Arsene Wenger laments decline of the target man

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes a complete rethink is needed in the academy set-up to help bring through more traditional old-style English centre-forwards.

The Gunners boss chose not to sign another frontman during the transfer window, despite the loss of England international Danny Welbeck until Christmas after knee surgery.

Wenger claims the calibre of player he feels would add to the Arsenal squad is just not available in the current market. The French coach would like to see more done to develop homegrown talent rather than just look to overseas markets.

“What we produce now are good technical players because there are nice pitches out there. Before (as a youngster) you played in the park where you had to kick the ball up front and you had to fight, a boy of 12 who played against a boy of 16 had to be shrewd and push to get the ball. All those kind of things have gone,” said Wenger, who has allowed the likes of promising target men Yaya Sanogo to join Ajax on loan and Chuba Akpom off to Hull to gain some much-needed first-team experience.

“What I am convinced of is that in the academies, we have to specialise the players.

“There is an age from five to 12 where you have the acquisition of the technical areas, then at 12 to 14 you start to develop the speed and physical qualities, but from 14 onwards, when you start to position the players for their careers, maybe you have to work on a specific aspect of a position again, what we got naturally before in the street or in the park.

“Maybe we have to rethink completely the education and specialise earlier.

“Of course we cannot now destroy the drainage to create water on the pitches and lift the ball to work on the heading, so I think we have to find another way to do it.”

Wenger is confident Arsenal have enough attacking talent to cope with Welbeck’s unexpected extended absence.

“We have created the chances and that is what we want to continue to do,” said Wenger. “I believe the finishing is a bit cyclical, up and down, and we are the team who has created the most chances since the start of the season, let’s just continue to focus on the quality of our game. I’d rather have (Aaron) Ramsey (score) 15, (Mesut) Ozil (score) 15, (Santi) Cazorla (score) 10, otherwise, if you have only one player who scores, when he is injured you don’t know who’ll score.

“(Olivier) Giroud, (Theo) Walcott and (Alexis) Sanchez can get around 20 goals without any problem. Sometimes you have to trust your players and play them. “I played (Nicolas) Anelka and people asked me, ‘Why did you not buy anybody?’ Thierry Henry the same. I said, ‘Let him play, maybe he will score’. Football is a bit like that.”

Following next week’s Champions League opener away to Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal head to Chelsea for a lunchtime kick-off on Saturday. Wenger, though, is not about to slate the fixture schedulers. “Chelsea play as well (on Wednesday) and it is part of our job. I don’t think it will be a massive problem for us, but we will see,” he said.

Meanwhile Stoke boss Mark Hughes is confident they are well placed to end their Emirates hoodoo, with the likes of former Bayern Munich midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and ex-Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic now in tow.

“We feel we’re better equipped with certain types of players that can maybe ask more questions of them,” he added. “On their own patch they’ve had an indifferent start, maybe it’s a good time to play them.”


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