So can Gunners win anything with kids?

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The Independent Football

It must bemuse Arsène Wenger that when Sir Alex Ferguson places his trust in youth, the move is heralded as ushering in a new era of domination by Manchester United. When Wenger does the same – or rather, continues to do so – it is seen as a stubborn refusal to change on the part of the Arsenal manager.

The difference, of course, is the number of trophies won or likely to be won by the respective sets of youngsters. Ferguson famously gave a previous group of young players their chance en masse in 1995, and they won the Double. And it was not United, against whom Alan Hansen's famously dismissive remark was directed at the time, but Arsenal who have proved since 2005 that "You win nothing with kids".

The fact is, you win nothing with kids alone. David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the rest were supported at Old Trafford by experienced hands such as Dennis Irwin, Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel, just as Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and the others coming through now have serial trophy-winners around them. The problem for Arsenal's crop of young players over the past few trophyless seasons has been the absence of equivalent know-how.

Today, with Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere injured and Emmanuel Frimpong suspended, United could be even younger than they are, though as Wenger admitted, "there are still some good, experienced weapons on [United's] bench. Last Sunday, when they made changes, they still had [Dimitar] Berbatov, [Ryan] Giggs coming on, and [Michael] Carrick and Park [Ji-Sung]. And I would not be surprised if all these players start against us".

Exactly, say Wenger's critics, and they bemoan the non-appearance of a proven, experienced central defender, midfield player or centre-forward to add a steely spine to the youthful promise already there.

"We care about opinions, but at the end of the day you have to make decisions," Wenger said. "I try to do what is right for this club when I make a decision. It is sometimes controversial. I do not think I know everything about football but I have massive experience.

"Think about the goalkeeping situation, for example, where everybody pushed us to buy a player. That situation has changed. You have to be open-minded and humble, but also determined when you have beliefs."

Wojciech Szczesny's performance in Wednesday's Champions' League qualifier against Udinese seems to confirm that Wenger has finally found a goalkeeper who appears to thrive on pressure rather than crumble under it. But last week's bid for Gary Cahill of Bolton was an admission that he needs to buy if he is to mount a serious challenge to United, even if its clumsiness and timing, so late in the transfer window, call into question the determination of which he speaks.

Any additions will not be in time to help today, when victory for United will put them eight points ahead of Arsenal. But Wenger believes that reaching the group stage of the Champions' League for a 14th successive season will enable his team to relax.

"The table is important but after only two games, you have to have a little [perspective]. What will be important will be the performance we put in to convince ourselves we can play a part at the top level but of course you do not want the distance to be too big from the start.

"You could feel the tension in our side before the Udinese game. After the first game against them, I feel the squad was a bit insecure by the fact that we only won 1-0 and by their quality. That game, I think,was in our mind when we played Liverpool [and lost 2-0]. That is out of the way now and I am confident you will see a much more convincing team in Manchester.

"We feel strong away from home – we have shown that against Udinese. Many people predicted that we would go out. I listened to Italian television on Tuesday night and they were absolutely sure that they would knock us out. If we can transform our away strengths into points in the championship then we will be in a very strong position at home."

Arsenal have won big matches at Old Trafford, including a title-clincher in 2002, but have not taken three points there since September 2006. "We were close many times since 2006 and we beat them last year at home," Wenger said. "I believe we can do it, of course."

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