Like everyone else, I am bummed out Arsenal did not sign some more big name players this transfer window. Unlike a lot of others, I refuse to label this window a failure. And no, I'm not really talking about Petr Čech, either. I'm talking about Arsenal's big investment in youth talent this summer.
Last season was a massively disappointing season for the Arsenal academy. After some initial excitement about the hiring of Andries Jonker as head of the Arsenal youth setup, the mood pretty quickly went downhill. The U-21s failed to gain promotion into Division 1 of the Barclays U-21 Premier League. The U-18s were at the bottom of their league's table. Clearly, a shakeup was needed.
Based on their actions this summer, Jonker and Wenger decided the best way to shake things up was to infuse the academy with new talent from across Europe. They went out and added JEFF (Reine-Adelaide) and Yassin Fortune from Lens, Ismael Bennacer, who played in Ligue 2 last season and picked Arsenal over a better offer from Chelsea, Romania U-16 captian and Best Name Ever holder Vlad Dragomir, Donyell Malen from Ajax, Jordi Osei-Tutu from Reading, and Kostas Pileas from the club's Elite Academy in Greece.
Already their impact has been felt in the youth team ranks. Everyone knows that JEFF raised astronomical expectations for himself after the Emirates Cup, but many do not realize that he has already been a crucial figure in early U-21 matches. While quite raw, is talent is undeniable and has caused opposing defenses a lot of trouble. Fortune too has played for the U-21s, but his biggest accomplishment so far is starring in the U-19 tournament in Durban, South Africa, where he scored the tournament winning goal with this beauty.
While Dragomir and Malen have yet to receive clearance to play for Arsenal, they will most certainly be fixtures in the U-18 side, at least. Osei-Tutu and Pileas have already become mainstays in that side which, despite a recent pummeling, has started the season better than last.
All these players have joined Arsenal for a sum less than 5 million pounds. These deals are pretty big for 16-17 year olds, but considering the hyper-inflated transfer market clubs are currently operating in due to obscene television deals, it makes sense that Arsenal would invest more in cheap, young talent. Each of these players stand to become "homegrown" in a few years time so even if they do not make it into the Arsenal first team, the club could make a considerable profit from their sales in a few years. If even one does, it will be another instance of Arsene Wenger shrewdly playing the market.