Arsène Wenger believes the current crop of young players at
Arsenal is the best he has had during his time in charge - and most
of them are English.
The Frenchman has always drawn criticism for supposedly favouring foreign talent at Emirates Stadium. It is a charge he vehemently denies but certainly, over the past year, Arsenal have consistently put out sides that do not include an Englishman.
However Wenger believes that will change in the future. At Friday's press conference he announced that he was close to signing Luke Freeman, a 15-year-old striker who has already made three appearances for Gillingham. Wenger also suggested that a couple of the Club's 14-year-old players were so advanced "they had nothing to learn technically".
"Yes, we will be pushing it through," said the manager when asked about the Freeman deal. "I want to buy English," he added with a smile.
"I met the boy and I like him. He has personality and he looks alert. He's a striker and to play in a first team at 15 years of age is something special.
"We were quite well on the case and we are very positive that we will find an agreement with the club without going to compensation. We will pay them a transfer."
Freeman will surely cut his Arsenal teeth in the Under-18s, FA Youth Cup side and then the Reserves. Wenger added that young Englishmen like Kieran Gibbs and Henri Lansbury would "certainly be in the first team squad next season". But, even below those age-groups, the manager sees emerging talent.
"Yes overall from 14 to 20 it is the best group we have had," he said. "We play a youth cup game against Burnley [tonight] and we have a very good side. They are all at a good level now.
"Also we have two Under-14s players I watched play and
technically they have nothing to learn.
"Will they be professional footballers at Arsenal? I don't know. The more you go down [in ages] the greater the margin of error. Sometimes you see a player at 13 and you think 'absolutely amazing' then two years later he has disappeared.
"But our target is to produce good players and I believe we are on the right road with the way we want to work throughout the Club.
"I know how much the English national team means here to people. To contribute to that would be a big pride as well. At the moment it is not my first responsibility.
"But I have been accused of only buying foreign players and I would like to contribute to the quality of English football."