Manchester United fail as Arsenal flourish in British talent race

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Football News

The call to get more British players in to the squads of the elite Premier League teams has been answered in recent years.

Arsenal and Manchester United have both been actively seeking to introduce the best of English and British talents in to their squad in the hope of emulating the mould introduced by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

The dominant La Liga side has prioritised the development of young Spanish stars, giving them extended playing time in order to aid their development.

The best example is that of Sergio Busquets, who was chosen ahead of Yaya Toure despite the obvious gap in quality.

The idea is that a core of nationals provide the squad with a firm foundation of loyal players with strong relationships. They speak the same language and have similar upbringings and are therefore likely to form stronger bonds and work better on the pitch.

Manchester United did this so well through the 1990s with players like Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs all coming through the academy. By the time they were in the first team, they worked together seamlessly.

However, now the British talent at Manchester United is struggling to flourish whilst Arsenal's contingent thrives.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were both brought in at great expense with a view to them being mainstays in the Old Trafford line up.

But they have been forced to play out of their favoured centre-back positions with Smalling predominantly at right-back and Jones in midfield.

Coupled with frequent injury issues, their development has stalled.

Meanwhile academy graduates Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck continue to be questioned. Are they making the necessary progress to become key United players in the near future? It doesn't seem they are.

Cleverley has made eight appearances in the Premier League this season but is yet to contribute either a goal or an assist - not good enough for an advanced midfielder.

Welbeck got his season off to a great start scoring a brace against Swansea but has yet to score in the Premier League since and has now fallen to fourth choice striker behind Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Another English youngster languishing at Old Trafford in Wilfried Zaha, who doesn't seem to have won over David Moyes. After moving for £15m from Crystal Palace in the summer, no one would have guessed we would reach the end of November with Zaha yet to make his Premier League debut.

He has only gone backwards since moving to Manchester United and will continue to do so if the situation doesn't change.

The situation couldn't be more different at Arsenal where British youngsters continue to flourish under Arsene Wenger.

Aaron Ramsey has been in sensational form and is arguably the in-form player in the entire Premier League. That isn't down to luck. Wenger stuck by Ramsey whilst he recovered from a serious leg break and had to be patient.

Jack Wilshere is arguably going through the same patch now. After serious ankle injuries, Wilshere is yet to find the form he showed prior to his season-long lay-off. But he is starting to recover his best form and has showed that with two goals and one assists in seven Premier League starts so far this term.

Theo Walcott is another player who has come to life in the last 12 months. Arsenal's top scorer last season, Walcott was sensational at times and looks like he can be a key figure for club and country in the coming years. His season has been disrupted by injury thus far, but his absence has been very noticeable, proving how important a role he now plays for the Gunners.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably one of England's brightest prospects and shouldn't be forgotten just because he suffered a knee injury on the first day of the season.

Oxlade-Chamberlain looked fantastic in his first season for Arsenal but has since struggled with fitness. 

But at just 20-years-old, he has plenty of time to work his way back in to form. His fantastic goal against Brazil shows he has the potential to star at the World Cup.

Meanwhile English full-backs Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson make strides.

Gibbs needed a lot of time to adapt to a left-back role having spent most of his education as a flying winger. But after a few injury issues, Gibbs has started to get noticed and is running Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole close for a World Cup spot.

Jenkinson, on the other hand, is struggling to break in to the team thanks to Bacary Sagna. He may be lacking in the technical ability of a typical Arsenal player and is yet to prove he can make it as a reliable full-back week-in-week-out.

He is, however, the exception for Wenger, who has shown the ability to convert raw British talent in to established first team footballers.

Meanwhile, Manchester United's young British contingent has obviously been unsettled by the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and is failing to thrive in an unbalanced and patched up team.

Most of them are still young enough and have time to flourish but each week on the bench or played out of position is another wasted. The longer it goes on for, the lower the ceiling of their potential falls.

All signs point to the Emirates for Britain's version of Barcelona. 

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