Arsene Wenger does not agree that the number of foreign footballers in England are blocking the path to first-team football for homegrown players.
England coach Gary Neville used his speech at this week's Soccerex Conference in Manchester to argue that English football had "reached a tipping point" and was "harming itself" by denying talented youngsters the chance to play Premier League football.
Wenger has often said he "does not look at a player's passport" when he decides how to bolster his squad and he remains firmly against restricting the number of overseas imports.
"I’m not convinced by Gary Neville's theory because if you want to develop your qualities, your talent, you put your child in a good class - if he’s talented. If he’s in a good class, he develops better than in a poor class"
Wenger's current squad has a far stronger English core than in recent years but the manager insists that is for Arsenal's benefit and not necessarily England's.
“It was not specifically for that reason [helping the national side]," explained Wenger. “When you have an English core of young players at Arsenal, it’s easier to keep them together than if they are foreign.
“Honestly, it’s more for selfish reasons than for national-team reasons. But that debate is a very old one.
“What Gary Neville is saying, I’m not completely convinced by it because you can turn it the other way around as well. For young, English players to have the privilege to play in training every day with world-class players gives you an opportunity to improve much quicker than a guy who’s isolated in the middle of Africa and has nobody to compare to.
“If you listen to any player, he’ll say to you, ‘I improved because I’ve seen Dennis Bergkamp in training and I play with him every day’. So I’m not convinced by Gary’s theory because if you want to develop your qualities, your talent, you put your child in a good class - if he’s talented. If he’s in a good class, he develops better than in a poor class.
“Then, the second part, have you at the moment good, young English players who don’t play because there are foreign players in front of them? I’m not completely convinced because we look at Aston Villa. They play plenty of young players.
"Wilshere was good enough here. He played - you make room for them.
“It’s a theory [that makes football] a bit too protective for me and not competitive enough.”
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