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10 Jun, 28 tweets, 6 min read
People don't realize it. Arsenal are definitely going to get back to the top and one of the major reasons for that is the astounding quality of the youngsters in their academy setup.

One of the most misunderstood things in football is the impact of legacy. A THREAD.
A golden generation or footballer at a club is not just an inspiration to youngsters but also an eye opener for coaches and managers at the club (other clubs to an extent).

Enter Thierry Henry. One of the ways in which Thierry was so impactful on a whole generation was his style
But Henry was notable not just because he was extremely gifted but by how he played. He was trademark, instantly distinctive on the pitch, devastatingly effective too. He caught the eye by where and how he played the game.

Modern inside-forwards mostly trace their roots to him.
At the club, too, Henry showed coaches and scouts new possibilities. Before Henry, it was possible for a striker who played outside the traditional area frequently to be overlooked or even reported negatively on. Now that is mostly regarded as a positive quality.
Say a scout from Arsenal post-Henry was at a game where two talented strikers were playing. One was your traditional CF and the other one more technical, rotating in other positions. That scout would get more interested by the latter talent. Could this be another Henry?
As a result, the club starts to appreciate an Henry-style CF more keenly than others. Of course, Thierry Henry was ahead of the game. His influence has now become a staple for most coaches and coaching programs. The best coaches in the world would prefer an Henry to a Raul.
Henry's legacy lives on at Arsenal. Folarin Balogun is the latest iteration of it.

In the Premier League 2, all you will hear of is Liam Delap's goalscoring exploits for City's u-23. But a real scout will tell you that the true super talent is likelier to be Folarin Balogun.
For me, a super talent is one that has the quality to affect the game and perceptions of the game, to slightly redefine how you see football.

Pedri is an extremely prodigious youngster but he is not going to change perceptions of the game more than a Foden. It is really simple.
Foden is an attacking midfielder who is also more effective than most natural wingers at wing play. This changes your perceptions as a coach or club. You start wondering if that young midfield talent in the u-16s can't learn to attack off the ball from the flanks out-to-in.
Camavinga is another super talent. When last has anyone seen a natural, gifted tackler (long, spindly legs that wrap you up in the tackle a la Busquets, Kante, Fabinho etc) and deep midfielder with natural qualities belonging to wingers and 10s?

Nuno Mendes is another one.
Nuno Mendes is like having Joao Cancelo and Walker in one single body. An athletic and extremely technical demon who can underlap and overlap with overwhelming ease.

These are new gen talents that have access to better, new gen coaching and guidance. They are not yet plentiful.
Folarin Balogun is not a super talent. Why? Because we already have Firmino, Benzema, Kane, Jesus, and Isak, Edouard, Jota etc. If he arrived 10 years ago then it's a different story. The paradigm has already been shifted.

However, there aren't still too many strikers like this.
The top 10 clubs in Europe barely have up to 5 Henry-like CFs. Officially, Balogun is not a super talent but he should be regarded as one irregardless.

See, a traditional talent can be more effective than a super talent in terms of obvious pitch contributions. That's possible.
But all the top coaches know that super talents are the way.

Here is a simple indication: how many times has a club using a traditional CF won the Champions League in the last 15 years?

Bayern Munich and who else?

Told you so.
See, a super talent immeasurably raises the dynamism of your team tactically and opens up a coach to new possibilities. A fullback who is able to operate in 360° circumstances gives you the opportunity to try out something new, to innovate and come up with new solutions.
Please note that a super talent is defined by the paradigms of his football era. Hakimi or even Robertson in another generation would be a gamebreaking super talent. Now, they are just traditional types. They are not redefining anything.

Neuer was a super talent but not Ederson.
Football evolves rapidly, especially now that it is in bed with technology. Technical, play-making fullbacks were previously unseen to any significant extent in the game. Livramento of Chelsea will join that list, soon.

We will be seeing more Fodens and Sakas, soon.
Now, here is the big deal with Arsenal's youngsters: the best of them are mostly coming in the mould of super talents. They are extremely at ease in different roles, areas and positions in a game.


And now Folarin Balogun.

Why is this happening?
I will put it down to Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry. This is happening more frequently with Arsenal's youth than most because of an extremely innovative manager and an extremely innovative forward, both of whom have the biggest legacies at the club. The impact of culture.
Arsene Wenger, whenever he could, used players in multiple roles. This is a staple of modern coaching but at Arsenal, it is very emphasized.

The Barca and Ajax Way™ are staples of modern programs now but it is still more keenly emphasized at those clubs. That's the difference.
Here's another key thing: the best youngsters emerging at Arsenal are not just emerging as super talents, they are coming in critical positions that bring results in football.

Saka: LB, LWB, LW, LCM, AM, RW, RM.
Balogun: ST, LW.
Nelson: LW, AM, RW.
Maylen at PSV
This does not guarantee their effectiveness but for those that do make it into the first team, it is a guarantee that they will bring positional fluidity and dynamism with them.

Now, two are already in the first team picture in Saka and ESR. Balogun is likely to make it, too.
Having most of your attackers in the super talent mould is a massive, expensive advantage. For top clubs, it is a necessity. If you don't have these kinds of fluid attackers, you simply don't belong in the conversation.

We were out of it with Auba, Laca, Mkhi.
Note that forwards are barely super talents anymore. Blame the likes of Henry for that. This is why Mount, Saka and Foden are very special. They are legit super talents. Foden due to his incredible effectiveness everywhere. Saka the same but wider versatility. Mount as pure CM.
Balogun is 6ft, athletic demon with amazing technique, composure and pace. He is basically like a more compact, explosive Isak.

He also has that amazing Lewandowski quality of receiving with his back to goal in the box and instantaneously spinning his marker to get a shot off.
With Balogun in the picture, along with the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal are bound for the top.

That amount of first-team ready, CL-level youth talent in forward positions is unprecedented in football right now. Chelsea are the closest.
English and French academies in general are levels ahead of every one else. France might be the number one country in Europe in terms of diverse gene pool + multicultural melting pot. England also attracts a lot of immigrants all over the world.

But English clubs have the money.
Balogun will surprise a lot of people with how effective he is.

Youth legacy clubs like United and Arsenal usually don't send their best talents out on loan. They keep them around unless it's a special circumstance: no space in the first team, incomplete development (Smith-Rowe)

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More from @nonewthing

9 Jun
People just don't get it. Granit Xhaka is one of the best progressive midfielders in the game but his replacement doesn't have to be exactly the same profile. It is one of the poorer things in analytics to always look at 'similar' player replacements.

Granit Xhaka is hugely responsible for Arsenal's 1st and 2nd phase of progression when building play and consolidating it. He is a pretty good midfielder regardless. People go on about his 'mobility' but all players have limitations that they adjust their football to.
Outside of possession, he was seen as rubbish when Wenger used him as a lone 6 or 8. He could be a little rash (which young midfielder isn't?) and didn't have enough athleticism to keep up with EPL PnP monsters running past him. Wenger didn't figure him out early.
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5 Jun
People don't realize it: Buendia to Arsenal is more complicated than it seems on the pitch. It might even be a false, smokescreen signing, despite reports. Let me explain why.

Arsenal play a 4231 system where the LW occupies the left halfspace and the leftback (Tierney) pushes up high to dominate the flank. It is on the other flank that things get more interesting. The RW (Saka) is expected to stay out wide while the AM (ESR) fills the right halfspace.
Since Tierney is overlapping, the pivot LCM (Xhaka) is expected to act as a fulcrum and stay back to protect the space left behind by the dynamic Scotsman. This leaves a single CM (Partey) left to control the entire midfield. So the RB (Bellerin) is not expected to overlap wide
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3 Jun

Yves Bissouma is literally too perfect for us not to sign him. He is almost impeccable with the ball in terms of retention. His passing is safe, progressive, and will get better. This means that our build-up is going to be more reliable with him and if you know
anything about Arteta's Arsenal, you know the build-up phase is extremely important to how we play. Reliability in that phase is essential and some of the few goals we have conceded came from mistakes in our build-up.

Bissouma's mobility and ease of dribbling allows him access
to expansive options even when he's under pressure. With confidence on his side, he can be almost as good as Partey at evading pressure and finding the spare man quicker than a Granit Xhaka. Having two impeccable 1st phase midfielders like this is a massive advantage.
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2 Jun
Data analysis simply has not gone far in football. Things like the flight arc or height of a floated ball that can make a massive difference in a given situation are yet to be consistently captured by data much less understood. Even player ability is not well captured at all.
Data science won't go very far until there is an algorithm that understands football. Some AlphaZero of sorts that learns football by itself from scratch by running billions of match simulations (which presents the problems of dimensionality and realistic ball control in making).
If I were a corporation like Google or something interested in 'hacking' football, I'd probably hire the developers at Pro Evolution Soccer and give them resources to create the most realistic soccer simulation engine that they could and have an algorithm run a billion simulation
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