Is Wenger anti-English?

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.


20 Responses to Is Wenger anti-English?

  1. Artfulgooner June 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    You're an idiot and certainly no arsenal fan!!!

  2. head June 5, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    The 2003-2004 season featured only two English players (Campbell and Cole) in the regular starting 11.

    "Is it a coincidence that the English dominance in Arsenal’s side coincided with their success?" = debunked.

  3. Jak June 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Did I specify the starting eleven? The squad had 11 English players in with Keown, Parlour, Pennant, Bentley, Thomas, Hoyte and Jeffers all contributing at some point in the season along with Campbell and Cole. Need I go on?

  4. [email protected] June 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I think to even suggest that Wenger could be motivated by anti-English feelings is insulting and possibly slanderous, are you suggesting he has rascist tendencies? It seems so judging by the tone of your article. His reluctance to buy English players is more likely to be because he regards the fee usually demanded to be excessive bearing in mind their ability, and on that score there can be no argument. It really is as simple as that. Shopping abroad offers far more value for money and arguably better technique which of course is a major requirement for Arsenals technical style.

  5. head June 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    First ruling out fringe players (Pennant, Bentley, Thomas, Hoyte, Jeffers) who had a negligible impact on the season – this leaves Keown and Parlour as squad players, as well as Campbell and Cole in the starting 11.

    Two English players on the bench and two in the first team do not make for an English spine, I'm sorry.

    This article smacks of the racism (intentional or unintentional) that dominates much of the anti-Arsenal criticism in the media.
    The 'foreign nationals' that have taken over our club include Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Lauren, Emmanuel Petit and Kolo Toure. Surely these players formed the spine of the Invincibles, and not two centre backs (Sol Campbell signed from Spurs and was NOT home-grown, mind you) and one midfielder…

  6. jahman June 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Get over this stupid notion. he is not anti British. He had a job to do, he had to pay off debt and keep the team as competitive as possible. He could not afford to buy too many British players as they are over priced and are not worth the price (did Manchester United, Chelsea on Man City buy a lot of English players? no. ) The only way to keep going was to buy the best available player you can afford (live within your means, a task he has done well), and develop British players who can form the backbone of your team for the future (another task he has accomplished).

    Britain keep over valuing their players (see international results), Wenger has laid the ground work for success at club level and this will only help at the international level as his young lions will play with teh ball at their feet and in tight spaces (the only way England and will at the international level.


  7. Jak June 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Racist? That is a preposterous accusation. If you read the article you'll see that I dismiss Wenger as being anti-English citing that he has been put off by the failings of his English signings and the extortionate fees. Are you saying the team is better without English talent despite failing to win ANY silverwear in the 6 years since the home grown players begun to dwindle in his squad?

  8. [email protected] June 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    "Since the double winning 1997/98 season, when Wenger had 21 English players at his disposal, the numbers have dropped dramatically."
    He actually had 15 in the 1st team squad, and 5 of them were crap. Almost all of the others were old and needed to be replaced, by which time the cost of acquiring english players started to increase beyond what was necessary. Gary neville was england's right back at that time; he was the best right fullback england had to offer, so of course it made sense for wenger to go and sign lauren, a far superior footballer who was a good defender and didn't cost too much.

    "Did I specify the starting eleven? The squad had 11 English players in with Keown, Parlour, Pennant, Bentley, Thomas, Hoyte and Jeffers all contributing at some point in the season along with Campbell and Cole. Need I go on?"
    League appearances: Keown (10), Parlour (25), Pennant (7), Bentley (1), Thomas (0), Hoyte (1), Jeffers (0).
    So you can say parlour and at a stretch keown (even though they famously had to throw him on as a sub for his 10th game, just so he could pick up a medal), made any contribution to the invincibles. So that would be two English players who were really vital, and two who did a job for us from the bench (parlour and keown are bot legends of course, but were both getting on a bit and left at the end of that season).
    Also, if we had, say, nesta or vidic, or beckenbauer in defence instead of campbell, and evra or zambrotta or maldini instead of ashley cole, do you really think it would have made a difference? The biggest difference they could have conceivably made is that we might have lost a game that season. We were far too good not to win the title. That's not to diminish cole or campbell who were both obviously amazing that season, and in general actually, but just to say that the fact that they are english is meaningless. Quality is what matters, not nationality.

    Btw, wenger has shown over and over that if he can get an english player into his side, he will do it. Walcott was kept in the side for 3 years, and given a nice contract, even though he couldn't maintain his good form for more than five minutes, let alone two games, at a time. He has literally been willing to hurt the team for this kid. Meanwhile players who have performed significantly better in their relatively short time on the pitch, vela and merida, have been given no opportunity to force their way into the side. Eastmond and frimpong being picked over coquelin is another example.

  9. Really? June 5, 2011 at 2:08 pm #


  10. [email protected] June 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    [First of all, in calling it racist I am making NO MORAL JUDGEMENT. It is like Barca supporter saying Catalan players are better, or a Milan supporter saying Italian players are better etc]

    It is racist in two capacities:

    The first is in joining the nationalist illusion that English players = success. It is obvious that the mental and physical qualities of a player are inherent, and not dependent on his country of birth or colour of his skin. I am not claiming that it is better without English players. I am stating that the nationality of a player makes ZERO impact, and to state otherwise is racist.

    The second is the tacit equation of English = home grown. You claim that home grown players have begun to dwindle in the squad. The fact is Fábregas, Clichy, Bendtner, Song, Djourou, Denilson and Szczesny are all home grown players (but 'unfortunately' they are not English). According to the FA, a player is home grown if they have been with the club for 3 entire seasons before their 21st birthday, irrespective of their home nation.

  11. Jak June 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Head, you're taking everything way out of context. I never dismissed the positive impacts that any foreign player has made during Wenger's tenure.

    But if you look at the success of Chelsea and Manchester United, they have a solid English base to their team and have done for years. Arsenal have bought players with little or no experience of the Premier League and thrown them in at the deep end.

    A few exceptions aside, the majority of his foreign players have failed to hit the heights expected of them. Were you one of the fans who booed Eboue off on home turf? Even Fabregas is starting to lose his influence on games.

    Answer me this, would you rather Wenger spend money to secure Gary Cahill or spend it overseas on a player?

    To even label me or the article as racist is completely ridiculous, not to mention disgusting.

  12. head June 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    I won't reiterate the point I've made in my earlier post. As others have said, the Invincibles starting 11 was largely foreign born. This was not 'a few exceptions aside'. This was Bergkamp, Henry, Ljungberg, Pires, Petit, Overmars, Vieira, Lehmann, Lauren, Kanu, Toure. All players who were exceptional for Arsenal, and the trophies reflected this. It is spurious to suggest otherwise, or that two or three English players count as an 'English spine'.

    In regard to our current squad and lack of trophies, I believe this has no connection to a lack of 'English blood'. I believe it was due to the manner and speed in which the trophy winning side was disassembled following the move to the Emirates. This, and the underwhelming players that have followed were the product of a restricted transfer budget, not a lack of Englishness. If we had spent the same amount of money on overpriced English players, I assure you they would have been no better, more likely worse due to their inflated price tag.

    'Racist' is a little inflammatory, I agree. Perhaps 'nationalist' would be more palatable. But you must concur, or a least accept that in order to stamp out this 'Johnny Foreigner' stigma that surrounds Arsenal, we must recognise that this 'English players will fix everything' mentality is old-fashioned and plain wrong. A player's qualities – mental and physical – are integral, and not dependent on his country of birth or colour of his skin. The success of the majority-foreign Invincibles team is ample evidence of this.

    Would I rather Wenger spend money on Cahill or an overseas player? Neither, I want him to buy Samba. A little of both worlds =P

  13. [email protected] June 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Our fantastic England team is all 'home grown' Englishmen, full of pride,passion and bulldog spirit (and not just the spine). It hasn't done them much good has it, just look how succesfull they are and have been over the past few years. If the qualities of Englishness or Britishness were so important surely the national team would perform far better than they do. Maybe if some of our players had played abroad instead of being so insular and staying in 'the best league in the world' their technique would be a bit better and more success enjoyed.

  14. Jak June 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Is it not just a case of the players in the England team not being able to play together and a succession of managers who have failed to make them gel?

  15. Pyrm June 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    'Is it not just a case of the players in the England team not being able to play together and a succession of managers who have failed to make them gel?'
    Then why is that not the case with other national teams such as Spain, Brazil, Holland etc?

  16. Greg June 5, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    In all fairness, this criticism is a bit over the top. It's all about opinion and I don't think the writer of this article was trying to suggest Wenger is racist. The article is about football… not nationality and what I got from it was the writer suggests Wenger prefers foreign players. Whether that be for the style of play, attitude, mentality, whatever is open to debate.

    I feel sorry for the guy who wrote this. The article has been taken out of context by many of you guys and we should certainly give the guy the benefit of the doubt.


  17. Jak June 5, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Cheers Greg it's nice to see someone viewing it from a football standpoint. Like you say it is my opinion and I do believe Wenger doesn't go for English players due to his worries over their ability not to mention price tag/wages etc. I also think they could use some homegrown English players who have experience of the league.

    Pyrm – Obviously the likes of Spain and Brazil have players who can play together and fit into a certain system with ease. England is a mystery. Gerrard and Lampard, two fantastic players at club level but just can't play together.

    For the record I really do value everyone's opinions whether they agree or disagree with mine. It just makes for a good debate despite it going a little off topic and into political waters.

  18. [email protected] June 6, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Wenger anti English? Like the rest of us Wenger has his faults but being anti English, or anti any other nationality, is not one of them. Wenger looks at a players value and will he fit into his plans that`s all. English players were and are no better than players from France or Tinbuctoo (?) they just cost more. Wouldn`t it be nice to see eleven English players on the paddock, even if we were broke and in the relegation zone. My only problem with foreign players is I can`t pronounce their names. Who`d be a TV commentator?

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