Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wenger vision and the quota system...

The Times is engaging its readers on Arsene Wenger's appalling record when it comes to the low numbers of English players in the Arsenal squad.

This current debate comes on the back of Sepp Blatter's recent threat to take on the EU over the possible re-introduction of quotas regarding the numbers of foreign players who are allowed to play in national associations across Europe both in domestic and in UEFA competitions.

For the record, UEFA introduced their original 3+2 ruling in 1991, a system which allowed clubs to field three foreign stars, plus two 'assimilated' players. On top of which National associations throughout Europe had their own individual rulings in place pertaining to the numbers of foreign stars.

All of which was despite the fact that in 1973 the European Court of Justice had ruled against such impositions on the grounds that it was a restriction of freedom of movement against EU citizens. However, in 1995 the Bosman ruling changed everything and with that out went the illegal quota system. Roll the clock forward to 2007 and back to the debate about Blatter threatening to take on the EU in a bid to bring back player quotas.

The media have really laid into Blatter over this issue stating that it will not work. The much respected football pundit Gabriele Marcotti has presented some very interesting arguments against the quota system, he says that any re-introduction would affect Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Times columnist says that as things stand a young player might opt to play for Wales because he has a Welsh grandparent, but the same player might think twice if it limited his chances of playing in the Premier League, I personally doubt that.

Here's why, take the example of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. At this moment in time there's only one well known Welshman at any of those clubs, Ryan Giggs. However, look beyond the 'top four' clubs and you will find that most clubs still retain a reasonable core of British players. The point being that situation is hardly likely to be affected by any reintroduction of quotas. Quotas or not, Ian Rush and Mark Hughes would still have risen to the top. Quality will always shine through.

Arsenal though under Wenger are a big concern when it comes to the lack of English players in their squad. Granted they lost Ashley Cole and currently they have Walcott, but this isn't largely tokenism when compared to the squads of Chelsea, United, West Ham, Aston Villa, Manchester City and perhaps to lesser extent Liverpool.

One thing is certain if Manchester United did what Wenger has done at Arsenal there would be a national outcry. Every phone-in would be jammed with ABUs complaining at every juncture, every time England lost or dropped points, United would eventually be blamed. How come Wenger gets away with it, is it because Arsenal are not such a big club?

However, to blame Arsenal alone would be wrong, because other leading across Europe are also guilty of following Wenger's open door policy to foreign players at the expense of home grown talent.

Wenger says quality is the key when it comes to selection issues - few would argue here. However, the quality of young British players seems to be dropping and this is the real problem. All clubs need to do more to create the next David Beckham's and Steven Gerrard's and not less, which rightly or wrong is how Arsenal are perceived as a club right now.

Wenger is a great coach, but his record of producing and retaining home grown English players isn't something that he can be particularly proud of. The Frenchman has produced some decent young players like Blackburn's David Bentley and Chelsea's Steve Sidwell, but they've been edged out by Arsenal foreign imports.

If every other club in the Premier League followed Wenger's policy quite simply there wouldn't be an England team in five years time. This is why I personally believe that we do need quotas to maintain the long term integrity of the national associations across Europe, but rather than have the old 3+2 system there should be a minimum of three or four Englishmen in every Premier team including Arsenal.

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