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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 10, 2007

Wenger: Foreign quota bad for English football

Arsene Wenger has held up Reading as a prime example of why a quota on foreign players would be bad for English football.

A key reason behind Reading's survival in the Barclays Premier League last season was the midfield pairing of Steve Sidwell and James Harper.

Both players are ex-Arsenal trainees who did not make the grade under Wenger, with the likes of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit ahead of them.

Reading manager Steve Coppell is one of those managers in favour of a limit to the number of foreign players in the Barclays Premier League.

But Wenger argues a quota system would deny the likes of Reading a chance to snap up high-quality cast-offs, like Sidwell and Harper, who still have a future at the highest level.

'The rule for success is just live around Arsenal and pick off the players who do not make it completely and I promise you will have a very good team,' said Wenger.

'There are very good players who will not all make it here but when they drop out they will still make a good team.

'Harper and Sidwell did not get in here because they had Petit and Viera and Edu in front of them. I think to force the clubs in England to have only English players in the side would be detrimental to the smaller clubs.'

Sidwell has now moved on to Chelsea but Reading also boast two other former Arsenal players on their books in John Halls and Graham Stack, although both are currently out on loan.

Others players plying their trade in the Premiership having graduated at Arsenal include Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, Blackburn midfielder David Bentley, West Ham defender Matthew Upson and Sunderland striker Anthony Stokes.

Wenger added: 'I am happy if they have a good life. Sidwell was an important player for them because he had a good partnership with Harper.

'Sidwell's aim was to become a professional football player at a top team. He is.

'If we have just contributed a little bit we are happy with that. We take the criticism, no problem.

'As a manager you want to have a positive influence on the life of your football players.'

Arsenal's current crop of stars head to Reading on Monday night on the back of a 26-game unbeaten run, following the midweek Champions League draw with Slavia Prague.

Reading, conversely, have been consistently inconsistent so far this season.

But they have won four of their six home league games and Wenger is full of respect for the work Coppell has done at the Madejski Stadium.

'The expectation is not exactly the same at Reading as it is at Arsenal,' said Wenger.

'If he can manage to keep Reading in the Premier League for 10 years he will certainly be the manager.

'I think what he has done is absolutely exceptional and I rate it at the same level as I do here.

'With less potential you can achieve less. But what is the purpose of every manager? To do the maximum with what he has at his disposal.

'If you judge him on that, then he has done very well for Reading.'

Wenger is set to recall Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb, who were rested for the midweek Champions League draw, plus Kolo Toure and Tomas Rosicky after they recovered from injury.