In 2005 Arsene Wenger made a decision that would go on to become the norm for Arsenal in the Premier League. He fielded an XI and bench that didn’t include one player from the home nations; a monumental decision that this season has proved, is no longer the key to success.
In 1999, Vialli did something similar for Chelsea. The only difference being that his bench consisted of four English players, two of which were later brought on. The Chelsea manager would escape criticism as he was seen to be bringing English potential through alongside foreign talent. Wenger, however, known for his romances with foreign talent, would not entertain such an idea.
Only months after the Invincible’s were finally vanquished, Wenger’s all-conquering squad lined up against Crystal Palace. Though injury and illness kept out regulars in Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell. The lack of British or more potently English players, was quite apparent.
Don’t get us wrong, the influx of foreign talent in the Premier League is far more a blessing than a curse – as this Arsenal team shows. But when players with English as their first language were completely absent from the reigning Premier League champions, it was a worrying sign for England fans especially.
As the home of football and an over expectant nation with a consistently underperforming national side, England fans did not respond well to such a squad. On top of already burgeoning insecurities about the failings of the main Three Lions team, the lack of English players from such a top club was probably more ostensibly bad than actually.
Compounded by Arsenal comprehensibly beating Palace 5-1 that day and their perch as the top team in England. The lack of homegrown players may have seemed the way forward. Just over 10 years on though, with English talent shining for Spurs in their record high finish, it seems that this is no longer the case.