In a way, aren't you glad Arsene Wenger didn't buy anyone in the January transfer window?
When I go over the Arsenal first team in my head, it's packed with players who've grown with the club. We have Chezza in goal, in his breakthrough season after coming to Arsenal as a 16 year old. We have Djourou in defence, cementing his place in the first team. We have a settled midfield troika of Song, Wilshere and Cesc... and hasn't it been a delight to see how well Wilshere's adjusted to the Premiership? We have Nasri making the step up to super-star status, Walcott finally delivering on his potential, and Robin van Persie (hopefully) injury-free for the rest of the season.
There's a quiet satisfaction in seeing all these players develop. They've all got their foibles, and none of them are perfect, but at least they're our boys. One of the great joys of watching the Arsenal is that we've seen them come into the first team as kids, we've suffered with them as they've learned, we've seen them (or at least some of them) grow up and become good players. Don't get me wrong, they've got a long way to go yet, but we can still look at them with a certain sort of pride. They're our boys, after all.
There's two ways of building a side, and I know I'd feel a lot cooler towards a side that's been cobbled together with mega-buck transfers and pragmatism.
I'm thinking about the tie against Barcelona, and the whole world thinks we're going to get thumped. I don't know about that. They're missing Puyol, they've just had their first draw in 16 league matches, and they're tired. I don't think they're going to come out and press us like they did last year. I think we're stronger than we were last season, with Chezza in goal, Wilshere in midfield, and Djourou and Koscielny in defence.
I don't think we'll win over two legs, but I fancy us to make a game out of it.
But even if I'm wrong and we get flogged, I wouldn't mind. Even if our young players are exposed as naive, it'll be okay. The strange thing is that I'd rather see our boys play the mighty Barcelona and get flogged, than see a bunch of ringers help us grind out a respectable narrow loss or even a win. It just seems more meaningful.
I don't know how this change in heart happened, but it happened. I'm more excited about Djourou in the heart of the Arsenal defence than Gary Cahill. I'd rather see van Persie in front of goal than Dzeko. And (God help me), I'd like to see Chezza get his chance to prove himself, rather than see Diego Lopez or Shay Given in front of goal.