LIVERPOOL -- Roberto Martinez has dismissed Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s suggestion that the Premier League loan system has given Everton an unfair advantage.
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Wenger suggested last week that the current top-flight loan system was “indefensible” because it allowed clubs to lend players strategically in order to hurt their rivals.
His comments were made two days before his Gunners side were beaten 3-0 at Goodison Park by an Everton side containing midfielder Gareth Barry, borrowed from Manchester City, and striker Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea.
Neither player can face their parent club under Premier League rules -- which Wenger argued has given City and Chelsea an advantage in the title race.
And he also felt that Everton have benefited from bringing in two players they might not have been able to sign last summer if they had to do so on permanent deals.
Martinez’s side will snatch the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot from Arsenal if they win all six of their remaining matches, starting at Sunderland on Saturday.
But the Everton manager -- who also used on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu as a substitute in the win over Arsenal -- has rejected Wenger’s criticism.
He said: “You accept everyone’s opinion. Obviously, the loan system is something that has to be part of the game.
“People will be against the idea of a club having a player who isn’t their property, but that player can be developed and their value increased. It’s a system that has its pros and cons.
“Clearly from our point of view, the loan system was vital. It was something we needed to finish our squad, but to criticise that would be ridiculous.
“It would be the same as criticising us because we give youngsters opportunities. At times in the lineup, we have four under-21s, and two on the bench. That’s an unknown quantity.
“The loanees have come in with an incredible attitude and desire. Two cases [Lukaku and Deulofeu] are young players who needed the opportunity to develop.
“Gareth is a player whose experience has been valuable. But you have to remember that they were all loan players who were available at the start of the season.
“Any loanees will never be successful unless you have a strong core of players, and that’s what we have.”
Barry, 33, has been a key part of Everton’s Champions League push this season, and is set to feature against Sunderland on Saturday even though he is at risk of a two-match suspension.
The midfielder has collected nine bookings this season, and if he collects a 10th this weekend, it will trigger the ban.
Players in the Premier and Football Leagues are suspended for two games if they are booked 10 times in domestic matches on or before the second Sunday in April -- meaning that Barry will escape a ban if he stays out of trouble this weekend.
Martinez has no problem with playing him on Saturday, though, saying: “Over the years, you learn that there are certain players who can cope with those situations better than others. I think Gareth has the focus to play the game.”