As Arsenal travel to Old Trafford this weekend I thought we’d look at young gems. Both Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson have nurtured youngsters from raw talent through to world class players. The reason they’ve been so successful? Both have been given control and time by their respective boards, allowing the managers to build for the future.
The problem now in England is that managers last about 12 months, so the demand for immediate success means they can’t think about young players and long term planning. When you look Manchester United and Arsenal, players have developed over time and they’ve established themselves because the manager has had control and patience.
The clubs support long term development of players. They are shining examples that stability and consistency can work - would Aaron Ramsey’s career at Arsenal have lived through a managerial change? Maybe not.
In this column I’ve looked at three players making a name for themselves this season in the Barclays Premier League; Adnan Januzaj, Ravel Morrison and Ross Barkley.
Adnan Januzaj’s great qualities are firstly his balance, which is absolutely fantastic when he’s moving with the ball and dropping his shoulder one way to go the other, and secondly his effortlessness. He has the ability to drift past people as if they’re not there when he attacks the defender’s back foot.
I’ve played at United and you’re very conscious of adding too much pressure to young players. However, I genuinely think this guy could be one of the best in the world. I think he’s that talented.
With a FUT rating of 61 in RM position, he may only be a bronze player, but with four star weak foot his value has soared especially with his current performances in the league which saw him in Team Of the Week 4 at LM and his In-Form Item has an overall ratings jump up to 64.
I watched Ravel Morrison as the Manchester United youth team won the Youth Cup. I’ve seen the development of the player. He also has great balance but also great awareness. He understands where players are around him, and always looks like he has time and space when a game is frantic. He can go past a player, and he’s also got a toughness to him - he’s hard to knock off the ball. For a centre midfielder to have that is a rare commodity in English football; you need to go back to the likes of Paul Gascoigne.
He has a long way to go before he can get the levels anywhere near Gascoigne, but he’s a unique talent in that he plays in a central area but still has the ability to beat people. This shows in Morrison’s creative stats in FUT with his Vision, Short Passing, Dribbling, Agility and Balance all mid 70s, and an overall rating of 68.
Defenders look at the likes of Januzaj and Morrison and think they’re weak and that they can easily be pushed off the ball. However, these boys are a lot stronger than they look and that is down to their agility and balance. They’re always in control of their movement so are a lot more difficult to get off the ball than they look. They’re alert and have great intuition of knowing when the defender is going to make his tackle, and they slip past them or go a different way.
Ross Barkley has similar traits to Januzaj and Morrison but he has a real physical presence. He’s a big lad, fearless, and has great courage on the ball. He’s got a great temperament and doesn’t get affected by training with top international players. He came on at Wembley for England against Moldova and was completely unaffected. He also has a capability to drive at opponents and beat a man, and can shoot from distance.
Can they fulfill their potential and become great players? This comes when they start affecting the biggest football matches regularly, when they start scoring or assisting one in every two games, and they start regularly winning matches for their team. That’s where a potential talent turns into a great player.
You only have to look at Aaron Ramsey to see this in action. The interesting thing about him is that Manchester United knew he was a real talent and wanted to sign him but the meeting never happened, he signed for Arsenal the next day and the rest is history! He’s come back from injury and he’s had the setbacks but Arsène Wenger has lived through that with him and kept faith in the player through injury and criticism. Arsenal are now reaping the rewards as he is becoming the top player that he always threatened to be.
The key is to let these players develop. They will go through cycles, disappointments, form loss and injuries but if you live through it with them, give them the space to develop and don’t pressurise them too much, you’ll eventually get the worth and value of them. Ramsey is the perfect example of the pathway and obstacles. It’s a journey.