• Premier League

Wenger backing youth despite £100m transfer fund

ESPN staff
April 1, 2014
Arsene Wenger's perfect Champions League qualification record could be broken by Everton © PA Photos

Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke is set to entrust Arsene Wenger with a £100 million transfer budget in the summer, but the manager insists he will stick to his ethos of nurturing young talent and producing homegrown stars.

Arsenal's Premier League title bid appears to be over for another year after taking just two points from their last three games, opening the door to Everton to try and break Wenger's perfect Champions League qualification record.

But the board has taken injuries to key players into account and retained its faith in Wenger, and with new revenue streams boosting the club's income have pledged to back him in the transfer market once more, according to The Telegraph.

'Attacking youth easier to spot than defenders'

Cesc Fabregas's vision convinced Wenger to play him as a youngster © PA Photos
  • Arsene Wenger admitted it is easier to spot attacking talent at a young age than defenders, who typically need experience to become world class.

    Wenger used the example of Cesc Fabregas, who he prized away from the Barcelona academy when he was just 16 years old, to make his point.

    "When you think about 16 or 17-year-olds, usually it's not a physical advantage they have - most of the time it's an exceptional talent or technical ability.

    "For Cesc Fabregas it was on the vision front, and his capacity to deliver the final ball. That's why you believe that most of the time it's an offensive talent that convinces you to pick a young player.

    "Defensive talents are not often ready at that age because it demands more experience, more reading of the game and the opponent. With attacking play, you focus more on your own game so usually it is exceptional offensive talent that you can give a chance to."

In spite of the show of faith, Wenger does not intend to stray far from his recruitment philosophy.

Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Wojciech Szczesny were all given their chance to shine in the Premier League for the first time under Wenger's guidance at Arsenal and the Frenchman remains convinced that loyalty is garnered by his long-term approach.

"They [academy graduates] think the club has given them a chance so they want to give something back as well," Wenger told the Arsenal website. "It has to work both ways, but we want to be the ones who give a chance.

"It's one of the values of our club. We want to be very successful without neglecting the need to give a chance to people. I want it to be part of our tradition and I also want to develop a spirit inside the club that makes the young players be faithful to this club.

"It's a big mental test for the [young] players because you see how they resist stress, how they can deal with the pressure and how they can be committed in a very demanding environment. These kinds of qualities you discover only when you play the players.

"Of course, it's an early test that not everybody can take on. Some fail, but the strong ones just feel they belong there. They are not at all surprised that you give them a chance. In fact they are more surprised that you did not do that earlier! So when they have the chance, they think; 'Finally, he saw the obvious situation and at least now I can show how good I am'."

Wenger reserved praise for one of his more recent youth team graduates, Szczesny, who has matured to emerge as the go-to goalkeeper at Arsenal even though he is still only 23.

"Wojciech had exceptional talent and I played him very early, so today he's at an age where most goalkeepers have not started yet, but he already has big experience," added Wenger.

"He was questioned at some stage and he had a debut that was not very easy, but he has matured earlier than expected because we gave him the chance earlier than expected. That's why I think he's ahead of schedule for a normal goalkeeper. It's down to his mental strength and his exceptional talent as well."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
ESPN staff Close