Sunday, May 23, 1999

Just the right blend (The Malay Mail)

ALTHOUGH this season has not been very impressive for Arsenal, clearly
Arsene Wenger has survived the test of foreign coaches making their mark
in England.
It is an open secret that the Frenchman has built his team around an
international array of players instead of just sticking to homegrown
And he has managed to do this despite the strict rules on allowing
foreign players to play in England.
Wenger, who was in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday when Arsenal played a
friendly against a Malaysian selection, said his team's success had a
great deal to do with the right blend of different classes of players.
"I believe that the influx of foreign players to a team in England will
not only give a new dimension to the League, but also benefit the English
players themselves," Wenger said.
Wenger is arguably the foreign coach with the best record in English
soccer as barely 18 months after he joined the Highbury club in the autumn
of 1996, he steered them to win a double - the Premiership and FA Cup.
"Of course the influx of foreign players has its good and bad points,"
Wenger said.
"If there are too many foreign players, it will stiffle the growth of
local players.
"But, with a right mix, it will not only help develop the local players
with the exposure to different kinds of soccer from Europe, but also help
the team play with a variety of styles."
Although Arsenal consist of basically English and French players, they
do have flavours from Argentina (Nelson David Vivas), Holland (Marc
Overmars), Portugal (Luis Boa Morte) and Nigeria (Nwankwo Kanu).
Their French players include Emmanuel Petit, Nicolas Anelka, Patrick
Paul Viera, David Grondin, Gilles Grimandi and Remi Marie Garde.
"With such a combination, we'll be better prepared to meet the demands
of European soccer," Wenger added.
"Now the English players themselves are more accustomed to the European
Wenger also emphasised that big bucks are not the only means to
strengthen the team.
"While it may be the easiest way, it often draws criticisms and, when
results are not forthcoming, it brings about tremendous pressure.
"There is always the possibility of getting good players for a
reasonable price with time and patience."
And Wenger should know what he is talking about because he has acquired
some of the current top players for a bargain.
Arsenal scored 59 goals and only conceded 17 this season to finish a
close second to Manchester United.
Wenger admitted that he needs to further strengthen the team next season
when they hope to regain their League title and present a stronger
European challenge.
"We are looking for at least three players, but I cannot give any names
Wenger also said a bigger squad is vital in the wake of suspensions and
After all, the Gunners do not plan to misfire next season.

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