The world is changing and Arsène Wenger believes that it isn’t all for the best. The clamour for big names and big money has meant that it is becoming more difficult to sign promising youngsters.
Wenger made his reputation as a coach who unearthed good talent and got them to his club for cheap. Patrick Vieira signed from Milan for £3.5m, Nicolas Anelka and Cesc Fábregas also arrived for nominal fees. The £10m spent on Thierry Henry in 1999 was regarded as a risky amount for a relatively unknown winger. But it was all worth it.
Now, however, it’s becoming almost impossible to do. The scouts and the supporters just want big name players.
“People want to see Lionel Messi. They don’t want to see a promising guy. First of all the name gives hope. When a guy has no name people are already skeptical, so it’s much more difficult for us.”
Arsenal play at Swansea City in the FA Cup third round on Sunday and Wenger will hope his defence can keep Michu at bay.
“We had heard of him,” said Wenger. “He was a guy who disappeared a little bit. He was in clubs where he was bombed out and so you always think: ‘OK, he doesn’t make it there, why should he make it here?’ But he has done extremely well. He looks as well that it is not accidental what he is doing, that he is a really good player.
“We have some other clubs who are doing very well and sometimes when you are a big club your scouts are a bit more cautious because they think: ‘Oh, it is Arsenal, it has to be a top-four player.’ So naturally they are less looking at players who play at smaller clubs, which Swansea can afford to do. You are always scared that he is a player who, if he does not do well, the scouts are looked at as responsible. The competition is higher on the scouting front, that is for sure.”
The Frenchman added: “The country where we were really, really competitive was France. They produce less players than they did 10, 15 years ago at the top level. The emerging countries now look to be Germany and Spain and they have many good young players; they have taken over.”