This summer has been notable for some of our established players moving on; at the latest count it’s four, the future of a fifth is shrouded in uncertainty and I’d need to be a man with fourteen hands to tot up the ‘rumours’ that have been circulating about the rest of the squad departing. It’s been pretty grating but quite funny too at times – my favourite being the story linking Gael Clichy to Roma, only for him to sign a contract extension later that day. Sadly, there are many in the media for whom four departures equals an Arsenal crisis, even if each sale can be rather easily explained. Lehmann was too old, Flamini held all the aces as he (understandably) hadn’t been given a new contract the season before when he hadn’t been playing, Arsenal were ‘comfortable’ about Hleb and Gilberto was a fading light. Adebayor – well it’s all gone to his head a bit, hasn’t it? Who knows what will happen there but one thing is certain: Arsenal fans will not don sackcloth, tear their hair out and wail uncontrollably down Drayton Park if he goes. He comes across as a greedy, tactless maverick and Wenger is absolutely right not to pander to him.
Anyway, what interests me more than those leaving is who might make the grade this season from those within our ranks. All those who criticise Arsenal as a bastion of foreigners would do well to look at the team sheet from last night’s game against the marvellously named Szombathelyi Haladas. There were eight British players. Now I know, this is nothing more than a warm-up and most of the big guns are otherwise engaged, but it’s still a good indicator of the progress being made at that level.
With seven first-team subs on the bench from this season, some of these young players will become better known to us. Ramsey, Wilshere, Lansbury, Randall, Simpson, Hoytes G&J and of course Walcott – whilst we all love big signings, we also all love young local talent to emerge.
Justin Hoyte and Theo Walcott apart – both of whom are largely established, even if there’s plenty of work to be done on both counts – I wonder which of the remaining six we’ll be talking about most at the end of the season?