Following years of criticism for signing too many foreign players – particularly his native Frenchmen – despite achieving massive success with said strategy, you can’t say Arsene Wenger hasn’t at least tried to force through young, English talent at Arsenal.
It has never really worked out though, with centre-half Sol Campbell – snagged on a Bosman free from Spurs 15 years ago – and Ashley Cole the only pair of Wenger’s dozen English contingent over two decades at the club to prove an inarguable success.
Some, such as Francis Jeffers, Jermaine Pennant and Richard Wright, a trio that burned the Gunners’ fingers to the tune of £16m combined, must have tested the boss’ resolve, but he kept ploughing on, seemingly determined to show how to make home-grown talent work.
News that Three Lions trio Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs’ futures at the Emirates are uncertain, with each going into the last two years of their current deals, suggests Wenger’s patience is about to run out.
The speculation is hardly surprising seeing as none of the three can hold down a place in either Arsenal’s team or England’s squad, with Wilshere scooping up deadline-day headlines thanks to what he hopes will be a career-saving loan move to Bournemouth.
Add to that the plight of Calum Chambers, shipped out to Middlesbrough on loan during the summer after two utterly unconvincing seasons with the Gunners following a £16m move from Southampton, plus permanently-injured forward Danny Welbeck, and there’s barely a peep of English about Arsenal right now.
Theo Walcott has started all of the north Londoners’ four Premier League fixtures so far in 2016/17, but only managed to make the XI 28 times over the previous three top-flight seasons due to a combination of injuries and poor form, with an average of fewer than eight goals per term in 11 years at Arsenal a mediocre return.
Much has been made of 20-year-old centre-half Rob Holding, pitched into the action unexpectedly following his £2m move from Bolton over the summer due to an injury crisis at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.
The way things are going, Holding could soon be the only English player to regularly feature under Wenger, with injured right-back Carl Jenkinson unlikely to trouble Hector Bellerin for a first-team place on his return.
Arsenal are very warm favourites at 1/2 to follow up their lucky Champions League draw away to Paris Saint-Germain with a win at Hull.