Arsenal recently announced that young defender George Dobson has signed professional terms with the club. The 17 year old made his debut for the club with the Under-21s this season.
It is inevitable that many watchers of the club would cast their mind to the scenario currently at play in the first team, where Arsene Wenger has had to rely on Nacho Monreal to play in a makeshift defence in the last one month. The professional contract signed by George Dobson would not change the defensive issues currently being faced in the first team, yet the continuous drive to strengthen the youth talents at the club should not be at the altar of neglect of the first team.
This is not to say safeguarding the future is bad in anyway, especially when it involves player(s) that have a huge potential to become good, but the present needs should not be neglected particularly that of the first team.
Over the years, the policy of signing young players with potential who are designated talents for the future have been done several times to the detriment of the first team. These players take longer time to develop into the footballer you want them to be, by which time, the course might have change, and besides not all the players develop into good footballers. Francis Coquelin was signed in the summer of 2008 when the club was crying out for more experienced signings, it has been six years since he was signed, and after series of loan spells, he has not become the player that his potential showed at the time. And going by the fact that he is in the last year of his contract, he is unlikely to be offered a new contract which means it is another young player gone with an unfulfilled potential.
The point here is the time he has been in the books of the club (six years). Assuming a player that was ready was signed six years ago, he would have contributed more to the club in that period instead of a player that would be earning wages for a long time while not contributing something tangible to the club’s fortunes.
There should always be that equilibrium, too many times; the needs of the first team have been neglected while the youth team is strengthened. Francis Coquelin’s is an instance from six years ago. And there have been other players. Although, some would be quick to mention that other players that were signed at a young age have developed into good footballers, ala Aaron Ramsey, the path he took to become a key figure with the first team would have been shorten if he had an experienced player that could guide when he was younger.
Bringing through young players should be balanced with an experienced head, it is something the club has failed to do in the early years of the Emirates era. A certain Ashley Cole would not have developed into the player he became when he first came through at Arsenal if there was no Martin Keown or Tony Adams to guide him.
While the first team’s need should not be neglected, same should apply when young players need guidance from experience hands.