Young Gunners to lead way for England

ARSENE WENGER believes Arsenal will soon provide the backbone of the England team.

The Gunners boss has been criticised for developing young foreign talent rather than bringing English players through.

However, Arsenal are now well represented in Fabio Capello’s squad — with Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs both starting the midweek friendly against France, while Jack Wilshere — who received a police caution yesterday for common assault following a street brawl last August — missed out with a back problem.

The likes of U21 midfielder Henri Lansbury and striker Jay Emmanuel-Thomas are both waiting in the wings, while there are high hopes for fellow youth internationals Benik Afobe and Chuks Aneke as well as Ghana-born 18-year-old midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, raised in London but currently sidelined by a serious knee injury.

Wenger is in no doubt the future is bright for Arsenal’s next England generation.

“I feel that we have four or five players who can be the backbone of the English team — Gibbs, Walcott, Wilshere and we have some other young players behind who can do that,” said Wenger.

The Arsenal manager had been somewhat critical of England’s Wembley performance in his role as a pundit for French television.

However, Wenger maintains there are plenty of reasons to be positive.

“I am not as pessimistic as you are about England because of that one game,” he said.

“It was a friendly and England played it as a friendly. It is a very sensitive period for the players because inside the clubs they have huge demands at the moment.”

Wenger added: “England were without a lot of players and had a look at some younger ones who are not completely ready yet. That is the main information you got from the game.”

The FA this week announced building work on the National Football Centre in Burton will begin in January.

Wenger believes such a hub of footballing knowledge is long overdue, with France having reaped the benefits of Clairefontaine for many years.

“I am surprised it has taken so long, and also that the Football Association has finally found the finances, because Wembley is a big, big expenditure,” he said.

“The biggest part of the job has been done already. There is a second step now that the clubs want to take to improve the quality of their education.’’

Wenger added: “You want qualified people and the better the education is, the more qualified people are.

“In Clairefontaine you have both aspects of that – you have the coaching of the coaches and you have the coaching of the young players under 16 who from 13 can go in there and they group the best players to give them a good education.’’

Wenger hopes Arsenal fans show William Gallas the respect he deserves should their former captain face his old club this lunchtime — but defended the decision to strip the controversial Frenchman of the armband.

“When Gallas was on the pitch he gave 100% for the team and that is what you want to respect,” Wenger said.

“After the statements exactly word by word is always a much more sensitive subject. But what I look at is just how much does the guy want to win, how much is he committed when he plays and on that front you can never fault Gallas because he was always 100% committed when he played.”

Wenger added: “You are responsible for your own behaviour and not for the behaviour of other people.”

While the reception Gallas would receive will be under scrutiny, much of the other pre-match hype has been over just how Arsenal will cope with the threat of Gareth Bale, who helped rip Inter Milan apart in their recent Champions League clash.

While Wenger accepted it would be “important to keep Bale quiet”, the Arsenal boss does not want to lose sight of the overall picture.

“Tottenham have many good players in their team and for us it is important we produce a good team performance and not to focus on a single player out in their team,” he said.

Nicklas Bendtner is expected to be in the squad after missing the Everton game. That was, officially at least, put down to the Denmark striker’s recovery from a long-term groin injury rather than an outburst against his lack of first-team action.

“From what I can see he is 95% of his best and we hope he will contribute on our side to help us win football games and trophies,” Wenger said. “We do not educate players to let them go.”

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