Arsène Wenger fears that international friendlies may be on the wane.

The midweek game between England and France was instantly forgettable except for the milestone of David Beckham's 100th cap. The Arsenal manager, who commentated on the match for French television, believed the game lacked edge - and, he argues, it is increasingly like that in non-competitive fixtures.

"I'm scared that in the modern game, there is no room any more for friendly internationals," he said. "Not because countries take our players, just because people will not be interested in that anymore. There is nothing at stake. People want to see competitive games.

"Maybe I'm completely wrong but is it in the long term organisable for people to travel and spend their money to watch this kind of game? I'm not sure.

"They are slowly starting to cut the number of international games because they have no meaning any more in the modern game. People want to see competitive games. You sit here today and you can't say England were fantastic or France were fantastic, but straightaway you say 'it was a friendly'.

"You always felt it was a game with the five per cent missing between a friendly and a competitive game that makes it interesting."

However there is certainly one group of people from whom these games still matter greatly.

"Although the audiences for international football are dropping a little bit I believe frankly that it means a lot to my players," said Wenger. "When I speak to them, they want to do well in the European Championship, they want to do well in the World Cup. It really matters to them.

"You could see a guy like Beckham. He was ready to die to get his 100th. If it didn't matter, he would not have done that. It matters to them but it's a friendly, it's low key, the guy plays this week knows next week he has a Champions League game and he doesn't want to miss that game. So subconsciously, you miss a fraction and that makes a game less interesting."


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28 Mar 2008