By Rob Kelly

Arsène Wenger says that competition among the top clubs’ scouting networks is as fierce as it has ever been.

Sunday’s opponents, Swansea, have been praised for their success this season in signing the likes of Michu, Pablo Hernandez and Jonathan de Guzman.

While Wenger has been impressed by the Welsh club’s work on that front, he says finding hidden gems is becoming harder than ever before.

“We have some clubs who are doing very well and sometimes when you are at a big club your scouts are a bit more cautious because they think, 'Oh, it is Arsenal so it has to be a top-four player',” the manager said.

“Naturally they look less at players who play at smaller clubs, which Swansea can afford to do. You’re always scared that if he [turns out to be] a player who does not do well, the scouts are looked at as responsible.

“The competition is high on the scouting front. The country where we were really, really competitive was France. They produce less players than they did 10, 15 years ago at top, top, top level in France.

“The emerging countries that are producing players look to be Germany and Spain and they have many good young players. They have taken over.”

Wenger admits the race is on to find the next source of new players, with Arsenal spreading their net far and wide.

“We are trying to diversify much more where we are looking,” he said. “In England you are a bit limited.

“I find that a new market that is very interesting and very competitive is the Japanese market. Look at the number of Japanese players who play now in Germany for example.”

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3 Jan 2013