Since Arsene Wenger's arrival in 1996, he has helped Arsenal become renown for their fantastic array of youthful prospects. The Gunners have always boasted some of the finest, raw young talent World Football had to offer alongside having a low average age squad.
Wenger has kept this trend throughout his successful tenure in North London, and even now the North London giants have a squad so young and tender yet so mature and experienced in the English Premier League.
One has a tendency to forget that Alexandre Song is only 23, along with Samir Nasri and Johan Djourou. Theo Walcott is only 21, Denilson and Nicklas Bendtner are only 22, yet between them the young guns boast over 400 EPL games.
Yes, Arsenal are a side that ensure the fruition of young players—exciting flowers certainly do blossom at the Emirates. This season, however, has seen a different approach from Wenger. The Frenchman has acquired a sterling reputation for utilizing his teenagers in the League Cup.
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Whilst some sides may use England's domestic competitions with their strongest XI, Wenger preferred to grant promising young youths their debuts for the Gunners and provide them much needed experience. This season, however, the French tactician has utilized a more experienced, first team squad in the League Cup.
Not that Wenger should be criticized for his deployment of first team players, for the Gunners have achieved well with a strong squad. Arsenal currently await the challenge of Championship outfit Ipswich Town later this month.
But the lack of youngsters has ensured it's a struggle for promising reserves to receive first team opportunity. Despite showing impressive signs, a number of key reserves have failed to receive their deserved chance due to one man: Andrei Arshavin.
Wenger knows how to find a top quality attacking midfielder/winger, and it's no surprise the Gunners should boast a number of highly touted young wingers in their reserve squad. Wenger's formation of a 4-3-3 supports the wing role immensely, and it sure looks appealing to a young winger.
But a number of young wingers, including Carlos Vela, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Henri Lansbury, have all been unable to find prominent playing time, and it's not necessarily to do with too much competition.
The young trio have all maintained fitness this season, unlike the likes of Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and Robin van Persie—all considered at some point or another wingers. The first team trio have all missed up to two months respectively, meaning opportunities are up for grabs on the wings.
But Andrei Arshavin's presence has prevented the likes of Vela, Emmanuel-Thomas and Lansbury from finding their feet in the Arsenal first team squad. It's not that Arshavin has emulated Samir Nasri or Lionel Messi and is in outstanding form.
The Russian has actually played poorly for a majority of the season, yet Wenger has been inclined to keep playing the 29-year-old due to Arshavin's flaky attitude and the Frenchman's admiration for the Russian captain.
Carlos Vela has suffered the worse from Arshavin's poor form. The Mexican entered 2010/2011 with high hopes to finally break into the first team, and, after some impressive signs in the opening encounters, it looked certain for the young Mexican.
The 21-year-old, however, has been refused first team opportunities even with Arshavin's poor performances, and now the Mexican starlet will be forced out on loan in January. Young Englishman Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was another promising talent that fans were eager to see given opportunities.
Despite making the substitutes bench for a number of games this season, JET has also been unable to find playing time. Wenger will now ponder whether the 20-year-old is also offloaded on loan.
Understandably, Andrei Arshavin is a strong player who in recent seasons has been a wonder in the Arsenal XI. But it seems this season the Russian has lost his flair, speed and match changing traits. This campaign fans have witnessed a lazy, almost uninterested winger who is currently killing the youngsters at Arsenal.