It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Mikel Arteta had one eye on the future with his Arsenal signings in the summer transfer window: Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Taveres were all 24 years of age or younger.
When you add in Kieran Tierney (24), Gabriel (23), Bukayo Saka (20), Emile Smith Rowe (21), Gabriel Martinelli (20), and Folarin Balogun (20), the vision in place is painted as clearly as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
Now, having a squad that is so young with only three players 30 years of age or older – Lacazette, Aubameyang, and Cedric – will certainly have its ups and downs. While the youthful exuberance was on show against Tottenham, the following match against Brighton left a lot to be desired.
With young players, the consistency is not there for the majority of the season like it is with seasoned teams like Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea. There are going to be stretches of the campaign where young bodies get tired with the rigors of Premier League football. While it is vital to have an eye on the future, having so many young players that are crucial to the team’s success, Saka and Smith Rowe in particular, ensures there are going to be waves of momentum; dips in form.
Inconsistency is the primary drawback with Mikel Arteta’s youthful Arsenal side – for all the excitement the dips in form are unavoidable
As noted by transfermarkt, Arsenal hold the top six spots for youngest starting XI fielded in the Premier League this season. So, while Arteta is trying to save his job and push the team back up the table, he is doing it with the youngest team in the entire division. Perhaps this has gone overlooked, but it makes his job significantly harder.
Against Tottenham at the Emirates, it was arguably one of the best games of football the team had played under the Spaniard. That is the plus side of a youthful team. However, the following week against Brighton is where the deficiencies lay.
It is notoriously hard to consistently back up a great performance against what is considered a top-six team compared to a side that many expect you to beat. This is what we saw against Brighton and in truth, Arsenal can consider themselves rather lucky to come away from the Amex Stadium with a point. There were off-days aplenty.
While the team does have a youthful look to it, it is littered with leaders: Sambi has captained Anderlecht, Tierney has captained Celtic and Odegaard is the captain of Norway. Then there are the older heads in Thomas Partey who has captained Ghana, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is Gabon’s captain as well as the Gunners’. There are players who can be categorized as ‘leaders’.
With a young side, coupled with nearly half the first team being in leadership roles either before joining the club or currently while at the club, this could prove beneficial in the long run. Arteta wanted to purposely bring in younger players to revamp a squad that has underwhelmed since the days of Arsene Wenger, as most of the squad was there when the Frenchman was in charge.
Likely to take another year or two before we truly see the fruits of Arteta’s labor, there is short-term excitement as the youthful enthusiasm can be as infectious as we saw against Spurs. But it also brings inconsistency in performances that we have already seen. The big next step for Saka, Smith Rowe and Odegaard is to find those levels of consistency in challenging circumstances.
However, you live by the sword, and you die by the sword. Arteta wants a younger, hungrier team and he has got it. The downside is the dips in performance level, of course, and it’s something that he will have to iron out if Arsenal is to continue climbing the Premier League table.
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