Since the beginning of the FA Premier League a lot has changed, the foreign influence on the league has become massive from the coaching staff all the way up to the Russian billionaires who fund our beloved league to this day, but has this had some serious negative effects on our league and the English game as a whole?
Here is the starting 11 from Manchester United’s FA Cup Final’s in 1994 (Left) and 2004 (Right)
8/11 British players in 94, compared with 7/11 in 2004. Not bad for a ten year gap; however a look at the two squads as a whole does start to show more of a foreign influence overall by 2004.
Fortunately at this point there did not seem to be too many signs of English teams suffering on the European stage, up until recently England were regularly responsible for providing at least 25% of teams in the Champions League quarter finals. Even with an ever increasing percentage of foreign players in starting XI’s across the country many key players for the top teams were still British, the last 15 years has seen the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Carragher, Rooney, Bale, Beckham, Scholes and Giggs lead our island’s football teams on to great success both domestically and in Europe and that is not to say we no longer have leaders and star players in the Premiership, it is just that none of them are from Britain.
British teams perform best when British players lead them. Liverpool 2005, led by Gerrard and Carragher. Chelsea 2012, led by Terry and Lampard. These memorable title winning teams are led by our own players, take Manchester City over the last couple of seasons in comparison. On paper City 2014-15 is better than Liverpool 2004-05 no question; however they consistently fail on the European stage, with no Englishman to truly lead them.
I am not saying for one second foreign players are bad leaders, I just do not think you can play and lead with the same passion you can as a local boy if you have moved half way across the globe. Fernando Torres has 3 goals in 8 games since re-joining Atletico Madrid and although he is not the captain of the team you can see that he is once again playing with passion, the kind of passion he never showed at Chelsea.
We are in an age with near perfect footballers which means it is the little things, the things you cannot train that make the difference on the big stage. Passion is this key, it turns the great players into the club legends you see lifting the trophies.
A clash in styles can also have a hugely detrimental effect on big teams. Players brought up in countries with different teaching techniques to one another are never going to gel as well as 11 local lads who have played together, and been coached together since school. Take a look at Arsenal’s 2014 FA Cup Final team (Left) compared to Guardiola’s legendary Barcelona team from the 2011 Champions League Final (Right)…
Two great clubs, two great squads but there is a key difference. More than half Barcelona’s squad came through the academy and the rest have either been there for years or know the rest through the national set up, these players gel well and are passionate towards the club and their team mates.
Arsenal have players from all sorts of backgrounds and whilst I cannot comment on each players commitment to the club or the team, having watched both these squads on numerous occasions you get a clear sense that Barcelona’s 2011 players were a ‘team’, whereas Arsenal are just a squad.
I personally did not rate Busquets 4 years ago, but Barcelona gave him a chance at the best club in the world and now I will admit he is a fantastic midfielder. English teams rarely give players more than half a season before replacing them with a ludicrously overpriced foreigner… and we wonder why the England team are shit?
As much good as all this foreign money has done to the Premier League it has left some lasting problems, England as a national team will continue to falter until more clubs start putting faith in homegrown players again; however with such an array of talent abroad without the inflated pricetag an Englishman comes with it may be some time before we start to see more clubs like Southampton putting real faith in youth.
Great teams don’t use home grown players to fill a quota, or keep a fairly consistent style of football upbringing within the squad for ease of management, they NEED them to become a great team.