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Just As Wenger’s Arsenal Work Changed World Football, Benitez Could Follow Suit At Liverpool

Peter wonders if Benitez can do for Spainish players what Wenger has done for the French.

With the influx of foreign talent to the Premier League it’s long been debated that the England national team is suffering as young players are not being given the opportunity to test themselves at the highest level. Personally I feel that’s slightly unfair, as along with the raised prices homegrown talent, and if English players were good enough they’d be playing 1st team football. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy out there by foreign coaches to play foreigners ahead of Englishmen!

What foreign coaches have brought is a higher quality of player and over the last few years we’ve seen an influx of world class players coming from the continent. It’s not unusual for coaches from a certain country to bring in players from that same country to their club as usually they’re area of expertise lies in their homeland. We saw when Arsene Wenger went to Arsenal he slowly saw which areas of the squad needed reinforcement and brought in some of his fellow countrymen. Messrs Henry, Wiltord, Pires and Vieira were relative unknowns to most English fans when they arrived at Highbury yet Wenger turned them into 4 of the most important cogs in a team that was to win the double twice and go on eventually to become The Invincibles. Not only was Wenger and his band of Frenchmen good to watch but it helped the French national side immensely.

I don’t for a minute doubt that Wenger’s influence was integral to France capturing the European Cup in 2000 and looking like they couldn’t be stopped. Of course they came a cropper 2 years later in Korea and Japan when vital injuries to Pires and Zidane meant they were left without the footballer of the year in England and the Ballon D’Or winner. Coupled with Thierry Henry’s unfortunate sending off, they were never going to be able to do much with a coach as rigid as the bench he stands in front of. Whether France would have won that World Cup had it not been for the aforementioned injuries and red card is up for debate but with all those players at the disposal of a semi-competent coach you would have thought they would probably have reached the semi finals at least. My point is that without Wenger taking those players to Arsenal and allowing them to express themselves France would not have had such a strong squad.

Is something similar happening at Liverpool? Will Rafa Benitez preference for Spaniards somehow transform Spain into an international force? There’s no doubt that the players he’s brought in have been a great addition to the squad and Alonso, Torres and Reina are pretty much guaranteed starters if Benitez is to play his strongest team. But will these 3 (along with possibly Arbeloa if he gets the recognition he’s due) make enough of an impact at international level to lift Spain to the heights that France reached? Lets no forget that France had Zinedine Zidane in their team too along with Wenger’s players but that’s not to take away anything from the Spanish squad as they have plenty of talented players. As for the players Benitez has brought in from his homeland, the present quartet have definitely merited their stay on Merseyside because some of their fellow countryman have returned to their homeland after inauspicious performances (excluding Luis Garcia of course). The one thing all the players have done is step up a level since their arrival and this could turn out to be crucial to Spain’s fortunes. Granted Reina doesn’t really stand much of a chance of playing if Casillas is fit but Alonso and Torres tend to start and after raising their levels they could really affect results.

Mourinho only brought in a couple of his fellow countrymen, and even though Carvalho was pretty much a dead cert to start, Ferreira didn’t have the same fortune and Maniche came and went before anyone really noticed. Ferguson has Darren Fletcher but that can hardly qualify as trying to help your nation out! If England are to step up at international level maybe the current English managers in the Premier League should start buying English and promoting youth.