Arsenal are helping the English game, says Arsène Wenger

Gunners boss now has a core of young English players

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger insisted that Arsenal are not to blame for the lack of young English talent available to Roy Hodgson.

Arsenal play Fulham and while Martin Jol fielded an all-foreign XI on Wednesday night Wenger now has a core of young English players whom he is very proud of.

England manager Hodgson said last week that he goes to quite a few games where there are "no English players", and this puts the national side at a "major disadvantage". While Wenger sympathises with his position, he fears it is a natural outcome of the nature of the English game.

Ideally for Wenger, teams would find a balance between academy players and imported quality, but the Arsenal manager admitted England has structural issues.

"You have to find a good mixture. I think the good mixture is to produce the players from your own academies, and buy top, top, top class players. Let's not forget that in Germany there are five million people playing football regularly. In England, it's 350,000."

The success of the Premier League means more foreign imports which means fewer English players, but Wenger pointed out that his Arsenal team was bucking the trend.

"The trend [of players] follows the economic strength [of the league]. But the trend is changing. I have good young English players who play: Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott. And it is not my fault if [Aaron] Ramsey is Welsh!"

As well as having more English players than they used to, Arsenal arguably play in a more English style, in part thanks to muscular centre-forward Olivier Giroud. The France international has been criticised for a lack of goals but Wenger is delighted with the extra physical option he provides.

"He gave a lot until now, and for his first season he is doing extremely well because he has a fantastic attitude, he has a positive mind," Wenger said. "He has scored 17 goals in all competitions, 11 in the championship, for a first season that is quite good."