You can't kid us Arsene, the lads aren't ready yet

By STEVE CURRY, Daily Mail

Last updated at 11:32 16 September 2005

The Daily Mail's Steve Curry argues that Arsenal should not have let Edu and Patrick Vieira leave so easily, because their talented youngsters need time to develop. Do you agree with Steve? Have your say here

Just 16 months ago Alan Hansen described Arsenal as, "quite simply the most fluid, devastating team the British Isles has seen", but he would hardly bestow the same extravagant praise on them today.

As they stuttered to an uncertain 2-1 victory over FC Thun, a little known Swiss team who had no right to be among the elite of Europe, there were signs of panic on the pitch and frustration among the faithful at Highbury on Wednesday night.

The difference between the team who swept imperiously through the 2003-04 season without suffering a single League defeat and this week's fretting young side is that between the confidence of experience and the confusion of youth.

One game does not constitute a crisis and Arsenal might well qualify for the knockout stage of this season's Champions League, as they should against Wednesday's opponents FC Thun, Sparta Prague and Ajax Amsterdam.

Manager Arsene Wenger confidently predicts such progress.

But it would be a brave man or a blinkered buffoon who would suggest this Arsenal are capable of winning the competition in what is, after all, their eighth attempt under the Frenchman's management.

BBC pundit Hansen, who won three European Cups with Liverpool, was made to regret his famous prediction that "you win nothing with kids", made about the Manchester United side that went on to win the domestic Double in 1995-96.

If he said the same of this Arsenal side he might be nearer the truth.

Arsenal are awash with good young players from across continents and their investment in the future will ultimately bring them renewed success. But in the immediate future they will have problems in Europe, where experience is as essential as pace and skill.

Much has been made of the departure of Patrick Vieira. Lame-duck excuses for selling him to Juventus were offered but it was a mistake to let him go so easily. The same goes for Edu, the intelligent and tireless Brazilian who played alongside him in midfield.

Are Liverpool, United and Chelsea heavyweights going to quake in their boots?

These were travelled men who knew when to release the ball and when to hold it, how to break up the play and when a little belligerence was needed.

Young Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini, although the latter did not take part against Thun, now have to mix it with such as Steven Gerrard, Roy Keane and Frank Lampard. Are those Liverpool, United and Chelsea heavyweights really going to quake in their boots?

Wenger will say that the only way they are going to learn is by participating, which is fair enough. But do not let us pretend that, while they do so, Arsenal have any realistic chance of success.

Fortunately they have Dennis Bergkamp, 36 in May, who can still be relied on to deliver in a crisis, as he did this week.

He accepts that Arsenal's youngsters, Robin van Persie, Fabregas and Jose Antonio Reyes, have much to learn. He adds: "If everything goes smoothly as a young player then you don't learn a lot. We have a long season to get it right and I'm sure we will."

Wenger is to be admired for refusing to abandon his attacking philosophy in the face of other clubs adopting a more cautious approach but, at the moment, his team need to be more aware of the team ethic.

Bergkamp said: "When you learn, it has to be not just about your own performance, it is about the team. For example you have to learn how to play when you go down to 10 men as we did before half-time.

"It is not just about you having a good match and enjoying the night, but how the team perform. When I was young I didn't think about that but about my own game. It's up to the experienced player to remind them about the team.

"Otherwise we could end up this season scoring a lot of goals but winning nothing."

Arsenal's next challenge is a home Premiership game against Everton on Monday night followed by a derby at West Ham.

But the visit to Ajax the following Tuesday is what will concern Wenger.

The return of Sol Campbell might give some stability for the domestic games but he is a quiet skipper as, indeed, is Thierry Henry when fit. These are men to have in the trenches but not to lead you out when the opposition artillery arrives.

Do you agree with Steve? Have your say here

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