would be fielding six players with the perfect balance of health and experience: Sagna, Koz, Mertesacker, Flamini, Cazorla and Giroud. He would also have a number of experienced, yet top-fit, players on the bench: Nacho, Vermaelen, Viviano & Pod, and to some extent Rosicky, who, although a lot older, is still relatively very fit (if not injured 😉 ).
The table below shows how much experience we now have in our squad:
|Player||Age||League Games||Internationals||FIFA WC ranking *|
|Ozil||24 almost 25||206||48||2nd|
|Rosicky||32 almost 33||298||92||26th|
|Giroud||26 almost 27||227||21||23rd|
* of the country playing for
As you can see, our best line-up would have a strong core of experienced quality players with good players on the bench to add further to it.
We do of course have a number of players who are still well below the ideal age, but are yet more than good enough to make the first team on a regular basis: Walcott, Ozil, Szczesny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey; and Ox and Jenkinson – and possibly Bendtner – are not too far away from it either.
This gives us a squad of 20 to 21 players who can all make a decent to very large contribution to this season’s quest for silverware. Some will argue we need more quality squad players, and they might have a point, especially up-front.
But I still believe Wenger has slowly but steadily put a squad together with the right balance between players at the perfect age on the one hand, and younger, yet established quality players on the other hand.
And the good thing is, he has done this gradually, through incremental changes and just a few additions this summer: there is no need for another transitional season. Ozil is so good that he will fit in like a glove and Flamini fitted in from the moment he walked on to the pitch again against the Spuds (although there are some tactical issues he and Wenger will need to address, but that is for another post).
It goes without saying that we need to be a bit lucky with injuries this season, and the first signs have not been promising. But despite the injuries, the team has started the season well, and there appears to be a robustness in the wider squad now which allows us to cope with these a lot better than in previous seasons.
Hopefully, a quality striker will be added in January (why oh why did Arsene not get one this summer….), so we have good strength in depth in all areas; and if Giroud can stay fit and on fire till then, Arsenal have a real chance this year of winning some silverware.
The balance between experienced quality players and up and coming quality players is very good, and with other PL clubs going through transitional phases, this could well be our year. It looks like Wenger has been following his own advice and has been working hard to put together a squad that can compete this year, if not next year, for serious silverware.
Bring it on! 🙂
Written by: TotalArsenal.