"Yes it has been good playing alongside Jack. I have been playing alongside Jack since we were little but he has managed to get into the first team before me. But we understand each other's game well because we have been playing together for a number of years, so it has been nothing different [in pre-season] to be honest."
- Emmanuel Frimpong, about his pre-season midfield partnership with Jack Wilshere
I’m torn between wanting to call Frimpong either “Frimmers” or “the Pong”. It’s difficult because both nicknames serve different purposes - “Frimmers” is a term of affection and would suit a knock-about type of bloke (like Ray Parlour), whereas “the Pong” invokes a sense of reverence suited to a colossal general-type of player (like Patrick Vieira). It’s hard to make that choice now because we don’t really know what type of player Frimpong will be. I think I’ll slide into calling him either “Frimmers” or “the Pong” as the season progresses and we get to see his character on the pitch.
Frimpong made a really good comment. The reason he looked so natural playing with Wilshere in the Emirates Cup is that they’ve grown up together. Frimpong came to the club at eleven, and Wilshere came when he was nine. They know each other’s game back-to-front. They know how they think and how fast they think. They know where to make runs, when to bomb forward, and when to track back and cover. They know each other so well that when they’re paired up together in front of 60,000 people and playing against the likes of AC Milan and Celtic, they play like they’re still just dominating a youth league game at Underhill.
And to think, that this is only ONE potential partnership from the Academy players. We’ve still got Eastmond, JET, Gibbs , Nordtveit and Szczesny to fit into the first team squad. That’s six players who’ve grown up together, played with each other, learnt from one another... and who all play in the Arsenal way. I realise we have an incredibly thin squad - unless we make several major signings very, very soon, we’re not going be able to compete for the league - but this influx of the first generation of the Academy kids is very exciting.
It brings to mind Wenger’s comment from a few seasons ago:
"When we decided to build the stadium I wanted to anticipate the possibility of financial restrictions, so I concentrated on youth. I also felt the best way to create an identity with the way we play football, to get players to integrate into our culture, with our beliefs, our values, was to get them as young as possible and develop them together. I felt it would be an interesting experiment to see players grow together with these qualities and with a love of the club."
Over the past five years, I’ve become more and more disillusioned by Wengerism. I’ve seen an amazing first team squad stripped to the bones and not adequately restored to its full functioning glory. I’ve seen a stubborn refusal to take defence seriously. I’ve seen poor injury management to our players. Worst of all, I’ve seen a manager who keeps going into every new season with a hand tied behind his back, just because he’s unwilling to compromise on his vision of how professional club football should be managed.
But then, I think about the Emirates Cup, and I look at the quality of the youngsters who are coming through, and I can’t help but be sucked in by Wenger’s dream again. It is an incredible vision to recruit a bunch of talented 10 year olds into the Academy, train them in the ways of Wengerball, clear out the senior team as the kids are progressing, and then introduce the Academy kids into the squad as 18 year olds and watch them grow, fight, and learn together in the Premier League, just as they’ve done all their lives in the youth sides. It IS an interesting experiment, and if it works... it’ll make the Invincibles look like Blackburn Rovers.
So on the 363rd last day of my 20s, I went to work and applied for a gold credit card. It’s gold! It’s linked to frequent flyer points! It’s gold! I’m not really sure I want another credit card, but it’s free with the bank account and... it’s gold! However you think about it, bling can be very seductive. Even the thought of a £599 Frank-Lampard engraved iPod can be tempting if it’s gold-plated...