The first manager to ever field a full-foreign starting lineup in the English Premiership was Arsene Wenger. When you hear about him looking for players, the first thing you expect is a French or Dutch talent to be the next guy arriving at Arsenal, not a British lad from the youth squad. But maybe things are starting to change.
Maybe it’s the fact that all of the good players that have left Wenger in recent seasons were foreign players. Some arrived at Arsenal very young, like Cesc Fabregas. Either way, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie weren’t really on top of their game when they first arrived at Highbury and later the Emirates. Wenger helped mold them into stars, and in return they chose to leave for better prospects of titles.
I was close to building a team that would have had more than enough quality to win trophies. Fabregas, Adebayor, Van Persie and Nasri playing together would have been very successful, but we lost them all in a short period.
He had that foursome for exactly one season, 2008-2009, which was a rather disappointing one for Arsenal after their fantastic and promising 2007-2008 season. They finished fourth that year, and soon Adebayor was out the door. Adebayor was actually more about the money than the prospect of winning titles. City didn’t have that allure to offer just yet.
It’s has been so frustrating to see a young player come to Arsenal, make their Premier League debut with us, prove themselves to be top players and then go somewhere else. My judgement on them was proved to be right, but another team is getting the benefit.
The problem has been that there has been nothing we could have done to stop this. I don’t want to go back over the reasons why we have been forced to sell these players, but it has been taken out of our control and it is hard to accept.
Somehow, Wenger never blames himself or his policies. Maybe the fact that Arsenal never seemed like they’re willing to compete with the big boys – Chelsea, Manchester United and later Manchester City in terms of finances or at least make one or two attempt at top quality, ready kind of players has made his stars feel like their club isn’t doing enough to win titles. Just like in the NBA – big stars want to play next to big names, to help them share the pressure.
It feels like we have had to start all over again after so many top quality players left us, and we are building a new team using a fresh mentality, with a core of British players who should have more association with a local club. We have Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming through now and they can all grow up having an affinity for Arsenal. Maybe then they will stay here longer if they are tempted to move.
Look at what happened with Fabregas. He was grateful for what we did to him and developed a real love for Arsenal, but he could not resist Barcelona when they came for him as it was his club. This is what happens when you have a foreign player: at some point, he will always want to move on.
I’m glad Wenger is realizing that something about his whole approach had to be wrong. But maybe he isn’t realizing enough. And maybe he’s realizing it a bit too late.