Arsène Wenger has insisted that the Premier League has a stronger lure than any other league in Europe despite the recent struggles of English teams in the Champions League.
Manchester City have not reached the last 16 and Chelsea are likely to suffer the same fate but Wenger still believes that English football is uniquely attractive. "I'd still say England is the strongest, because in England if they want a player they get him, still," Wenger said. "As long as that happens you will be the most powerful in Europe. Are we the best in Europe? That's another question."
The particular atmosphere of English football made it stand out, according to the Arsenal manager. "England is best, because there's something more here," he said. "It is not only linked with what you see on the pitch but how you experience football. That's what I believe deeply. And when I speak to the players they say exactly the same."
Wenger said English teams have struggled recently because of improvements abroad rather than decay at home. "Maybe we [English clubs] have less room, less margin, than we had before when it was just a question of when we would qualify," Wenger suggested. "Now German football has come up, Spanish football is there every year and some French clubs have come back like Paris Saint-Germain. It looks less obvious for us."
Arsenal are often accused of under-spending and Wenger suggested his methods had been vindicated by their continued success in Europe.
"It is a massive satisfaction because I am so many times with my back to the wall, accused of not spending fortunes," he said. "To show that we can do it, with the way we do it, with the club in a good financial situation and with the players coming from our youth development, I think it is important for the game as well. There are many different ways to be successful and I am very happy that our way is one of them."
While Wenger believes the English and Spanish leagues are superior to the Bundesliga, he did express admiration for the German ownership model.
"They manage clubs like they should be managed, the whole system is different in Germany," he said. "You cannot own a club like you can in England. So the complete ownership is different because the clubs are owned 50 per cent by the fans. That's a completely different model. That's why they manage like any other business. They don't spend the money they don't have."
The striker Thierry Henry is no closer to making another return to his former club after Wenger said he had yet to speak to him about a second successive short-term loan. The 35-year-old is looking to maintain his fitness during the MLS off-season and has been training with Arsenal, but new Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh is reportedly apprehensive about him returning to the Emirates.
With forwards Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh expected to go to the 2013 African Cup of Nations and Arsenal reaching the last 16 of the Champions League, Wenger said he was contemplating adding an additional striker to his squad.
"I just spoke about that (a second Henry loan spell) because people asked me," Wenger told the club's website yesterday. "I said I don't rule it out because he's in good shape but I haven't made up my mind yet."