Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed the club’s loan policy following Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup. The Gunners, who handed debuts to four youth players in the game, were thoroughly outplayed by the opposition and the inexperience of the players was clearly visible as they panicked slightly after we went behind.
After the defeat, questions were raised as to whether players like Gedion Zelalem, Dan Crowley or perhaps Chuba Akpom could have won the game for Arsenal. These players, along with several other Under-21’s, are currently out on loan with various clubs. Wenger however, believes that in the long term his policy of sending promising youngsters on loan will pay off, since they gain actual match experience rather than just sitting on the bench at the Emirates (via Arsenal.com).
Speaking to Arsenal Player, the manager said, “I think we were a bit punished by the fact we had many players out on loan, but it’s difficult to block them until November and not let them go just because you have a League Cup game.
“So this season, for example, I had many players go who would have played on Tuesday night like Chuba, Gedion, [Ainsley] Maitland-Niles, Dan Crowley – they would all have played. But I think about the development of the player and they are at an age where they need competition.
“We play them early so they arrive [in the squad] at the age of 19 and they’ve already played two or three years in the under-21s. You don’t feel they move forward anymore, they need something different, to feel that their progress continues. The only thing is to play regularly for a first team that has a responsibility for results.”
While the manager’s reasoning is valid, the utter lack of squad depth hurts the club in situations like this. The League Cup defeat can be written off – after all it is the least important competition of the season. However, with the matches still coming thick and fast, injuries to players like Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (via Arsenal.com) could cost us dearly. These are injuries that, perhaps, could have been avoided if we only had the squad depth to field an entire reserves team against the Owls.
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Ultimately, any decision involving youth players is a gamble – they could be the next big thing or fade away without trace. Let’s hope that the manager is right however, and that one of these players develops thanks to his loan experience. We could use a few more Francis Coquelins and Hector Bellerins right about now.