Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists the fighting instincts shared by Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez were honed on the streets of South America.
Wenger admires the energy and devilry of Chile international Sanchez, the Gunners’ £35million summer signing from Barcelona, and Uruguay striker Suarez.
The Frenchman believes the dominance of Latin American forwards in European football is a result of the determination needed to succeed in their homelands, while developed countries have become “softer”.
“Look across Europe and where are the strikers from? Many of them, at least 80 per cent, are from South America,” Wenger said.
“Maybe it’s because in Europe street football has gone. In street football when you’re 10-years-old, you want to play with 15-year-olds.
“Then you have to prove you’re good, you have to fight and win impossible balls.
“When it’s all a bit more formalised, it’s less about developing your individual skill and fighting attitude. We’ve lost that a bit.
“Not every South American has that, but if you go back 30 or 40 years in England, life was tougher.
“Society has changed. We’re much more protective than we were 20 or 30 years ago. We have all become a bit softer.”
Sanchez has scored eight goals in 15 appearances since joining Arsenal and Wenger has been impressed with his rapid transition to the Barclays Premier League.
“I’m a bit surprised. It’s because he has a particular mental strength,” Wenger said.
“He reminds me of the first generation of English players that I had – Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Martin Keown. This kind who is just ready for the fight.
“It’s natural to Alexis. Every day he wants the ball. He doesn’t walk out, he runs out.
“He has a natural level of energy that is unbelievable. You would love everyone to have that, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.
“When you see where he has come from, where he was born, and then he plays for Barcelona and Arsenal, he needs to have something special.”
When asked if Sanchez and Suarez were alike, Wenger replied: “Exactly. When Suarez gives the ball to an opponent, he wins it back straight away.
“Sanchez is the same, there is no time between the offence and defence. The transition is very quick. And they are very quick as well.”