Why Sending Arsenal's Loan Stars To Spain is a Waste of Time

Any youngster at the Gunners who is loaned out to Spain knows the writing is on the wall for their Premier League career. Here's why Arsene Wenger should be farming out talent to Germany and Holland instead...
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Any youngster at the Gunners who is loaned out to Spain knows the writing is on the wall for their Premier League career. Here's why Arsene Wenger should be farming out talent to Germany and Holland instead...

Fran Merida was once spoken about in the same breath as Cesc Fabregas before Merida was loaned out to Spain...

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Even a club like Arsenal, who specialise in bringing young players through the ranks and giving them chances in the first team early on, have to send a number of promising youngsters out on loan to prepare them for the challenges of the Premier League proper.

Some are sent to the lower tiers of English football; Kyle Bartley played for Rangers in the SPL and the Europa League; many Latin talents have plied their trade in Spain while waiting for a work permit; Ryo Miyaichi spent a while at Feyenoord in Holland.

At Arsenal there’s been a theme of when a player goes on loan to Spain, he doesn’t make it. Carlos Vela, despite playing for West Brom for a while, was on loan for a few years in Spain, and failed to adapt to the Premier League. Wellington Silva, Samuel Galindo and Pedro Botelho have all seen their progress stalled after loan moves to Spain too, although it’s a bit early to pass judgement on that trio just now.

The best destination depends entirely on the player – Jack Wilshere was sent to Bolton to toughen up and give him a taste of the Premier League, as well as perhaps to keep him in his comfort zone. This, luckily, was the perfect move for him; he didn’t have to adapt to a different culture, and footballistically (a term coined by Arsène Wenger) the spell helped his development.

Jack Wilshere was sent to Bolton to toughen up and give him a taste of the Premier League, as well as perhaps to keep him in his comfort zone

However, it doesn’t always work out like that. Latin players are sent to Spain in order to help their development, and although they might find it easier to fit in with the culture, it doesn’t always help to prepare them for the challenges of the Premier League. The style of the football in Spain is the polar opposite to here in England – it’s slow rather than intense, and a huge emphasis of technique and tactics, with physicality less focused on.

This isn’t supposed to be an attack on Spanish football, but rather bemoaning the problems with sending youngsters to Spain. Players aren’t prepared well enough for the physical challenges of the Premier League. Often it must come down to mentality – Wenger feels the Latin players wouldn’t cope well with a radically new culture in, say, Holland or Germany, so sends them to Spain where they’d be most comfortable.

Joel Campbell was an interesting one. He was sent to Lorient in France, partly due to the strong and, as yet, unofficial, partnership that the clubs have, and had a promising season. He seemed to adapt well to France, and it signalled a willingness on Wenger’s part to be flexible with loans where he saw it fitting.

Strangely, though, he’s been sent to Real Betis this year, and as mentioned above La Liga won’t prepare him at all for the challenges of the Premier League, if he is going to make it.

For me, a happy medium is the Bundesliga – an up-and-coming league with brilliant support, and a great mix between technical, tactical and physical football. Not too different to the Premier League, it would be a good place to send players to ease them into; a half-way point between the Premier League and La Liga, if you like.

Eredivisie is also a similar option – the league is intense and has its share of physicality, but also requires a good level of technical ability. If a manager felt his youngster wasn’t ready for the Bundesliga, the Eredivisie would be a good compromise.

It’s gotten to a point where if a Latin player is sent straight to Spain on loan at Arsenal, it’s almost a death sentence for his career at the Emirates

In the end, it’s down to what type of player you have on your hands, but Arsenal sign quite a few Latin players who need to go elsewhere until they get a work permit. While Spain would be a comfort zone for them in term of adaption, it doesn’t develop them where they inevitably need to develop – physically.

Sending them to a more unfamiliar country would also be a good test mentally – they’d have to do it anyway if they came to England, so perhaps there’s no sense in protecting them early on. Players are usually assigned handlers to help them settle in any case, so any problems they might have would be taken care of where possible.

It’s gotten to a point where if a Latin player is sent straight to Spain on loan at Arsenal, it’s almost a death sentence for his career at the Emirates. It doesn’t show much mental strength as it’s a signal that Arsène Wenger doesn’t think they’d be able to adapt to a different country, and sadly Spanish football simply doesn’t prepare them for the trials and tribulations of English football.

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