Switzerland used to be the destination for a good finishing school. Now the Swiss come here. More specifically, Swiss footballers head for Highbury.
On Tuesday, the Arsenal team who beat a strong Everton side 3-1 in the League Cup had, in central defence, the same partnership that carried the Swiss youth team to the semi-finals of the Uefa under-21 European Championship. Philippe Senderos and Johan Djourou epitomise the means by which Arsenal intend to compete with the billionaire's hobby, Chelsea, and the global marketing phenomenon which is Manchester United.
Arsenal were already the (relatively) poor neighbours before they took on a huge debt to finance their new stadium. However, in a reminder of the importance to football clubs of continuity, they were prepared. An already impressive youth system, under the command of Liam Brady, one of the club's legendary players, and Don Howe, one of the foremost coaches of his generation, was given a pan-European outlook.
Traditionally, Arsenal scouted in England and Ireland. But Arsène Wenger's contacts brought France into range with Nicolas Anelka, poached from Paris St Germain. As Arsenal's reputation, tentacles and awareness of European contract law increased, they attracted other promising youngsters: Cesc Fabregas, from Barcelona; Mathieu Flamini, from Marseille; Arturo Lupoli, from Parma; Senderos, from Servette; and Djourou, from Etoile. Some, like Servette, agreed a fee, others, like Barcelona and Marseille, were left disgruntled.
The cosmopolitan nature of the squad has also attracted criticism, but the local boys are not ignored. Islington-born Ryan Smith played on Tuesday. The previous day, a youth worker lamented at Tottenham's AGM that all the good youngsters in the area had joined Arsenal.
Given the opportunities, who can blame them? Many will rub shoulders and exchange tackles with the likes of Patrick Viera on a daily basis. As Wenger said on Tuesday's rookies: "Young players have no fear but they need not be frightened. They train with the first team so they play against senior players every day."
Bear in mind, too, Fabregas, 17, and Jose Antonio Reyes, 21, were too valuable to the first team to play, Gael Clichy, 19, and Jeremie Aliadiere, 21, were injured, and David Bentley, 20, is on loan at Norwich.
But many of these players will not make it at Highbury. During the summer Moritz Volz moved to Fulham, Juan to Fluminese, Stathis Tavlaridis to Lille and John Halls to Stoke. All were once regarded as contenders but each should have had their prospects of a career in the game enhanced by the Highbury experience. Steve Sidwell, the inspiration behind Reading's promotion push, had 11 years at Arsenal without making the first team. Now 21, he told The Independent at the weekend: "I'm definitely a better player for being there. It was a fantastic football education."
Wenger, incidentally, ruled out adding Tony Adams to his coaching team after his former captain walked out on Wycombe Wanderers. "We have no need to take anybody on," he said. Adams is instead likely to return to his sports science degree at Brunel University.
The Football Association, meanwhile, will have to wait for Wenger's response to being charged with "improper conduct" for calling Ruud van Nistelrooy "a cheat". He has until 23 November to decide whether to defend himself at a personal hearing or accept a fine.
The Wenger Boys Rookie Team That Humiliated Everton
Manuel Alumia 27
Joined Arsenal in the summer from the Spanish club Celta Vigo. The Italian vies with Stuart Taylor for the right to be Jens Lehmann's understudy. Born in Pamplona.
Justin Hoyte 19
Full-back who made first Premiership start at Norwich this season. Quick, as might be expected given his mother Wendy, and aunt, Joslyn Hoyte-Smith, sprinted for Britain.
Johan Djourou 17
Teenager who was born in the Ivory Coast but is a naturalised Swiss international. Can play central defence, as he did on Tuesday, or midfield. Signed this summer from Swiss side Etoile.
Philippe Senderos 19
Central defender who arrived from Servette in 2003 but has been plagued by injuries. Made debut in third round. Not yet trusted to displace Pascal Cygan as Sol Campbell's understudy.
Danny Karbassiyoon 20
Virginia-born flyer who joined in the summer and scored on debut as substitute in third round. Can play left-back, as he did against Everton, left-wing and as a striker.
Jermaine Pennant 22
Caused a stir when signed as a 16-year-old from Notts County but has struggled to fulfil expectations. Talent not in doubt, attitude is. England Under-21 regular.
Mathieu Flamini 20
Marseille were furious when Arsenal poached Flamini this summer having had this versatile midfielder on their books since he was six. Under-21 international.
The old hand on Tuesday but was hugely influential. Signed from Corinthians in 2001 he struggled to settle but form won him a place in Brazil's midfield.
Ryan Smith 18
Left-sided midfielder who went off injured on Tuesday. Made his debut in League Cup last season but then suffered cruciate ligament injury. Born Islington.
Arturo Lupoli 17
Striker who showed his skills with two goals against Everton. The Italian was lured from Parma in the summer. Has 14 goals for various Arsenal teams this season.
Robin van Persie 21
Signed from Feyenoord in the summer, the Under-21 international striker scored a first Premiership goal when he equalised against Southampton in the last minute.
Quincy Owusu-Abeyie 18
Dutch-born teenager who came on as substitute and ignited Tuesday's match by scoring Arsenal's first goal. Quick-footed and skilful striker.
Patrick Cregg 18
Dubliner who came on as a late substitute for Lupoli on Tuesday, his first senior appearance. Midfielder who can play holding role or push forward.
Sebastian Larsson 19
Swedish youth international who has been on bench in Champions' League. Played at right-back in third round and in midfield as substitute against Everton.
Jordan Fowler 20
Unused substitute on Tuesday, the Londoner is a holding midfielder with plenty of competition barring his way. Can also play in defence.
Michael Jordan 18
Given his famous name, it is no surprise that the Londoner is a goalkeeper. England international at Under-17 level.Reuse content