German lessons for Arsenal?

By Nick Tolhurst

The truth about the success of the German national team and what it means for Arsenal.

Despite losing to Spain in the semi-final, the story of this year’s world cup has without doubt been the rise of a new, exciting and multi-cultural young German team that has put much heralded and more expensive teams, such as England, to shame.

The simple narrative, much repeated in the papers, on radio and television by the “Punditocracy”, is that Germany has reaped the benefits of, like Arsenal, massively investing in youth while dramatically loosening nationality criteria. The truth is rather more complex and nuanced with both encouraging signs for Arsenal, but also warnings as well.

Before examining the reasons behind the success of Germany it is first necessary to swat away the false claims that somehow seem to have become accepted wisdom. While it’s true that some of the German team might look “a bit different” from the “traditional” German footballers of the 1970s, and the names seem sometimes less obviously “typical German” the idea that the national team is somehow a bunch of hurriedly collected together foreigners and “not quite Germans” is wide of the mark.

In fact every German team picked at the South Africa World Cup consisted almost without exception of players who were either born in Germany or had German parents or grandparents. The assumption that the national team is not “quite German” is based on ideas of the country that are at least four decades out of date. Indeed, the oft cited case of Mesit Ozil is particularly silly as he is a third generation German from the industrial heartland of Gelsenkirchen (a kind of German equivalent of Newcastle). If this is somehow “not German enough” then quite a few English players would have similar problems in qualifying for England!

However, on to more important issues: how has Germany succeeded in building a national team of young winners? Can England follow their example and more importantly for readers of this website what lessons does the success provide for Arsenal?

First the good news: it should now have become clear – even to the very last functionary at FA – that Arsenal’s strategy of intensive coaching of highly technically competent ball players from the youngest age possible is correct and holds more hope out for England’s long term future than a reliance on too early competitive matches, the long ball game and an emphasis on strength and size over initial skill level and natural athleticism.

But, what of the logistics of Germany’s success? Much has been made of the fact that Germany (like many European countries) has vastly more trained coaches holding Uefa’s A, B and Pro licences (35,000 to England’s 2,700), but little discussion has centred on the many implications of this.

It is not just obviously that there are more trained coaches in Germany, but that with 35,000 odd spread around the country even clubs based in small towns and villages have access to top class coaching.

Have you ever wondered why the vast majority of English footballers always seem to hail from the same areas? If promising schoolboys in Devon or Herefordshire don’t ever see a competent coach one can hardly expect these regions to produce decent footballers. The current German national team consists of players drawn from all over Germany – large city or small village. It is worth noting that only one of the 23 man squad – Jérôme Boateng – hails from the largest city – Berlin. Makes one wonder about just how many decent schoolboy players England are missing out on, doesn’t it?

But it gets worse, much worse. A cursory look at the English player’s backgrounds reveal that the vast majority were trained as schoolboys with clubs from the top two divisions.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask? The problem is that this implies that either the top clubs are so good that they recognized at ages 10-14 all the good players in England and snapped them up, or that lower division clubs are simply incapable of coaching decently enough to bring through top quality players.

However, as Germany has shown, small village sides can, with the right structure, resources and training, bring through top internationals on their first steps on the road to a career.  Indeed, most of the current German national team players’ first clubs while at school are village, town or suburban sides. The only logical conclusion that one can draw is that the pool of potential players England are drawing from is unnecessarily small and that if a promising schoolboy does not have the good luck to be living in the right area and to have caught the eye of a top team by the right age their chances of making it as an England international are roughly zero.

The final piece of bad news for England concerns the crucial 17-20 age period. Good Bundesliga teams nearly all run teams at the 3rd (sometimes 4th) level – that is equivalent to Division 1 and 2. These teams are far superior both to the reserve league or loan system English premier league clubs operate in that they are more competitive than the reserve league but build the ethos of the main “parent” team into the “second” (amateur) team.

In other words, when Arsenal lends a player to a Division 1 club it only has limited influence over the club and the way it trains and uses the player. This is completely different to Germany where, for example, Bayern Munich II in the 3rd league is set up exactly to ape Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga right down to formation, training and ethos.

Is it any wonder that players such as Thomas Müller or Holger Badstuber were able seamlessly move between the two clubs? This contrasts with England where one has the impression that even at Arsenal some of the loanees have to undergo a period of “re-education” after every loan spell is completed.

The above outlined points should give an idea why England seems to be falling behind Germany in producing top quality players who can transfer at a young age firstly into a top team and then into the national team. Of course there are many more reasons I could have outlined for which space is too limited to go into.

However, back to Arsenal, what are the implications for Arsenal of the German system? Firstly, and depressingly I would say that unless Arsenal gets hold of English players at an early age then the chances of building upon the work of lower division English clubs is vanishingly small.

It should come as no surprise that Arsenal best young prospect – Jack Wilshere – joined the club aged 9 and lives nearby. This helps to explain why Arsenal has seemed almost stubbornly averse to taking on English players after the age of 14. Unless the current set up changes I see little reason why Arsenal should change this policy.

On a more positive note rumours of Arsenal’s defection from the Reserve league system offers an intriguing new option. With clubs in England as well as the rest of Europe suffering in the economic downturn there may well be possibilities to build “semi-detached” sides which could be used as training grounds for arsenal players.

Imagine a French Ligue 2 club (or indeed English, German or Spanish clubs) which would obtain help and resources to follow the Arsenal way and best practices while receiving 4 or 5 youngsters every season from Arsenal to play in the first team. Surely this would be a better system than the present one? I have sensed over the last few seasons that Arsene Wenger was trying to do this, if with limited success, with clubs like Salamanca. If the reserve side really is cancelled, then one can only assume that something along these lines has already been planned. How many English players would go through this system remains to be seen.

However, here’s a thought: imagine an English team at the World cup in 2018 consisting of a majority of young 20 something cosmopolitan Arsenal players all of whom can speak at least one foreign language, had spent time abroad and were comfortable with the ball. The Sun and Clive Tyldesley might not like it but it might just be the saving of English football…..

Nick Tolhurst

Nick is a Germany based Arsenal fan and author of numerous articles and books, including most recently “Responsible Business” (Wiley 2010).  Details of the book are avaialable from the publisher or via Amazon

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30 Replies to “German lessons for Arsenal?”

  1. Lorient to take Sunu, Traore, Evina as well as Coquelin, that would be a good start

  2. Unfortunately for England I doubt the bigwigs at the FA have the intelligence that you possess. They will likely blame the amount of “foreigners” in the league and make scapegoats out of visionaries like Arsene Wenger when England fail miserably again.

    Little do they know Arsene Wenger is one of the few men clever enough to have started planning for this years before; he could even be the one who brings the English national team out of the footballing dark ages. Not that he’d get any credit for it of course. Bloody Frenchy!

  3. Food for thought!!
    Further, Continental football rises from quality and skills – quite different from EPL game which seems to rely much on the physical aspects. EPL fans it seems, are excited by the sight of players coming into the arena as prize-fighters, rather than players to exhibit football as a beautiful game. Does that say something about England not reaching the top in world football?

    Mr. Wenger must be oozing watching Spain playing his brand of football. It was Arsenal football played by better players. The whole world enjoyed the Spain-Germany WC semi-final that had a mere handful of fouls, no yellow card, and a continuous flow of class football.

  4. I Think Gareth has pretty much nailed it, but it really does make you wonder, what are the FA bigwigs being paid for other than to shift blame problems they are helping to create?

  5. Gtreat post…that boy Muller is gonna grow awesome,you just watch…

  6. Excellent article, but a few inaccuracies.

    1. Arsene Wenger, when absolutely top dog in 2004, openly stated that he was not interested in signing Wayne Rooney BEFORE an auction started. If Rooney isn’t good enough for Wenger, no English player will be until kingdom come. Why Diaby, Traore, Sagna, Clichy and Denilson are remains a mystery in that situation……….I’m not being nasty, I’m being brutal. Wenger won’t sign the best English player of his generation – it’s nothing to do with culture or technique, you’d better ask him what it’s to do with……because if you examine Rooney in the past 6 years, not the past 6 weeks, his control is instant, his passing excellent, his positional sense superb, his instinct for competition excellent and his goalscoring just about acceptable. Isn’t it?
    2. To those who know anything about Germany, long-term immigrant communities exist, there just wasn’t a thing called the British Commonwealth which was the source for all British immigrants. Their team is full of Germans of immigrant bloodline. Unlike our cricket team…..
    3. What was Wenger’s reason for not signing Joe Cole, Michael Carrick et al when West Ham were selling them? Seem to be regular players in teams which won the EPL and the Champions league, don’t they?? Nothing to do with bad technique, something else, wasn’t it????

    I’m really sorry this argument about england’s top players not being good enough for Wenger is rubbish. You look at what he bought instead and remember this: players with no positional sense are a liability as much as those who you might claim take two touches to control the ball. If you doubt that, look at how Arsenal were taken to the cleaners by Utd last year in the League and in the ECL semi-final and focus solely on the total lack of positional awareness of the team when not on the ball. It’s been the same for a few years and it’s frightening…

    Arsenal’s strategy is all to do with their global commercial strategy. It’s far easier to be part of a cecession to be like F1 if your links to the home country are broken. Whilst it’s important to blood a belgian, a Mexican et al to sell media deals.

    So what we enjoy now is the home fans paying £70m+ to be discriminated against and other countries paying a little bit to be pandered to.

    That’s where the discussion should centre and it surprises me somewhat that it doesn’t.

    Is there some reason for that????

  7. What i will do is take a midway point between Nick’s arguments and Jaggars opinion. i think that since the Emirates stadium project began, Arsene Wenger has had to devlop an innovative approach to making arsenal competitive while remaining true to his football ethos. that is by buying cheap talent from the continent. to be able to do this, he must look beyond overpriced English players who have been to turned into media superstars. A case in point, when Curtis Davies was at West Brom, he absolutely out muscled Thierry Henry after which the latter described him as a fearless young Defender. but the guy had only played a season in the premier league. Arsene wenger having made a bid for him baulked at paying ten million for a player who had only spent a season in the premiership. No to 10M pounds 4 or 5 years ago and 8.5 million for a defender this years speaks volume about the man’s financial intelligence and the unreasonable pricing of the English of their own players. this of course is perhaps the England is one dimensional in its play and English players are robbed of the opportunity to play Wengerball as an alternative especially in international competitions. Didn’t Kaiser say that England still play Kick and Rush football. Good footballers are not the exclusive property of Brazil but when opportunity to become better footballers come, is love of money the stumbling block to a brighter future?

  8. Rhys,
    1.Maybe in 2004 with TH, DB in the team he could see no room to accomodate Rooney? So why buy him at a high price and also keep in mind that Arsenal was starting to build the Emirates and knew there would be not money to spend?

    2. /

    3. Maybe those players wanted to much money and they didn’t fit in the wage structure? I don’t know if Arsenal have been talking with those players or their managers and maybe they wanted to much money?

    Another reason could be that the English players he bought weren’t his most succesfull buys?

    And to go on further on the “racist” reasons you try to point out. On some sides it is said on a regular base that Wenger likes black players more than white. For the moment this looks a bit silly for those who say that. What has Wenger bought in recent years? Vermaelen, Arshavin, Koscielny all as white as the Englishman from a few 100 years back. Nasri and Chamack are not real “black” Africans I think.

    So I really think that Wenger when he buys a player he looks at:
    a)is he good enough technically
    b)can I use him
    c)do I have already players who are better/can become better
    d)how much does he cost in transfer
    e)how much does he cost in wages

    I think if someone came from Mars and was good enough, Wenger would buy him even if he was green and had 3 arms and a head with 4 eyes in it.

  9. @Rhys. Look at the players you listed, and then what they were sold for. Rooney is a player any team would have wanted, but would Wenger break the transfer record by huge sums to be held ransom in the years to come? And you must also add the fact that we can’t buy every class player out there and they might just want to play for Man Utd.

  10. And Nick, nice article.
    Educating young players is very important and the more qualified coaches you have in a country the more succes you will have in the long run.

    When I was a kid(long time ago) we had at some stage the “luck” to have a coach with a Belgium license (not Uefa licences as they didn’t exist in that time). I remember his first trainings and when we were trying to juggle with the ball a bit he went furious. We should leave the ball alone and start running round the field. That was what we supposed to do. This is some 35 years ago.
    At the same time in Holland they started their training with juggling with the ball. What followed was that Holland was world class from that time on and Belgium, apart from a few lucky tournaments based on defending with 10 man behind the ball and fast counter attacks, are hopeless in international football.

    And before you give me names of young Belgium players who look promising: almost all of them had the biggest and most important part of their youth training in Holland or France. (Vermaelen, Hazard, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Dembele, …)

  11. Ladies and gentlemen i think the English footballers are crap and so is the coaching set up, Look at how many English footballers play outside England, the fact that clubs outside England do not seek them is testimony enough of how raw or technically inept they are regarded. Similarly how many English coaches are hired abroad the reasons are presume are the same. So if the like of Arsen find little to buy in England then we must respect their judgment. This is not to say There is no good football talent in England. The English are simply terrible bragats who know nothing about identifying and naturing talent but spend more time worshiping and hallucinating about mediocrity

  12. btw walter, can the Martian play as keeper? 3rd arm would be very benificial I presumed 😉

  13. And some 10 years ago when I went with my sons on an international tournament with their team I couldn’t believe my eyes. All the players from the German and Holland teams could juggle the ball like artists. ALL OF THEM. So it was clear to see that they trained on those things and this was also clear to see in the games as they all had great controll when the ball was played to them no matter how bad the pass was. The tricks those guys showed could only be performed by one maybe two of the players in my sons team (and my sons werent on of them 🙁 ).
    And those teams were small town teams just like our team.

  14. The following is cut and pasted from the Daily Telegraph, showing how different Arsenal are from all the other EPL clubs, assuming of course that the data is accurate:

    ‘Which clubs are looking to the international future with Premier League academy players and graduates? ‘

    1. English players who have played in the first-team.

    2. Players who have represented England at some level but not played in the first-team.

    3. Foreign players who have played in the first-team.


    1. Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Craig Eastmond, Kyle Bartley, Tom Cruise, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Mark Randall, Sanchez Watt

    2. None

    3. Cesc Fabregas, Johan Djourou, Nicklas Bendtner, Vito Mannone, Armand Traore, Nacer Barazite,Francis Coquelin, Gilles Sunu, Wojciech Szczesny


    1. Gabby Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton, Nathan Delfouneso, Isaiah Osbourne, Ciaran Clark

    2. Elliot Parish, Harry Forrester, Gary Gardner, Jason Lampkin, Bradley Watkins

    3. None


    1. Ashley Sammons, Jordan Mutch, Dan Preston, Jake Jervis

    2. Jack Butland, Nathan Redmond, Mitch McPike

    3. None


    1. David Dunn, Andrew Haworth, Phil Jones

    2. None

    3. Aaron Doran, Grant Hanley, David Hoilett


    1. Danny Mitchley

    2. None

    3. None


    1. Chris Basham, Nicky Hunt, Danny Ward, Tope Obadeyi

    2. Lewis Fielding

    3. None


    1. John Terry, Michael Mancienne, Sam Hutchinson, Scott Sinclair, Ben Gordon, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork, Jacob Mellis, Michael Woods, Aziz Deen-Conteh, Josh McEachran

    2. None

    3. Fabio Borini, Jeffrey Bruma, Gael Kakuta, Patrick van Aanholt


    1. Tony Hibbert, Jack Rodwell, James Wallace, Leon Osman, Jose Baxter, Kieran Agard, James Vaughan, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Jake Bidwell, Adam Forshaw

    2. Hope, Ross Barkley

    3. Hope Akpan


    1. Robert Milsom, Matthew Briggs

    2. Keanu Marsh-Brown

    3. None


    1. Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Jay Spearing, Stephen Darby, Martin

    Kelly, Jack Robinson, Nathan Eccleston Conor Coady, Andre Wisdom, Alex Whittle, Deale Chamberlain, Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling

    2. None


    1. Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards, Michael Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips George Evans, Alex Henshall, Louis Hutton, Shay Facey, Kieran Trippier,

    Andrew Tutte, Alex Nimely, Javan Vidal, Adam Clayton, Ben Mee, Adam Clayton



    1. Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Paul Scholes, Danny Welbeck, Ben Amos, James Chester

    2. Tom Cleverley, Samuel Johnstone, William Keane, Tom Thorpe, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Danny Drinkwater, Reece Brown, Cameron Stewart, Matthew James, John Cofie

    3. None


    1. Shola Ameobi, Andy Carroll, Steven Taylor, Nile Ranger

    2. Ryan Donaldson

    3. None


    1. Andy Wilkinson, Louis Moult, Carl Dickinson, Ryan Shotton

    2. None

    3. None


    1. Jack Colback, Jordan Henderson, Martyn Waghorn, Ryan Noble

    2. None

    3. Michael Liddle


    1. Ledley King, Jamie O’Hara, Jake Livermore, Ryan Mason, Jon Obika, Dean Parrett, John Bostock, David Button, Peter Crouch

    2.Adam Smith, Andros Townsend, Steven Caulker, Harry Kane

    3. None


    1. George Thorne

    2. Sam Mantom, Ryan Allsop, Lateef Elford-Alliyu, Saido Berahino

    3. Chris Wood


    1. Mark Noble, Junior Stanislas, Freddie Sears, James Tomkins, Zavon Hines, Jordan Spence, *Anthony Edgar

    2. Matthias Fanimo and Blair Turgott

    3. Jack Collison


    1. Callum McManaman

    2. None

    3. None


    1. Matt Murray, Ashley Hemmings, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing

    2. Jamie Reckford, Scott Malone

    3. Wayne Hennessey, Carl Ikeme

  15. i like to say this ,if England are ever to do well in a compition
    again(win it)then changes have to be made every where, not just at clubs,parents must change thier atitudes to thier kids playing in football teams,go and watch a local under 12’s team in ur local park, watch how bad it is lol.
    the kids get no real coaching,yes they get training sessions once aweek but its all a little running then a game of football afterwards.
    then the game it self, i hardly ever see a team coach tell thier players to pass the ball , to make the ball do the work?,its all belt the ball up field and chase it,with very little passing inbetween.
    the parents who are mainly mothers, who have no understanding of the game and want get home to watch big brother, and fathers who only want thier son to get forward and score agoal,then straight off to the pub to brag, are just shouting, telling thier kids to do the complete oppersite, to what the coach as told em to do?(thier are some coaches who try to organise thier kids to play some football).
    my brother granson play he 12 and is coached laughabley by a girl in arsenal ladies team(won’t say her name but she a winger )shes good with the kids and they win trophy’s galore.
    but,thiers no teaching off how to tackle proply no showing how to shield the ball,some teaching in passing the ball not much(and kids don’t listern anyway cos dad tell em to whack the ball up field),this is what we need to fix, in football proper coaching,if the kids don’t do as they told, on the pitch, ie pass the ball instead off trying to beat every tom dick or harry,head the ball(why don’t kids head no more)then they get dropped the following week,this will teach the kid to listern and learn the skills needed ,parents need to step back and stopped coming to games if they continue to encourage the old kick and rush football, instead of helping the coach in incourageing them to pass,trap ,head and tackle proberly,(and it no good teaching kids to play like bolton or stoke)
    it no good having a 12 or 14 year old dribbling doing tricks on the ball if he don’t know how to shield the ball or know how and when to pass it,and play as a team menber and not an individual. come on efa get behind the kids put some real money into it,instead of hiding it all away encourage amature coaches to teach better tecnics,support teams like QPR,FULHAM and ARSENAL who do orginise under 12 leagues around london,help
    them to invest and lets get rid off kids playing kick and rush.

    thats the problem in England,in the usa its different they proberly taught and shown how to play at a young age, for all thoughs who mock the usa ,you wait they will win the world cup one day

  16. it’s also got be said the young british players mentality is so different to foriegn players,our young lads just want the money now ,and to go out and buy big expensive cars and go clubbing drinking and in some cases drugs.
    i found that most foreign players are willing to work harder in training often staying behind to do extra training on thier tecnic, always willing to learn more from senior players.
    thats another atitude to change, why are players like 17 yr old wilshire being given 20plus thousand pounds aweek and not even in the first team,same goes for Jay Emmanuel thomas,pennant and bentley,all good players but money was thrown at em and they think they made it before they made it in the first team,bentley not the player he should of been,nor is pennant.
    maybe we need to cap youth player wages,how can any one justify paying a 17 year old youth playere 15grand a week just for being promising,it makes no sense.

  17. I thought AFOBE had represented England recently (successfully), I do not recall him making a first team appearrance for club.

  18. We all know (or am I guilty of supposition?) that the level of coaching within England is very low – possibly due to economic problems when governments place sporting endeavours below much else.

    I know that The Arsenal do their utmost to instill added quality to that already present for the kids brought into the Academy.

    But is it not the case that clubs are only allowed to accept english players from within a certain radius of their facilities?

    Now I might not be seeing the full picture, but it would appear that much talent – you cite Devon and Hertfordshire, Nick – may be being ignored because of what may now be another short-sighted regulation. Maybe families from outlying regions (with regards to football coaching) might be prepared to move for the sake of their talented offspring, given that they might need some financial assistance from clubs of government.

    Cloud-cuckoo land, I suppose.

    And thanks for a well-written, interesting article, Nick.

  19. A very interesting read, and I do agree with many of your ideas. I’m taking my first coaching badge soon so will be writing about the qualification and the like in the coming months.

    Re: Jack Wilshere. If I remember correctly, he wasn’t even involved with the England set-up at the U19 level until he came on in the Emirates cup nearly a year ago and dominated versus Rangers. You have to wonder what the England scouts are doing – here is a lad, who had the ability to play in the U21s (where they put him after they watched the Emirates Cup game) and yet he was barely integrated in the England set-up. It’s an absolute farce – they can’t even claim a lack of funding for scouting players as if you were going to watch the youth set-up of one side in England, surely it would be the Arsenal?

    Total insanity. How many other promosing youngsters are missed by idiotic English scouts?

  20. Gooneraside: you are correct, clubs can only recruit players from within 90mins drive. It’s a daft idea – imagine if the brightest kids could only go to University within 90minutes drive – and I think it was Roy Keane who said “it has the right idea [protecting smaller clubs from the larger clubs poaching talents] but half of my radius around Sunderland is underwater”

  21. Wenger could certainly have bought Rooney. But I’d rather take Bendtner, Henry, Chamakh, Van Persie and Adebayor at a total cost of under 20mil than Rooney at 25mil.

    Again would Wenger rather pay Joe Cole 80,000 a week, or Nasri for half that? Buy Carrick for 11mil or Denilson for under a million?

    Some of the English players are technically up to standard, however, their prices and wages are inflated. If I were trying to make my club do the best it can while building a new stadium I’d probably shy away from all these deals.

    Plus, I think that Henry was better than Rooney is, Denilson is better than Carrick and Nasri is better than Cole (when Cole was at his peak we had Ljungberg)

  22. Great piece, really enjoyed reading it. Will be interesting to see in the coming months whether or not the British press come up with anything as interesting as this article that adds to the youth/development debate. I doubt it.
    Also didn’t Arsene Wenger comment a long while back, that he finds it frustrating that Arsenal can only pick kids (under 16) from a set geographical area around the club, so this limits what they can do as they can only work with the resources that are available in their area. I maybe totally inaccurate with this, but maybe it is a reason why Arsenal look at the foreign market for youths as keenly as they do, because they know these kids will have had better grounding in their respective countries upto the age of 16.

  23. Interesting article and hopefuly it will work out well for both Arsenal and England in the long run.
    The big issue is we need to hold on to players that we bring through. Germany wont loose those players to another country for the next world cup.
    They may have been to young to win this tournament but they will age together and grow together.
    How do we keep our team together is my question are you saying by hopefuly changing the structure so that we get all english kids in and they wont want to go back to spain etc ?

    Its a difficult road ahead.

  24. Nick-I think this is a great article. I have always been impressed by how nearly all German players can shoot- going back a generation and that often contrasts with their British counterparts. This must be about coaching fundamentals. I believe that at a world cup teams face unprecedented pressure and players then rely on their fundamental skills.
    Englands players-especially Rooney all need space in order to play. When that space was denied and they could not use their strength, they didnt seem to know what to do-became inpatient and were pulled apart. Arsenal is the one team in the EPL that does not need space to play-the ball is played to feet and keeping possession, creating angles making the ball do the work is key. Does Rooney play this way? No. Would you pay 28m for him- when you had not paid more than 17 for anyone? Its a no brainer.
    I think this country must change its style of play-we must start producing athletes and footballers.Athletes and footballers are kicked out of the game-or dont surface. I cant see any option but re- interpreting the rules in the way they have been in this WC-that means penalising dangerous challenges. Up and under football has to go. Greater skill has to be taught at all levels of the game, from an earlier age.
    Yes -Arsene Wenger got it right-well about the style of play he has-perhaps not about defending-but lets hope we can improve that.

  25. Many thanks Nick, a very illuminating article.

    The key point that says it all really:

    “Germany (like many European countries) has vastly more trained coaches holding Uefa’s A, B and Pro licences (35,000 to England’s 2,700)”

    A comparison of local facilities would also be interesting. My guess would be a similar ratio.


    Reuters Aug 2004

    AW at press conference:

    ‘Wayne Rooney’s transfer could have an impact on the title,’ Wenger told reporters on Friday. ‘But I am not worried about him going to United. I don’t expect one of my main opponents to sit in a chair relaxing and letting us cruise through the league.

    ‘We knew that at some stage they would try to build a big side and I am conscious of that,’ he added.

    United, English champions eight times in the last 12 years, finished third last season behind Arsenal and Chelsea.

    Wenger said Rooney would still have to prove himself and cope with the pressure of a transfer fee likely to be around £25 million.

    ‘Part of having a big career as a player is dealing with a big transfer fee,’ Wenger said. ‘If he leaves Everton it will only be for a big fee and all big players have to cope with that in their career.

    ‘I rate Wayne Rooney and at 18 his price looks quite normal for a striker.’

    As we have not approached then or now paying a fee of £25m+ for anyone I would gather that your recollection as more that we would never be able to afford him, as Everton were no mugs.

    Also there are certainly some inaccuracies in the Telegraph list. Several AFC players have been omitted including Lansbury & Hoyte.

  26. A very good article which highlights really the lack of overall professionalism between the two nations. Living in Germany the thing that is obvious to anybody is that the country has a training ethos right throughout its society whether it is job or sports related.Think deeply about the incredible imbalance to trained football coaches quoted in the article. For example it would be unheard of that somebody who has not been to college for at least two years could end up on the front desk at a German hotel. How do you think that idea would go down in the UK? You have to be lucky sometimes to find somebody on the front desk that can understand you the first time!! This is money driven for sure. Yes the English football situation is dire – Jurgen Klinsmann in 2004 started to change the philosophy adopted by the German national coaching system and it seems like it is now on the verge of delivering the top prizes. Although Kilismann’s team in 2006 nearly pulled it off. Will the English set up change? Can they wait 6 years like the Germans. Would the English press wait or be calling for somebody’s head instead of looking deeper for the real causes. Yes English footballers get too much money, yes some consider themselves Prima Donnas; are they prepared to work together for the English national team and the nation? Recent evidence suggest that not many did too much on the latter point. Sad to say that there needs to be a very very big rethink at national level regards training right through the country and at the top if any top level trophies are to be won by England. Lets all hope somebody will start to think a little bit deeper than they are now.

  27. Nick, good article and thank you.

    However, I think Rhys posting deflected the thrust of the article, which contrasted the German Youth System with the English into an unfair and unfounded kite that Arsene is biased against English players on racial rather than sporting grounds.

    Yet, it is clear that much of what Arsene see wrong with the problems of recruiting English players, he is addressing via the Arsenal Youth set up – which mirrors the German “wisdom” and is already producing a copious crop of English players among the “Young Guns”.

    In addition to poor technique, one of the major reasons why clearly talented English players may have not been attractive to Arsene long term may also be what I would like to call their “David Bentley” attitude. As soon as the English press start praising them, they stop being humble and hardworking: they wish to dictate where, when and how they play; they wish to dictate who becomes their teammates; they even pander to the phobia to “foreigners” in the English press. And of course, they want more money than their talents justify.

    Bentley was traded not so much for his lack of talent but for his poor attitude. So, take another look at the list of potential English players Wenger could have and evaluate their susceptibility to the David Bentley attitude virus.

  28. I think there are many other issues affecting the development of English talent.

    1. Schools – boys at some “posher” schools are not encouraged to play football at all – they play rugby, even if their real talent is for football. This leads to the situation where most top english players are a bit “on the slow side” academicaly (Just listen to an interview – if you can stand it – with any of the England squad with perhaps the minor exceptions of David James and Frank Lampard)

    2. Boys should not “belong” to football clubs. I can’t help but think that, for many boys, being “on terms” with a big club would be massively distracting, and must lead to unrealistic expectations – we hear no end of celebration of the success of youth players, but nothing about the huge number who are discarded every year – does anyone care about them? Time, in my view, to totally separate boys football from clubs – perhaps introducing a youth league for 15-17 yr olds, on the basis of college football in USA.

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