Child’s play – League cup report

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Arsenal 3-0 Latics
Tuesday 11th November 2008

Is there only me that reckons there’s something bordering on indecent in how giddy the press got over this game?  I don’t remember the League Cup Final getting this much attention three years back, let alone the game against Arsenal, and why?  Because i) the French Dario Gradi sent a team of kids out and ii) they beat a struggling Latics side by a comfortable scoreline.  Well that’s just peachy isn’t it?

Well for Arsenal, it’s great, but I’m not sure what good it does anyone else.  It wasn’t a statement on the heath of young British talent.  It says very little about the health of the Premier League and it weren’t even a coup for Arsenal’s youth development system.

Look at the reserve sides of teams outside of the top few and they have a certain different flavour from that of the rest of us.  Whilst we’re not talking about exclusive groups of local lads, you just don’t get the feeling that they’ve been scouring the world for the hottest young talent.  The top sides might nurture the odd local lad, but they seem to be in a minority.

Remember Matthew Upson, David Bentley and Steve Sidwell their stories tell you as much about Arsenal’s youth system than Jermaine Pennant, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey will.  When it comes to recruiting young talent, those nutured from an early age seem less likely to make it and whilst Arsenal aren’t alone in their liberal use of the cheque-book but it certainly looks like they’re the current masters of that trade.

Am I ducking the issue?  Apart from deliberately attempting to avoid telling the world that even I could have walked/drove a bus through Latics’ defence on the night, I think not. 

The simple fact is a young, but expensively put together, team stuck three goals past a bunch of under performing, over paid and (in some cases marginally) more experienced players.  They did this through a combination of good play on their part and poor defending from the opposition.  Confidence came into it, as did a comparative lack of fear and the odd refereeing decision.

In short, this was a fairly normal football game.  This Arsenal side was better than Latics over 90 minutes, but not so much so that you’d say they were a better side.  There’s plenty of ifs, buts and maybes involved, but it isn’t ridiculous to suggest that, on another night, this result could have been completely the other way around.

If that had happened, would we have spent the last couple of days reading about how Arsenal had better get things sorted, because their plans for the future weren’t going anywhere?  Would we heck, it would have been a wry grin at the bookies for getting over eager with the odds and a load of “they’re only kids” type comments.  Hell, I doubt we would have even got any credit for it.

So yeah, well done to Arsenal and congratulations on becoming the Crewe of the Premier League but especially thanks to those fans who’ve taken the hyperbole with the correct dose of salt.  People might snigger when they think of Alan Hansen’s “You won’t win anything with kids” remark, but with the addition of a simple “only” it was spot on. 

That united side mixed a group of British youngsters with some very experienced old pros and Arsenal probably need to worry more about that side of things than anything at the moment.  In the meantime, I wonder if Arsene fancies loaning out that Mexican kid.

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