Wenger hails new generation of young British players coming through at Arsenal
23:25 GMT, 25 August 2012
Arsene Wenger feels the likes of England duo Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wales captain Aaron Ramsey can provide a 'British core' around which to build Arsenal's next generation.
Having seen captain Robin van Persie and midfielder Alex Song leave Emirates Stadium in recent weeks, the Arsenal manager admits it has left him having to 'start again' in moulding a squad capable of challenging for the top honours once more.
Wenger, though, feels now having so many young players who have been schooled domestically can make a big difference.
Top talent: Arsenal and England left-back Kieran Gibbs
'Before we had young players like [Cesc] Fabregas and [Samir] Nasri. Now for the first time we have some good young British players in the group – [Kieran] Gibbs, [Aaron] Ramsey, Wilshere, [Carl] Jenkinson, Chamberlain.
'This time we have an English core, a British core of players of similar qualities which we want to build on.'
Wenger was once berated for a lack of home-grown talent in his Arsenal squad.
The Gunners manager maintains while he still always looks at ability rather than a passport, the fact the domestic Academy system has started to bear fruit is a positive development.
'We are still only focused on quality, but for the first time England produces so much quality,' he said.
Dragon: Wales captain Aaron Ramsey
'It is not that I have changed. For me the quality is the most important thing.
'My dream was always to produce 60 per cent English and 40 per cent foreign young players.'
Wilshere is currently battling back towards full fitness after missing the whole of last season because of an ankle injury.
The 21-year-old has been handed Van Persie's old No 10 shirt as a sign of the faith Wenger has in him.
The Gunners boss believes the bond the England midfielder now has with the club he has been with since the age of nine will offset the likelihood of being lured elsewhere in the future.
'It is certainly easier to keep Wilshere at Arsenal than Fabregas when he has an offer from Barcelona. That is for sure,' said Wenger.
Chance: Carl Jenkinson has been playing with Bacary Sagna out injured
'It will be a little bit easier because it means more to them.'
Arsenal head to Stoke on Sunday looking to put the frustrations of last weekend's goalless draw against Sunderland behind them.
Wenger believes it will be a good test of how adaptable new signings German striker Lukas Podolski, France forward Olivier Giroud and Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla, who had an excellent debut, can be.
'It will give them a good image,' quipped the Arsenal manager. 'Usually they are quite well informed when they travel there. We will focus on playing our game, we do not make too much of it.
'The rules are the rules and the referee is the referee and we just have to play our game and Stoke will play their game.'
Wenger knows Arsenal must make a solid start, which did not happen last season, if they are to keep pace with the leaders.
Impressive: Cazorla caught the eye on debut
While the Gunners boss admits just targeting Champions League qualification is 'not enough', he also remains realistic.
'We want to win the championship, of course, but it [Champions League] is a basic target,' he said.
'If you don't finish in the top four what would we face here [in the media]'
Wenger, though, knows it will be a tall order for his young side to mount a sustained title challenge.
'At the moment Manchester City and Manchester United have a bigger financial potential, so they have of course more credit at the start,' he said.
'In England it's special because Chelsea won the Champions League, but they finished sixth, so the competition you face is very hard.'