In 2005 Arsene Wenger made a decision that would go on to become the norm for Arsenal in the Premier League. He fielded an XI and bench that didn’t include one player from the home nations; a monumental decision that this season has proved, is no longer the key to success.
In 1999, Vialli did something similar for Chelsea. The only difference being that his bench consisted of four English players, two of which were later brought on. The Chelsea manager would escape criticism as he was seen to be bringing English potential through alongside foreign talent. Wenger, however, known for his romances with foreign talent, would not entertain such an idea.
Only months after the Invincible’s were finally vanquished, Wenger’s all-conquering squad lined up against Crystal Palace. Though injury and illness kept out regulars in Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell. The lack of British or more potently English players, was quite apparent.
Don’t get us wrong, the influx of foreign talent in the Premier League is far more a blessing than a curse – as this Arsenal team shows. But when players with English as their first language were completely absent from the reigning Premier League champions, it was a worrying sign for England fans especially.
GK: Jens Lehmann
Controversial but undeniably class. The German dominated in the Premier League. Image Source: Twitter
The Cameroonian featured heavily for Arsenal after his £7million transfer fee.
Image Source: Twitter
CB: Kolo Toure
Is there anyone who doesn't love Kolo? Image Source: Twitter
CB: Pascal Cygan
Second choice to Sol Campbell, Cygan was largely a fringe player at Arsenal. Image Source: Twitter
LB: Gael Clichy
A solid choice for any Premier League FIFA ultimate team. The Frenchman has since been a permanent fixture at City.
Image Source: Twitter
CDM: Patrick Vieira
The captain of the Invincibles and a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the park. Image Source: Twitter
Now Director of Football at Corinthians, Edu was the first Brazilian to win the Premier League. Image Source: Twitter
LM: Jose Antonio Reyes
Every top club needs an inconsistent Spanish winger. Image Source: Twitter
CAM: Robert Pires
Le Magicien. Image Source: Twitter
ST: Denis Bergkamp
The flying Dutchman's technical ability was second to none and lit up the Premier League. Image Source: Twitter
ST: Thierry Henry
Pacey, prolific and probably the greatest striker the world has ever seen. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal fans might hate him now, but the Spaniard was key for Arsenal in the years after their invincible season. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Mathieu Flamini
A loyal servant to Arsenal, praised for his performances on his return in 2013. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Robin Van Persie
Oh, is that not an Arsenal shirt? Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Phillipe Senderos
The only Swiss player to feature, Senderos would turn into somewhat of a journeyman throughout his career. Image Source: Twitter
SUB: Manuel Almunia
Arsenal's greatest ever 'keeper? No? Us neither. Image Source: Twitter
As the home of football and an over expectant nation with a consistently underperforming national side, England fans did not respond well to such a squad. On top of already burgeoning insecurities about the failings of the main Three Lions team, the lack of English players from such a top club was probably more ostensibly bad than actually.
Compounded by Arsenal comprehensibly beating Palace 5-1 that day and their perch as the top team in England. The lack of homegrown players may have seemed the way forward. Just over 10 years on though, with English talent shining for Spurs in their record high finish, it seems that this is no longer the case.