Arsène Wenger believes Arsenal's multi-national youth policy is not harming the standard of English football.

The state of our national game has been in sharp focus since Steve McClaren's side lost so lamely to Spain in midweek. Certain figures in football have pointed the finger at the big clubs like Arsenal for failing to field English talent. At his press conference ahead of the home game with Wigan, Wenger staunchly defended his position.

"Whenever England do not win it is always my fault," he joked, "even when I am not at the game.

"We have invested a lot of money in our academy youth system but it is true it is not necessarily for young English players. It is for young players but not necessarily English players.

"For me it is all down to quality. I believe that to protect the players is not the best way. To put players in my team who are not good enough would not strengthen the England team but weaken the Arsenal team.

"We are in a world where you have to be good enough," he went on. "If England want to beat Brazil then an English player who comes to Arsenal has to be stronger than the Brazilian. If you are not good enough you won't beat Brazil.

"You have to accept that we live in a world that is not down to protection but quality. And, my friend, if you are good enough then nobody will stop you.
"Nobody stopped Steven Gerrard playing at Liverpool, nobody stopped Frank Lampard playing for Chelsea and they have the money to buy who they want. Nobody stopped Rio Ferdinand playing at Manchester United.

"Take Justin Hoyte here. Until I played him for the Club, nobody even thought about him playing as a regular for England Under-21's.

"That's why I just think it is the wrong debate."

4/1 - Arsenal v Wigan: Emmanuel Adebayor to score the first goal

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9 Feb 2007