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They wanted him to speak in English, but?


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?he said ?Non, non, non.?

Apologies right at the start of this post for it being far too long, but, as the title suggests, it began as an appraisal of the Lassana Diarra transfer and simply grew into a much bigger and more important topic for discussion. Whilst in Rob Styles mode, I?m also sorry to open with a reference to, and words of, a reporter who once labelled our club ?Charmless? and who, shortly after his transfer to us, stated that Frank Lampard would never be an England International footballer. That said (and never forgotten), the Telegraph?s Henry Winter is changing his attitude towards Chelsea, if the evidence of his latest article is anything to go by, even though he still can?t bring himself to enthuse over the transformation the club is going through and merely reports in a detailing and slightly suspicious tone.

Why should I want to quote him then? Well, the article in question serves my purpose and Henry has one quality which, try as he sometimes does in his penmanship, he can?t ignore in his own appearance and manner. In short, Henry Winter is very English, in the same way that Arsene Wenger is very French, and so his latest piece on Chelsea must have put a skip in his step and some hope in his heart, even if it failed to come across quite like that in print. Here are a few quotes relating to the Academy for Shed Enders to savour :-

?The talent factory is busy: 17 current Academy players have represented England at under-17s to under-21s, fulfilling the aim of Mourinho and Roman Abramovich to develop more John Terrys. ?

?On Thursday, five Chelsea players were called up by England Under-19s?

?Seventy per cent of Chelsea's players between 15 and 21 are English?

?.and here?s a couple more relating to how the young players are monitored :-

?A player with 'positive attitude' but 'low energy' is given a 'white' coding by Chelsea, and the label 'Spectator' because he is 'comfortable, goes through the motions, sits on the fence - a Mr Nice Guy'. Down the scale lies 'negative attitude' and 'low energy' levels, leading to 'Victim, depressed' and a 'grey' colour coding. Chelsea list the 'Victim' attributes as: 'Why change? This is pointless. It's not fair. Constantly moaning. Blame culture'.?

?The worst combination for a player is 'negative attitude' and 'high energy' level and described as 'Terrorist' by Chelsea. Coloured 'envious green', this player is dubbed a: 'Cynic. Two-faced. Negative comments. Bully. Sarcasm. Gossip/stirs. Big-time Charlie'.'?

When I heard that Diarra had gone to Arsenal my immediate reaction was one of disappointment. Then it slowly sank in that he was, in player/position terms, behind Maka, Essien and Mikel for the holding role in midfield and behind Beletti, Paulo, Essien and, in all probability, Ben Haim in the battle to take the RB position. Steve Sidwell sprung to mind as further competition and his acquisition on a free became a little clearer as I recalled that video clip of Diarra larking around with Didier, Maka, Essien and Geremi.

For those of you who don?t remember, or haven?t seen it, it followed a series of games where Diarra had played well in the first team, had his name chanted, and generally been accepted by the fans. Neil Barnett tried to interview him for the first time with him speaking English and enlisted the help of his team mates to get the job done. The whole thing became a bit of joke as they tried to make him appear in front of the camera and say a few words, but Lassana wasn?t having any and I remember thinking at the time that here was a shy lad who, given a season of two, would be more immersed in Chelsea ways - pretty much like Kalou and Mikel have been.

Obviously, it never happened and I?m left wondering if, in some cases, it ever does. Okay, the young players in or on the fringe of the first team won?t all appreciate the antics of a lunatic masseur or the video game culture of the skipper and his English mates, but the majority settle in and make it work anyway. If you like, Diarra saw the writing on the wall and went to a club that will give him a better chance of first team football, but that in itself leads us to look at the current cultures at both clubs and tells us a lot about how football is going to develop in both environments.

Nobody can deny that Arsenal have already set their stall out to encourage foreign players, especially French players, to the Emirates and in such a situation, the likes of Gallas and Diarra will be attracted to them, just as Ashley Cole and Sidwell (ex-Arsenal) will no doubt want to get away. Despite previous protestations, Wenger cannot imply that there is any hint of racism in all this and it is a simple matter of fact that Chelsea FC as a club want to encourage an English culture in their game, whereas Arsenal have a predominant Gallic influence, to the almost total exclusion of Brits. Bearing this in mind, is it any wonder that Diarra wanted away and the likes of Bentley of Blackburn wanted to go the other way at the first available opportunity?

So, why are these two clubs poles apart in their respective philosophies? The answer lies in the controlling bodies of both. While the Gunners may flaunt their Englishness at boardroom level it is paper thin and most of the time only supported by newspaper thickness. Nor does their hierarchy represent the best elements of the English sporting nature, preferring as it does to bleat about Johnny Foreigner daring to buy them out, yet forever adopting a laissez faire attitude when it comes to Wenger parking an inordinate number of the same ?types? on their lawn. He will, no doubt, cite the cost of buying British as the reason for there being none ?chez rouge?, but that argument doesn?t wash when you are quoted as saying that, if you had ?100m, you would still only buy one player and neither does it account for an Emirates exodus of British talent.

Contrast that mass of mixed messages with the Roman Abramovich approach and you will see that, beneath the initial splash the cash bonanza, beats a home grown Heart of Oak and, should the Academy not produce the goods in the next five years, it wont be for the want of trying. Who would have blamed Roman if he had shown the away team cultural bias of a Wenger when he arrived and flooded us with his countrymen or a boat load of Eastern Europeans? Not the Media because they would have been too busy laughing at us the fans. No, the general attitude would have been - it?s his club, he can do what he likes with it. Thank heavens he takes all the brickbats he does so stoically and has put in the foundations for a predominantly English team in a typically English League - just ask Henry, off the record of course, how impressed he was with the current set-up and he might give you an honest answer instead of a detailed list. He might also tell you that Glen Johnson was one time ?white? coded and Lassana Diarra...well, let?s just say that that might be a grey area.

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Some very enlightened observations there Dorset - they leave me with increased contempt for L'arse and some mixed feelings about our academy - I suppose I should be pleased that we are the nursery for the core of the next England team, but as someone who is not interested in In-ger-lund and all the jingoism that goes with it, it leaves me a bit worried too.

Put another way - I will be happy when the England campaign is over and we can get our players back full time, without the risk of injury on a pointless quest.

As for Lassana - I wish him all the best and Arsenal all the worst

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Somewhat in defence of Wenger (what am I saying!) I think you can understand why he predominantly favoured French players in the first few years of his time at Arsenal. He arrived at Arsenal with no experience of the English game and having only ever played or managed in France and Japan. As such it made sound sense for him to rely on the players he knew of and who he probably felt would understand what he wanted from them more than players who may be more unfamiliar with his style of play. Add the fact that the English market is massively over priced and it his trnasfer policy starts to make good sense.

After all Wenger, like Mourinho, and the vast majority of other managers in the top jobs now have no in built feeling of responsibility toward the English game or English international team.

Where, of course, Arsenal come unstuck is when they make banal noises about having an English ethic - there is nothing traditionally English about the way the club plays its football or the way it is managed. They cling forlornly to this idea that the key figures on the board are English and that gives them an honorary place in Buckingham Palace when the rest of the lights in the country go out. As if somehow the punters at home will believe that all the money put into the club was earned through good old fashioned English industry - yes it is true David Dein is a coalminer to trade and then built up his empire selling fish and chips on the beach of Bognor!

Naturally I am delighted at the thought of their being a wealth of young talent at Chelsea however I reserve any gushing until I see clear evidence that we, at some stage, are prepared to take a leap of faith with one or two of them. Seeing them come through and then move on all the time will, for me, point toward paying lip service rather than being fully committed to developing from within. That isn't to say I expect us to play players even if they are clearly not going to make the grade. There is always a natural falling away of players who showed potential but never fulfilled it. In fact it is the norm rather than the exception and I would say that if one or two really top drawer players came through the youth system every 3 or 4 seasons then a club is doing pretty well.

After years of neglect our youth system is still very much in its infancy and it is too early to be passing judgement on it however there are a few player now beginning to look capable and so it willbe good to see one or two of them making the break through within the next season or two.

Sorry to go off topic a little Dorset.

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The English market is massively over inflated, Loz, and for a number of years Wenger has, quite naturally, shied away from it, but that isn?t really what I?m talking about here - it?s the next level down, or next generation, which he has studiously ignored from a home grown standpoint and that is the glaring difference between the London clubs. Failure to compete in the market for a player such as Dean Ashton, is one thing, but to consistently go for young foreign players to the almost total exclusion of the Brits, at a level where cost is not a major concern, is quite another. Couple this with the fact that Arsenal received some Emirates Stadium funding on the back of the English youth development argument and you can see why it is a touchy subject for them and Platini may well turn out to be their least favourite Frenchmen inside the next five years.

You are right in saying that managers do not have an in built feeling of responsibility toward the English game, but there is no need to go to the other extreme in such a blatant fashion, whilst shouting ?foul? at the first raising of an eyebrow over the policy adopted. How ironic it would be if the Olde English Boardroom fought off the foreign hordes trying to oust them and ended up pushing Arsene into the arms of the FA. The Gunners would have a new manager in Tony Adams who wouldn?t know what to say to his cosmopolitan crew and Wenger would need to be introduced to everyone in his England squad except Ashley. It isn?t going to happen, but wouldn?t it be nice if it did!

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