By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger admits that he considered bringing Matthew Upson back to Arsenal.
The England defender arrived at Highbury in the summer of 1997 but his path to the Arsenal first team was blocked by an outstanding bunch of central defenders.
When Upson was ready to step up and challenge the likes of Tony Adams, Steve Bould or Martin Keown, injury problems restricted his progress. Upson did win a Premier League medal in 2002 but a year later, after six seasons and 56 appearances, he left for Birmingham.
Upson is now flourishing with Sunday’s opponents West Ham as well as England and he has occasionally been linked with a return to North London. The move never materialised but Wenger remains a big fan of his former player.
“I knew when he left that he will make a big career,” said the manager. “But at that moment when Matthew was here, he was impatient.
“That I could understand as well because I bought him at Luton and after a few years he didn’t play here.
“I didn’t stop him [going] because I knew he had qualities to play in the Premier League but he had players in front of him that stopped him.
“I knew he would [make it]. He had Premier League quality and had the potential to be international quality . He is there now because he is at the right age for a central defender and for a few years now he has not been stopped by injuries which was his problem for a while.”
So how close was Wenger to making a bid for the former Arsenal defender?
“It was always in my mind,” admitted the Frenchman.
“He has good quality, good attitude, good spirit but of course this is not the best moment to talk about that. He is a player at West Ham. Three, four, five years ago yes, but now he is settled and has a good career where he is.
“You have two job [choices] as a football player. Your job is to be in the top level of the Premier League. Between the age of 18 to 21 is a very sensitive step for a player. You have to make the step. If you don’t make it you become impatient and you lose the players.”Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source