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Experienced heads to the fore

The league table makes for good reading this morning. In third place and building up a healthy 5 points gap over our closest rival. I’m not saying this is a position that Arsenal should be aspiring over the course of any season but in the context of this, it’s the best we can achieve.

There’s further chance to heap more misery on our neighbours. Potentially we could open up 11 points gap between us and them. This is because we have 2 matches to be completed before Sp*rs takes to the field again in the Premier League. That would be such a huge blow to them, considering just weeks ago, they had the chance to be 13 points ahead of us. The potentially 24 points gap is truly remarkable.

What do we point it down to. It probably comes from a variety of reasons. Returning players in key positions and no one being forced to play in an unfamiliar role. No, I’m not counting the Aaron Ramsey – left midfield/attack experiment. That is key to the way we play, because we required individuals with specific characteristics in order for our formation to work. I think it comes down to something else as well.

The personnel involved has been slightly different than usual. Every match in the past 2 – 3 seasons at least has been about calculating the average age and finding out that we’ve broken the youngest average age barrier in this and that competition. We still have young players in the squad and playing consistently in the first team. Wojciech Szczesny is 22, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott are both 23 while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is only 18 years old.

Then you look at the others who are there Robin Van Persie (29), Bacary Sagna (29), Thomas Vermaelen (27), Laurent Koscielny (27), Tomas Rosicky (32), Yossi Benayoun (32) and Mikel Arteta (30). Alex Song is one of those that falls between both categories, being 25 years old himself. There in itself is a very good mix of players, age wise.

Maturity varies for different individuals. Some get there faster while others develop slowly than expected. But it must be said that we now have a big group of players who are at the right age. The peak age of the career, if you like. It helps to have these players around the dressing room but it is far more important to have them fit and playing in the games continuously.

Of late, the likes of Rosicky, Arteta and to a certain extent, Benayoun have shown what experience could bring to the squad at this stage of the season. To show the younger ones that if anything, they should work even harder to ensure we sprint towards the finish line and not crawl over it. Read what Benayoun has to say over here.

That is what experience is. He has played fewer games than he would have hoped for this season. You’ll find a lot of players these days who wouldn’t take too kindly to those type of treatment. And when you consider how well he has done in the big games that we relied on Benayoun for, it must be heartbreaking to discover that suddenly, you’re not starting any games for a sustained period. But Benayoun never showed any dissent. Just knuckled down and work harder in training.

That’s the type of character we need around the club. Characters that will be the guide and role model for the younger ones. That talent alone gets them no where without the hard work and desire. Just look at David Bentley. They should get a poster of him and put in the dressing room with the words “talented but lazy” written on it. That’s how a career goes down the drain.

Yes, I subscribe to Arsene Wenger’s notion that bringing in an established international does kill the chances of a reserves player looking to come through. People like Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Carl Jenkinson and Benik Afobe looks to have a good future at Arsenal and if the club brings in a whole host of seasoned professionals, they might not get the game time that were initially planned.

However, what they get is a good solid education on what it means to be a professional footballer. The posh houses, car and clothes are remuneration that comes with the job but that is not what it’s about. It’s about working the hardest and aspiring to be the best. It should be looked at by these young ones that these are really good players in front of them. Which means they have got to improve, if they want to play. And the players who do work at it and improve will get their rewards.

Perhaps this season there’s been a change of philosophy with Wenger and the less reliance on juniors breaking through. A move probably vindicated and typified by the output that we’re getting from Arteta and Rosicky. These more experienced players are the ones leading the line for us at the moment, just like what RvP has been doing all season.

There’s a great spirit in this team now that has been severely lacking in recent seasons.