So when asked in a Grauniad Q&A whether the lack of Englishmen in Arsenal’s first team was a concern, Lee Dixon replied that it was, and that it’s something Wenger “is very aware of”.
It’s an interesting one, as ever. Wenger has tried (and largely failed) to buy Englishmen in, and in his nine years as Le Boss only one – I forget his name, don’t bother reminding me – has made the step from the youth team to being a regular in the first team.
I too have always maintained the balance between English and non-English needs to be better, but not of course if it means playing second-rate Englishman ahead of more focused and more technically capable foreigners.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the decent English players have largely not broken through yet. For a start, they’re thin on the ground to begin with. But more importantly, in order to change a culture – footballing and social – you need to get players in young and teach them properly, and that’s not a one or two year job, it’s a good decade of work.
Wenger’s done wonders spotting top-notch youngsters abroad, and bringing them in, but these players often had head starts in terms of technical training and already knowing how to look after themselves off the field.
So maybe the real test of Arsenal and Arsène’s youth setup is about to begin. With any luck, we’ll start seeing some more English players making the grade soon. If we don’t see that, it’s a fair criticism to ask: why not?