We are starting again but I will not give up on youth, says Wenger
Arsenal manager says he's been forced to buy more experience but there will be no change in philosophy
Arsene Wenger believes that Arsenal are "starting again" this season, after the summer losses of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. This new cycle has started earlier than Wenger had hoped – in his view Arsenal were still "a team on the up" last season. But after a disappointing spring and a traumatic summer the Gunners, who travel to Ewood Park early this afternoon, have had to regenerate in preparation for this season's challenges.
The August departures of Fabregas and Nasri denied Arsenal the continuing development of their young team. Beyond the fact that they were the two most creative midfielders at the club, they both turned 24 this year and so took with them the promise of future improvement. They helped to propel Arsenal into an enviable February position, still challenging in all four competitions, but one from which they won nothing.
"We were a team on the up and that was not rewarded last year because we were a bit hungry to go for all four trophies," Wenger said. "But the basic quality was there and we were certainly very close to winning last year."
Losing Fabregas and Nasri, though, meant the end of that particular cycle. "We were suddenly hit by major departures that were not planned. So we had to review a little bit, just with the injuries we had, Jack Wilshere out, Abou Diaby out, we couldn't survive without buying players, and the players available had a bit more experience than what we usually do."
While these new arrivals represent the start of a new era at the Emirates, Wenger denied any claims that he has compromised his philosophy.
"It starts again because we have taken five players," he said. "But we have invested as well, our highest investment has been in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a young player. We have the work permit for Ryo Myachi. We have still not given up on our youth policy."
Despite the changes in players, Wenger hopes to maintain Arsenal's level this season. "The most difficult thing is to show consistency in any sport," he said, "and we have managed to do that above expectations, and nobody else has done better than us on the consistency level."
One of the most important parts of that "consistency" over the years has been their ability to compete in the Premier and Champions Leagues simultaneously. Arsenal drew 1-1 at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, and Wenger knows that mastering the rhythm of twice-weekly matches is essential to their success. "It's a big test for us, it's a massive test," he said. "First of all you know if you want to play a good role in the Premier League, the way you transition from the Champions League to [the] championship is important. And playing away from home after a Champions League game is vital as well."
Rovers have taken just a point from four games so far, but Wenger praised their improving style of play. "I'm not sure that Blackburn is the team now that goes for high ball," he said, "it's more Stoke where you get this kind of typical old-fashioned English test. Blackburn has gone more different."
Aaron Ramsey trained yesterday and may play today, while Alex Song and Gervinho return from three-game domestic bans. Junior Hoilett is fit after a head injury sustained against Fulham last Sunday.
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