The interview that tells us what Wenger is trying to achieve

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:

http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/arsene-wenger/bayern-muscle-too-much-dortmund-194621001.html#more-id

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:

Experienced Arsenal

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 *
Szczesny 23 81 14 Below 30th
Viviano 27 263 6 6th
Sagna 30 268 36 23rd
Koscielny 27 233 12 23rd
BFG 28 278 92 2nd
Gibbs 23 71 2 14th
Nacho 27 220 13 1st
Vermaelen 27 208 43 10th
Flamini 29 213 3 23rd
Arteta 31 376
Ozil 24 almost 25 206 48 2nd
Rosicky 32 almost 33 298 92 26th
Cazorla 28 295 58 1st
Podolski 28 278 111 2nd
Giroud 26 almost 27 227 21 23rd
Theo 24 204 35 14th

* 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.

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15 Responses to The interview that tells us what Wenger is trying to achieve

  1. James Bond says:

    cracking article @ TA

    enjoyed every bit of it and agreed fully, as well as with your strongest team selection…

    i do believe, that if we are in a strong position by December, both in the League and CL, then in January , we might be very pleasantly surprised as the CF/ST department, could do with 1 more SQ signing

    everyone will need to take us seriously then, if they were not already doing so

    the balance is the key and AW now is at liberty to use this key to his advantage, provided, we sort out the injuries.

  2. Dylan says:

    Great post TA! 🙂 I totally agree, Wenger has had a plan all along. 🙂

  3. James Bond says:

    also worth noting that Vivano has near 300 appearances ? and is ranked 6th ?

    could he be our keeper for the CL ?

    hmmmmmmmmmm

  4. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers Jambon and Dylan 🙂

    The injuries are a worry and Wednesday will be a big test for the squad-depth/fitness levels, but until now we dealt well with the loss of Vermaelen, Arteta, Ox and Podolski (and Rosicky and Cazorla now). As long as new injuries are covered by quality players returning to fitness we might get through this period unscathed. Fingers crossed! 🙂

  5. TotalArsenal says:

    I would love to see Viviano play against West Brom, Jambon. I just don’t know much about him….like many of us, I guess?!

  6. AB says:

    Great post TA! And as you predict no arguments from me there. One thing I love about Wenger is how he always plans for the future, not just the instant fix for today with no regard for tomorrow. Our team has so much to offer this season, having been added to gently in the summer (ie without disruption to core squad and playing style), and you can see the first team growing stronger and stronger over the next 5 years, with perhaps 1 SQ purchase a year (I hope!) and some strengthening from the youth development on top. The familiarity and technical quality will be there, as with the very best Wenger sides; and the pipeline of players will ensure that we keep the right balance of youth and experience. The piece I hope he does not lose sight of is the edgy drive that we tend to lose with a team of aesthetes. Flamini has it, as well as a ‘streetsmart’ quality, Sagna often shows it, and Jack I hope will for the future; perhaps the shift to buying German will help us in this regard? And maybe the pursuits of Suarez and Rooney indicate that Wenger has learnt. I don’t think this comes to people with age or experience – they either have it or they just don’t; ‘presence’, as someone may have mentioned a few times before!

    Anyway, off to the sack for me, as ever these days a very contended and hopeful gooner!

  7. James Bond says:

    well, for Wednesday, we have a solid defence available, all our defenders are fit and raring to go !

    Arteta/Poldi closer than expected

    Rosicky, Santi and OX , we find out about tomorrow or on tuesday

    but like you said, as long as no new injuries from now until the next international break, i reckon we will be in a very strong position, at most competitions !

    one game at a time for me right now and stretching that to the 2nd week of october really, this team is very very special, the team spirit in particular – they may never have won any trophies together before but this whole squad is capable of winning a lot of trophies and create their own legacy – OooooooooooooooOOOoooZil has given everyone including the fans this belief that most people lacked – even the players themselves, perhaps ?

    sometimes, it’s more psychological , isn’t it ?

  8. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers AB and a fine follow up comment. Yes we need that streetwisdom in the team and Flamini, Sagna and Jack have it. Very good point about Arsene appearing to chase the likes of Rooney and Suarez, and what they could add to the team in terms of street-smartness. Let’s see what will happen next TW…

  9. TotalArsenal says:

    Sometimes a statement of intent is needed, as so many fans have pointed out in recent months. Ozil is that statement, but also holding on to all our key players this time round.

  10. Funminiyi says:

    Excellent post TA, like you’ve rightly pointed out, injury is our biggest problem. I just pray it is only for this early part of the season and I hope our co-challengers too have a taste of it too. Do I sound selfish? I don’t think so, I just wanna see how they cope too.

  11. Gerry says:

    TA – Very cleverly timed post, when we are about to face a team in the CL that has a few ‘wise heads’, but plenty of youth in their ranks. I suppose the Wenger ideal would have been the senior players having come from our academy? But you have shown when we put a squad together, and pick the strongest? – I note you solve the JW/Ramsey equation in midfield .. by leaving them both out. Interesting? – That appears to be our best compromise between attacking potential and strong defense?

    I am sorry to hear about Chuba Akpom’s cousin’s death. Only a couple of years difference between them, and him being a football coach, you can guess they were pretty close?
    My condolences to their whole family.

  12. VCC says:

    Nice to be a Gooner this morning.

    Unlike the Boomtown Rats, I love this Monday. 🙂

    I hope Stretch is out there rounding up some nice sweet Blonde Swedes. 😉

  13. Hello TA,fellow goons

    Top post TA..top top post and it has really lit up my dull Monday..

    Excellent views on the balance that Arsene has established in his team..comprising of QUALITY seasoned performers and young HIGHLY promising players.

    Its always been a view of mine that given time to assemble his OWN squad and stick them together while strengthening where needed..FEW can compete with Le Prof..this in turn ensures continuity in terms of the playing style within the the team eliminating the time needed 4 players 2 gel and since Arsene is a MASTER spotter of talent, the players he will bring in will seemingly integrate with the rest of the team(Ooooozil!!! being the perfect example)

    As you pointed out, we are ALL crossing our fingers on the injury front hoping we have ALL SQ players available and if DB10 grants us this wish, i’m sure will be DANCING come seasons end.

  14. TotalArsenal says:

    Morning fine, fellow Gooners 🙂

    Is there a fire drill? 😆

    A quiet day or a post that does not lead to much discussion….?

    Thanks for the comments until now though. 🙂

    We have two posts in the queue, and tomorrow night is pre-match review night, so I am going to issue another post around 12.30 today. To the loo kangaroo 🙂

  15. geoffchase says:

    TA

    Great post, averrage age appears about right but more spread. I would say we are even better set for 2-3 years from now.

    Only comment is the obvious one that when one wants edgy and talent, young AR has seriuosly been putting his hand up. Could be be Arteta’s Lou Gehrig or would that make Arteta, Wally Pipp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wally_Pipp

    But still that might be our strongest lineup just now, especially defensively.

    cheers — jgc

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