Arsene Wenger is perhaps the most revered manager in world football when it comes to working with young players. It’s a big statement to make but, putting aside the circus surrounding his future at Arsenal this season, the Frenchman has a fine record.
However, his tendency to opt for young talent in the transfer market over the years has, in the eyes of some Gunners fans, hampered their approaches for top talent. Some of the deals for young players pay off in fantastic fashion, see Hector Bellerin, whilst others have you scratching your head.
Whatever you think of Wenger’s policy, it is clear that he knows what he’s looking for and knows what he’s doing when it comes to propelling those players keen to put the work in and learn from one of the true professors of football.
When fans think of young exciting talent they think of pacey, skillful and often foreign prospects, for example after years of impressing Paulo Dybala this week exploded onto the scene and took a step to the next level of recognition with his brace against Barcelona in the Champions League.
One position that you rarely think of when it comes to these talents is between the sticks, however that is where Wenger is looking this summer.
With Petr Cech, a fine ‘keeper nonetheless, not getting any younger and some fans still having question marks over David Ospina, the Gunners have been linked with a move for Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford.
Whilst already 23, an age at which seemingly most in football expect players to be world beaters nowadays, the shot-stopper is still a young player. The Black Cats man has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award this season and could again next season given that he will still be 23 when the campaign gets underway.
David Moyes’ side look bound for the Championship but that takes nothing away from Pickford, who has been the busiest man between the sticks in the Premier League this season making 82 saves.
He’s obviously a talented player, there is no doubting that, but he could bring a lot more to the Gunners than just his shot-stopping prowess.
Pickford looks to have gained a real level of command since first appearing at the start of this season. This is not to say that Cech is not a commanding leader in his box but clearly something isn’t working at the back for Wenger, and a new voice getting up the backs of those in the back four could do wonders next term.
As good a ‘keeper as he is there are still doubts over a move for the man who was born and raised slap bang in between the Stadium of Light and the Angel of the North. Whilst he has built up Premier League experience this year, the pressures that apply to Arsenal are on another planet and, whilst he has proven capable when busy, it is yet to be seen whether or not he could go 70 or 80 minutes without moving a muscle before being called upon to make a vital stop.
There are questions marks, but there will be over any deal. What is clear is that Arsenal need plenty of new faces over the coming months, whether you think that should be in the dugout is your own call, but Pickford would be far from the worst to bring in.