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Anorak | The Foreign Legion

The Foreign Legion

by | 16th, February 2005

‘ARSENE Wenger is not known for his 20:20 vision, so it is hardly surprising that he couldn’t see what all the fuss was about his squad selection on Monday night.

Are you watching, Perry Groves?

However, the fact that he did not name a single English player either in the starting XI or on the bench was a record that has not exactly been welcomed.

Former Arsenal star Paul Merson calls it “a joke”, while PFA boss Gordon Taylor tells the Times it will be another 40 years until England win a major trophy if clubs continue to ride roughshod over the interests of the national team.

One could point out that it is already 40 years since England won a major trophy and for most of that time there has been no problem with foreign players squeezing out homegrown talent.

Indeed, as Taylor himself admits, a look at the national side suggests that it is not a lack of talent that is the problem.

However, the Times (which devotes an inordinate amount of space this morning to the subject) compares the England under-21 team of a decade ago with the one now.

And it discovers that the starting XI in the 1995 team against Ireland had more than twice as many caps (383) as last week’s side who played Holland (151).

What can we deduce from that? That few players make the transition from the under-21 team to full international honours.

Of the 1995 team, only two have had any kind of international career – Trevor Sinclair and Nicky Butt.

And Butt (with only six appearances for Manchester United prior to that game) was the second most inexperienced player in the side.

All of which suggests that you can prove whatever you like with statistics.

Be that as it may, the Indy says Arsenal are locked on a collision course with Uefa, who want to introduce quotas for European competitions.

Not a single member of the Arsenal squad for the game against Crystal Palace would have qualified under the Uefa definition of a homegrown player.

However, by the time the quotas come into force in 2006-7, three of the 16 – Gael Clichy, Philippe Senderos and Cesc Fabregas – will do so.

Although Uefa expect a legal challenge to the ruling, they insist that they are ready to defend their stand.

“What I am disappointed with,” says spokesman William Gaillard, “is that they [the clubs] are failing to read what the fans want and they are losing touch with them.”

We wonder. If Arsenal were to continue to play as well as they did on Monday and win every game 5-1, we imagine the North Bank would be happy with a team full of Martians.’



Posted: 16th, February 2005 | In: Back pages Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink