Europe doesn't produce decent strikers any more, says Arsene Wenger

Wenger said that coaching conditions did not produce players who relished physical confrontation

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Arsène Wenger fears that European academies are not geared to produce anything other than midfielders.

The Arsenal manager was discussing why the world’s best strikers – Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez and the rest – are all South American, and why many European sides play with a midfielder up front in a “false nine” role.

This is one of Wenger’s favourite topics and speaking at his press conference this week he said that the physical aspect of the game had left European academies, and suggested that players be taught more specific skills for their positions, rather than general technical aptitude.

“We spoke about this many times,” Wenger said. “It was one of the debates we had at a European managers’ meeting during the [international] break. The strikers are South American today. Europe doesn’t produce strikers any more.”


Wenger said that coaching conditions did not produce players who relished physical confrontation. “What we produce now are good technical players because there are nice pitches out there,” Wenger explained. “Before, you played in the park where you had to kick the ball up front and you had to fight. A boy of 12 who played against a boy of 16 had to be shrewd and push to get the ball. All those kinds of things have gone.”

Wenger suggested a “complete rethink” may be the answer to producing more strikers in Europe. “What I am convinced of is that in the academies we have to specialise the players,” he said.

“There is an age from five to 12 where you have the acquisition of the technical areas, at 12 to 14 you start to develop the speed and physical qualities but from 14 onwards, when you start to position the players for their careers, maybe you have to work with specificity of a position again, what we got naturally before in the street or in the park. Maybe we have to rethink completely the education and specialise earlier.”

The evidence for Wenger’s argument was how most of the best strikers come from outside Europe, while European teams play without strikers. “You look at countries like Germany, they played in Scotland or against Poland they played with Mario Götze up front, he’s a creative midfielder,” Wenger said.

“Spain won the World Cup with basically Cesc Fabregas as centre-forward,” he added. “Germany now plays Götze up front. Before that they played with Miroslav Klose who is 36.”

Wenger has two, young, traditionally physical No 9s in Chuba Akpom and Yaya Sanogo, on loan at Hull City and Ajax respectively. They are valuable assets but must be nurtured until they are ready for Arsenal.

“They need competition,” Wenger said. “It is difficult because when you have too many players you cannot play them and if you do not play them they don’t improve. So you have to decide to get them somewhere to play. You have to make a decision at some stage with their career. They have to develop.”