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No English players please, we're L'Arsenal
Updated: 2005-02-16 17:01

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his decision to field an entire squad made up of overseas players against Crystal Palace on Monday was nothing remarkable, despite setting a landmark in English football.

Arsenal's French internationals (L-R) Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. Arsenal fielded their first entirely overseas squad in their 119-year history with no British players on the field or the bench for the Premier League match against Crystal Palace. [AFP]
At a time when UEFA are discussing plans to introduce quotas on home-grown players in club football, the champions did not include one Englishman in their 16-man squad that demolished relegation-threatened Palace 5-1 at Highbury to confirm their return to top form.

With England internationals Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell absent through illness and injury, Arsenal's starting 11 consisted of five Frenchmen, a German, Cameroonian, Ivorian, a Spaniard, Brazilian and a Dutchman. On the bench were two Spaniards, a Frenchman, a Swiss and a Dutchman.

"I didn't know about that until I was told about it," Wenger told reporters.

"I don't look at the passport of people, I look at their quality and their attitude."

Wenger joked: "England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson was here, so who did he watch then? Has he signed for a different country?"

Chelsea fielded the first overseas line-up in English football against Southampton in December 1999. Then managed by Italian Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea did include four young English players on the bench -- Jody Morris, Jon Harley, John Terry and Mark Nicholls.

Of Arsenal's English youngsters Justin Hoyte has an ankle injury while Ryan Smith has only featured in the League Cup this season. David Bentley and Jermain Pennant are out on loan.

Since a 4-2 home defeat by Manchester United that effectively ended any lingering hope of a successful defence of their title, Arsenal have thumped in eight goals in two games.

"Overall I am very pleased because it was dynamic, creative, relaxed, which is very important, and a good team performance, and as well there were very positive individual performances," Wenger said of the victory over Palace.

The Frenchman singled out Spaniard Jose Antonio Reyes, who netted the second goal, for praise.

Reyes was a victim of a hoax phone call from a Spanish radio station last week during which he said he was unhappy in London and would welcome a move to Real Madrid.

"A very good first half and for an hour he was absolutely outstanding, always dangerous. Looks confident again, that is most important, that he is positive in the way he plays," said Wenger.

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