1. Home
  2. Sports
  3. Soccer
  4. British 'core', as Arsene Wenger envisaged,

British 'core', as Arsene Wenger envisaged, just didn't work out at Arsenal

Arsenal's team remains as multi-national as ever, with two French strikers, midfielders from Germany, Chile, Switzerland, Spain and Egypt, and defenders from Spain, France, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Reported by: AP New Delhi September 01, 2017 14:05 IST
AP

It was a picture that was supposed to bring hope to everyone connected with Arsenal. Arsene Wenger, the longtime coach, stood proudly behind five young, talented players who were sitting side by side with pens in their hands and smiles on their faces. They'd all just signed long-term contracts with the Premier League club.

"The plan," Wenger said back then, in December 2012, "is to build a team around a strong basis of young players in order to get them to develop their talent at the club."

He described Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (19), Jack Wilshere (20), Carl Jenkinson (20), Aaron Ramsey (21) and Kieran Gibbs (23) as Arsenal's "core." Throw in Theo Walcott, who was 23 and an England regular at the time, and the future appeared bright for the London team.

Fast forward 4½ years, and this "core" is breaking up.

In this transfer window, Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool on Thursday, Gibbs moved to West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, and Jenkinson was loaned out to second-tier Birmingham at the start of the month. Wilshere spent last season on loan at Bournemouth and is back at Arsenal with little chance of breaking back into the first team. Walcott is currently out of favor and starts most matches on the bench.

As for Ramsey, he can no longer be labeled a first-team regular. He was in the team for Arsenal's last match, a humiliating 4-0 loss at Liverpool, but was substituted at halftime.

Injuries haven't helped - Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs and, in particular, Wilshere have had lengthy spells out because of various problems — but Arsenal's class of 2012 hasn't kicked on as a group.

Were they simply overhyped, as many players in English soccer are when they make bright starts to their careers? Of the quintet, Wilshere appeared to be the biggest star in the making when he made a stunning breakthrough in the 2010-11 season, including that eye-catching display against Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in a Champions League last-16 match against Barcelona.

It is unfortunate, then, that the last sighting of Wilshere was him getting sent off for his part in an on-field brawl during an under-23 match against Manchester City last week, followed by a scuffle in the tunnel to the dressing rooms. It has arguably been the biggest fall from grace in English soccer in recent years.

Walcott is also out of the picture at Arsenal at present and, at 28, might never be the player many expected him to become when he was selected by England for the 2006 World Cup having just turned 17 - and with only 13 senior games behind him.

Is he a winger? Is he a striker? Walcott may not even know anymore.

He might require a fresh start like Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has moved on weeks after Wenger said he wanted the midfielder "to stay here for a long time."

Oxlade-Chamberlain has flitted in and out of the Arsenal team, making 132 appearances in six years. When he did start, sometimes he was a wing back, sometimes he was in central midfield, other times he was on the wing.

Of concern is the fact he has reportedly accepted a pay cut to move to Liverpool, where he will attempt to settle as a central midfielder.

Ramsey is the only player from that photo taken in December 2012 who appears to have a long-term future at Arsenal. One of Wales' stars in its run to the European Championship semifinals in 2016, the goal-scoring midfielder headed the winner in the FA Cup final in May and is still counted on by Wenger when fit.

Arsenal's team remains as multi-national as ever, with two French strikers, midfielders from Germany, Chile, Switzerland, Spain and Egypt, and defenders from Spain, France, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The British "core," as Wenger envisaged, just didn't really work out.