Over the year’s, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have been criticised for a whole range of reason’s. Whether it was the disciplinary record of his early time in charge, the lack of trophies in his later time, or the foreign legion he bought in during his mid-time in charge. He has been derided throughout his time in English football. At times, I have felt it was borderline xenophobia, as he got criticised whilst other managers did not.
One of the most frustrating criticism’s was the lack of Englishmen in the squad.
On February 14th 2005, Arsenal became the 1st team to field a 16-man squad (as it was back then) of foreign players. Wenger was criticised by all and sundry for not carrying for the English game, being a disgrace, and showing a lack of respect for the country which employed him. Arsene Wenger’s response was simple:
“I don’t look at the passport of people, I look at their quality and their attitude.”
At the time, I vehemently defending the manager, as any fan of the club should do when taking unfair criticism from the likes of TalkSport, The Sun & Spurs fans. My point at the time was the reasoning behind the criticism. That Arsene Wenger was not helping the English game. At the time I looked around other teams throughout the Premier League and who they had developed for the England National Team.
My research highlighted that, in 2005, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea & Spurs had all failed to develop an England REGULAR in the new millennium. Yet it was only Arsenal (and occasionally Chelsea) who were getting the criticism. At this point, out of England’s regular starting XI, the man from these 5 clubs who had made his club debut most recent was Ashley Cole. So much for England’s failure being Arsenal’s fault!
This criticism of Arsenal came to a head a year later when Arsenal knocked out Real Madrid of the Champions League, and Alan Pardew commented:
“I saw a headline saying Arsenal are flying the flag for Britain. I kind of wondered where that British involvement actually was when I looked at their team. It’s important that top clubs don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s the English Premier League and English players should be involved.”
Last night, Newcastle lost 3-1 to Everton, Newcastle – Managed by Alan Pardew – lined up as follows:
Debuchy Coloccini Yanga-M’Biwa Santon
Sissoko Tiote Anita
Ben Arfa Remy Gouffran
Not a single Englishman amongst them. And also, not a single criticism of this ‘foreign legion’ by the English press. Meanwhile, in Arsenal’s strongest 11, we have 3 Englishmen and a Welshman. Where is the praise? Why is the press not going OTT about us being the saviour of the English Football Team?
My only thought is that attitudes to foreigners in our game have changed. Why else would Pardew change his philosophy so quickly? And it is not just Newcastle. Let’s look at Stoke City.
When they played Arsenal last weekend, they had 1 Englishman on the field. And I would happily question if Ryan Shawcross was born in England, or found in a sewer in some god forsaken corner of the earth. Infact, they had 10 different nationalities on the pitch. It would be 11 if Marc Wilson did not decide to turn his back on Northern Ireland and play for Republic of Ireland.
But where once again, where was the criticism? The column inches? The hours of radio coverage? Have attitudes really changed, or does the media just not care when it does not involve Arsenal?
Another example of this is choice of managers. The top sides (Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool & Chelsea) were often heavily criticised for not giving a British manager a chance, with Ferguson (up to a couple of years ago) being the only British manager managing one of England’s top 6 sides. The criticism was heavy. But again, have opinions changed?
The 3 favourites for the Sunderland are currently Gianfranco Zola, Robert Di Matteo & Gustavo Poyet, with Rene Meulensteen also in the frame. Now I might be being thick (and some would so yes due to the state of my spelling and grammar), none of these are English (or British). Where is the criticism of Sunderland? And Everton replaced David Moyes with a Spaniard in Roberto Martinez. Where is their criticism.
I can only come up with 2 possible outcomes:
1) The attitudes of foreigners in the English game has changed or;
2) The press only care about the amount of foreigners in the English game when it sells papers
All I know is I agree with what Arsene Wenger said at the beginning. The passport does not matter. I care about Arsenal, and want the best to play for Arsenal. If that best are not born in The Wittingham Hospital, then so be it. But let’s have some fair criticism shared around yeh?