Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wenger: Arsenal kept reading in the Premiership

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has suggested that it was the Arsenal youth academy which kept Reading in the Premiership last season.

Reading currently have three former Arsenal youth academy players in their squad, one who is eligible to play against Arsenal tomorrow (James Harper) and two out on loan (Graham Stack and John Halls).

Last season, the Royals were reliant upon Harper and another former Gunner, Steve Sidwell, in the heart of their midfield.

Wenger, who has recently come under fire due to the lack of English players in his squad, has struck back at his detractors, claiming that while Theo Walcott may be the only English player at Arsenal, the club has strengthened the English national team by helping smaller teams along.

"The rule for success," he said, "is just live around Arsenal and pick off the players who do not make it completely and I promise you will have a very good team.

"There are very good players who will not all make it here but when they drop out they will still make a good team.

"Harper and Sidwell did not get in here because they had Petit and Viera and Edu in front of them. I think to force the clubs in England to have only English players in the side would be detrimental to the smaller clubs."He went on to discuss Sidwell personally: "I am happy if they have a good life. Sidwell was an important player for them because he had a good partnership with Harper.

"Sidwell's aim was to become a professional football player at a top team. He is. "If we have just contributed a little bit we are happy with that. We take the criticism, no problem.

"As a manager you want to have a positive influence on the life of your football players."

Personally, I feel like Arsene Wenger's job is to make Arsenal the best team it can be, not to strengthen the English national team. However, it must be noted that Arsenal's academy has brought through some bright young English talents.

Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, Blackburn midfielder David Bentley, West Ham defender Matthew Upson and Sunderland striker Anthony Stokes all graduated from the Arsenal youth academy.