Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Old Head in a Side Full of Youth; Arca Is Boro's Elder Statesman

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Old Head in a Side Full of Youth; Arca Is Boro's Elder Statesman

Article excerpt

Byline: LUKE EDWARDS.

THERE is nothing quite like the unrestrained optimism of youth, but as one of the club's unlikely elder statesmen, Julio Arca has provided a rather more restrained outlook ahead of the new season, writes LUKE EDWARDS.

At just 27, Arca would not normally be described as a seasoned veteran, but that is precisely what the former Sunderland star has become at the Riverside compared to the fresh-faced and somewhat raw recruits assembled by manager Gareth Southgate.

Youth will not just get a chance at Boro this season, it will dominate as the club's impressive Academy graduates, who are set to make up the core of the squad, combine with some of the best young players from Europe.

The average age of Middlesbrough's first-team squad following the arrival of Didier Digard and Martin Emnes is just 24, the youngest in the Premier League and Arca knows it is a risky strategy.

Get it right and Southgate will have a brave, energetic and ambitious collection of players hungry for success. Get it wrong and he could find a dressing room which loses confidence and belief quickly because of its lack of top-flight experience.

"I'm 27 and the oldest in the team right now," said Arca, who is now in his third season as a Boro player following a pounds 1.75m move from Sunderland.

"That shows you how young the team is. We are trying to help the young players, but we will see whether we are successful.

"It's a gamble to go into the Premier League season with such a young squad.

"It's good to have the energy and the pace, but at the same time you need to have players who know the league. Hopefully the guys will do well. Marvin (Emnes) looks quick and sharp. Didier (Digard) looks good when he gets involved.

"But it's difficult to predict what they will look like when we get them in the Premier League. …

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