WTTGT Writer: Jak Penny
Was it shock to the system that Arsenal’s best player this season was an Englishman?
Jack Wilshere was the star of the Gunners’ 2010/11 campaign and gave hope to the fans that the club is finally starting to produce some quality home-grown talent.
There have been musings over the last few years that Arséne Wenger is ‘anti-English’ and there is evidence to suggest it is a viable concern.
I think it’s cruel to say the Frenchman holds a grudge against home-grown players, but there is statistical evidence to suggest this is accurate.
Since the double winning 1997/98 season, when Wenger had 21 English players at his disposal, the numbers have dropped dramatically.
Even the successful 2001/02 and 2003/04 campaigns boasted a good core of home-grown players.
Fast forward to the end of the 10/11 season and the first team squad boasts only three English players with Wilshere and Theo Walcott the only regulars in the first team along, with Kieran Gibbs emerging at left back.
Is it a coincidence that the English dominance in Arsenal’s side coincided with their success?
The last six years have seen the foreign nationals take over but fail to deliver on the biggest stages leaving the Gunners trophyless.
Despite the amount of overseas flops that have graced both Highbury and the Emirates, Wenger seems to have been hit hard by the shortcomings of his English signings.
The perfect examples could be both Richard Wright and Francis Jeffers were signed for big money and burgeoning careers. Even Theo Walcott could be thrown into the mix.
The pair failed to make the grade and eventually drifted into the football wilderness, whilst Walcott has flattered to deceive many a time.
It seems that Wenger’s trust in signing home-grown players and trusting them to deliver success has waned.
He inherited a squad boasting the likes of Adams, Seaman, Wright and Dixon, and complimented their English grit with the flair of Henry, Pires, Fabregas and Vieira.
Once the English elite all retired and their replacements floundered, the trust evaporated and the Frenchman cast his gaze overseas.
His prudent spending and reluctance to splash out on marquee signings has also played a part in his decisions not to buy home-grown talent.
With quality English footballers becoming few and far between, the cost to acquire just the best of British has risen dramatically (Andy Carroll is the prime example) and Wenger has yet to buy into that philosophy.
But every Premier League team needs a good English contingent with Manchester United a good template to follow after their dominance over the division since its inception over 20 years ago.
To call Wenger anti-English is going a bit overboard. Despite his preference for foreign players, the lack of and cost of English players in modern day football is going above and beyond all realms of reality.
Wilshere’s emergence over the last 18 months may finally convince the Gallic coach to English players another try.