By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger is not a fan of the Premier League's new ‘homegrown rule'. And that's putting it mildly.
Under new regulations each top-flight club can name a first-team squad of no more than 25 players. Of those, a maximum of 17 can be non-homegrown. Players born on or after January 1, 1989 do not need to be registered as part of the 25-man squad.
It's worth pointing out that Arsenal are perfectly equipped to cope with the newly-imposed quotas. Their current first-team squad contains 26 players of which 13 are homegrown while seven are Under-21s.
But it's the principle that irks Wenger.
In theory, the new rule will benefit England's national side with more homegrown players giving the manager a larger pool of talent to choose from. But Wenger doubts whether it will help and fears the quotas will merely force down the quality of the Premier League and deny the best players the chance to develop.
"The new rules on squads are a disaster for this country. It's ridiculous," said Wenger at his pre-match press conference.
"The homegrown rule is all artificial. From 1966 to 1996 this country won absolutely nothing. England won nothing and they had not one foreign player [in the league]. How has it changed?
"You cannot just close your eyes and say: ‘Let's kick the good players out' and produce the same quality [in the league]. I've been educating players since I was 25 and I know one rule. The first thing you do to develop a player is to put him with another good player.
"In my opinion if you are a great player, you want to play with great players. If you are a great musician, you want to play with an orchestra where you have the best musicians. If you offer the guy the chance to play in an orchestra with poor musicians, he will not be happy.
"It's very difficult to understand the Premier League because instead of asking how we can make the best league in the world even greater, they have gone to how can we make it smaller."
The counter-argument goes that it's acceptable to sacrifice having the ‘best league in the world' if England bring back the World Cup from Brazil in 2014.
But Wenger isn't so sure that trade-off is a legitimate one. He believes that a lack of quality in coaching - not a proliferation of foreign imports - is the main reason for England's struggles at international level.
"Look at the clubs. The percentage [of foreign players in clubs] is a bit lower in Spain, but not much. You can sign players from all over the world in Spain. Why do they still produce players and we do not? It's down to the coaching.
"Listen, if I didn't care, I wouldn't speak about it. But you have something here that the whole world watches. For me to see that some people are only concerned with putting the quality down is sad.
"That's all I care about, and I'm happy if England win the World Cup. I'd jump to the rafters. I'm supporting them in their bid for 2018 when other countries have asked me to support them, and I'm doing it for nothing because I want England to be successful.
"But they've decided the wrong thing here."