The English have already invaded?
The above is a possible all UK team drawn from our current players. We may well be the only English Premier league team that can field such a strong side from home based players. I decided to plunge into all our players to see if there is a pattern.
I guess, like a lot of you out there, you open up the academy page to see who we have out there who might come through for us? And, I reckon, like me, you sometimes look at highlights and even full matches occasionally. Yes, they don’t have many cameras so you don’t get to see all that you would like but you do get glimpses of rare talent. However there is one element which jumps right out at you and that is?
English, English and more English
English players! Lots of them, plus a sprinkling from traditional countries for English football such as Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland. Now, let’s face it, probably few of them are likely to step up to be first team regulars. But, still, it is possible. And what would that mean for Arsenal?
Maybe they think we will have 11 Tony Adams?
We do have nine first team members at the moment from the traditional nations, with only Tierney being non English. However, I would say that only Saka, Ramsdale, White and most likely Rice will be automatic first choice. We could almost field a full team though and certainly it would only take a very small number to step from the academy to allow us to field 11 players that would not have looked out of place in George Graham’s sides, or Bertie Mee’s.
Or is it Arteta that has this plan?
Maybe Brexit is the answer?
Supposing Brexit and the EU took a bad turn for the worse and they banned all non home nations players from playing in England it would be a great advantage for Arsenal. We would have lots of players ready to play and the other teams would be struggling to fill a team. We would win everything.
The curious thing is that it must be a deliberate policy by the Arsenal. There are 23 UK players plus one Republic of Ireland in the academy. Astonishing! Now I have long held the contention that English players get treated better than all others by the refs. Have Arsenal been prescient, then, in giving priority to the English? It could well be.
Was it Aubameyang 's antics that started this policy?
Now, in truth, I don’t see a ban on foreign players but you may see a restriction as there used to be in many countries in the past. Possibly 2 foreigners allowed. I would probably take Martinelli and Odegaard in that case but we have plenty of options within the squad. There would be a big debate within the fans as to which two should be held.
Is there an answer to this puzzle?
But I am being serious in at least one aspect here and that is I am genuinely surprised by the number of English there are being trained up. Yes, they seem to get more in the transfer market and that could be the simple reason for what surely is a policy. You can buy top foreigners cheaper so selling the English could fund our transfer policy but it does seem farfetched to me. I would love to put that question to Arsenal. Why are there so many English players being brought through?
Liam Brady and the Irish contingent grew the Arsenal Irish support
I can see one obvious disadvantage in such a policy as it is the global nature of the big teams that give them their huge fanbase. When Alex Hleb played for Arsenal the amount of Arsenal fans in Belarus grew enormously. Ask the Spuds what their fanbase is like in Korea since Son started producing his magic for them. Arsenal dramatically grew their Irish fandom when we had lots of Irish playing for us.
Why no Spanish or German?
As I have said before in this column, Arteta is an anomaly in the modern managerial game as he doesn’t seem to favour Spanish players. If we get Raya he will be the only one. There are none listed in the academy. In contrast, Edu seems to have a big influence in what players we get. 4 Brazilians and all Gabby’s. Bit of a pattern there.
If Declan Rice acts like Aubameyang he will be gone
If we conclude that Arteta cares less about the country but more the style and the attitude of the players then perhaps that is the answer. He definitely seems to want the type of players that will follow his instructions. A united team is his clear goal. Aubameyang is the most solid example of this. All players have to accept that they are equal, irrespective of their transfer fee or their standing within the game. If Declan Rice started to give it the big I am, I would say he would get slapped down very quickly.
However, I am trying here to get a true handle on what is going on at the Arsenal. By my reckoning there are 33 UK and Ireland players in total with 9 in the first team squad. Not counting, of course, those that are underage for the academy. It seems to be too big a number for a coincidence. Do they know something I don’t?
It can't be a coincidence?
I suspect what they would gain in fanbase in England would be cancelled out by losses elsewhere and anyway there is no difficulty in filling the Emirates and getting people to part with their money for paraphernalia. I really cannot see it being done for commercial reasons.
I am left grappling to understand why they have hitched to wagon so solidly to an English star. Like I have said, the number seems too high for coincidence but any reason I can discern seems farfetched. Surely we should be looking for talent worldwide? Or we are and only the English are making it?
Does Mertesacker not like Germans?
The only factor I have left out is Per Mertesacker. When Liam Brady was academy head he had a separate contract to the manager. He was allowed to keep going through changes of managers. I suspect, though, that Mertesacker does not have such a deal and a new manager may want to bring in their own academy head. It is possible that Mertesacker prefers UK based players but again that seems unlikely to me.
Surely there are German footballers out there, Per?
And so we have the strange situation where our Spanish manager has no Spanish players and our German academy head has no German ones. We must be unique in this one.
So I am sorry to say that I have presented you with a puzzle in which I have no answer, at least not one that I am anyway happy with. I’ll ask again. What the hell is going on at the Arsenal?