One Reyes of sunshine = Arrested youth development?

Last updated : 30 January 2004 By Jason Hogan

To be honest I wasn't entirely surprised so much by the fact that he had actually signed somebody. It's not the first time that a new player has turned up at Highbury within days of Wenger professing that no such thing would happen.

I had a feeling that it Wenger was going follow up his apparent interest in Robin van Persie by meeting Feyenoord's alleged £5 million valuation but hey, what did I or anybody else know? Because there I was sitting indoors, watching Sky News on Tuesday afternoon when news broke of Arsenal purchasing Jose Antonio Reyes – for close on £20 million!!

I wasn't sure what I was more gobsmacked about. The fact that we had got the player or the fact that we are paying so much money for him. Wenger, who has been after this lad for a good two years or more, is not the kind of guy who would throw cash around with gay abandon even if he wanted to and it's very difficult for anyone to question the man's judgement given his track record.

Indeed from a personal point of view, now that I have had time to think about it all over the last few days I have drawn one conclusion and that is, based on what in have seen of Reyes for myself there is little doubt at all that the kid can play and if he fulfils even half the potential he has got then for the foreseeable future, the glory days at Arsenal will remain far from over.

Having said that I think that it would be wrong to ignore what is possibly a slightly worrying downside to this. No, I am not referring the ludicrous media rumours about Henry moving to Madrid. The words "old" and "chestnut" instantly spring to my mind where that issue is concerned. And no, it isn't the fact that Reyes could play on the left side as Pires' deputy, the right side as Ljungberg's deputy or even just off Henry as Bergkamp's deputy that worries me either.

What worries me is that because Reyes can play in those positions it means that the Arsenal careers of homegrown youngsters like Jerome Thomas (left winger), Jermaine Pennant (right winger) and David Bentley (left winger/shadow striker) under threat.

The reports on Reyes that have come in from Spain strongly claim that his best position will indeed be as a shadow striker (like Bergkamp) and unfortunately I have to agree with that.

Whereas Bergkamp and Kanu are players that are not the sort to turn, run at and go by two or three people, Reyes potentially give us the ability to do just that from deep a lying central position. In fact, I honestly believe that he will figure more prominently for us in the Champions League and the cups for the rest of this season purely because of that.

And, if my theory is right, then it means that Bentley, having just given Arsenal fans everywhere a glimpse of his own potential, could now find himself in a position where his development has suddenly been arrested just when it had threatened to begin.

I really hope that I am wrong and that my theory proves to be way off the mark because, from a youth development point of view, it would be a tragedy if we have over egged the pudding unwittingly just at a time when Arsenal's future looks a lot brighter than most people thought.