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Francs a bunch, says boss Wenger.

Byline: ROB OWEN

WHILE I'd never be compelled to reach for the onion where Arsenal are concerned, I must admit to having some rare sympathy for Arsene Wenger, who will be stripped of his French foreign legion this weekend.

Four Arsenal players - Sylvain Wiltord, Robert Pires, Patrick Vierra, and the mercurial Thierry Henry - will be rattling around in a jumbo jet for 12,000 miles, before touching down in Sydney for 90 less-than-crucial minutes, and then shortly afterwards repeating the entire process in reverse.

A 24,000-mile round trip to jog around with the long distant descendants of Britain's criminal fraternity is perhaps not the ideal way to spend a weekend slapbang in the middle of the domestic season.

No wonder Wenger's done his nut.

Don't get me wrong, playing international football against anyone at anytime, has to be the dog's appendages for any player worth every penny of his multimillion pound boot deal.

And I've no sympathy for Premiership clubs who come up with a raft of cock-and-bull stories to excuse their cosseted, over-paid, megastars from representing a country they really rather regret having pinned their allegiance to in the first place.

I'm not thinking of Ryan Giggs in particular, by the way.

But there can be only one reason why the World Cup holders have ended up, in early November, cashing in their air miles. And that's the fact that it's got to be a big money-spinner for the Antipodean coffers.

Mind you, the weather's probably nice.

If France needed a game, I find it hard to believe they couldn't have found a more adjacent option.

If it's shooting practice they want, they might have even considered sounding out David Collins at the FAW.

But the crunch will come if, on top of running the gauntlet with deep vein thrombosis, Henry is on the receiving end of a Kevin Muscat special, and spends the rest of the season out injured.

Unfortunately, such expeditions as the one about to be undertaken by the French only adds grist to the mill for club chairmen who are looking to palm off all insurance costs onto football associations.

The time is rapidly coming where countries like Wales won't be able to select Mr Giggs by dint of the cost of his insurance, along with a number of other pricey add-ons.

Mr Collins has already admitted a serious injury to the likes of Giggs could, in theory at least, bankrupt football nations such as Wales.

Nothing will hasten this seemingly inevitable development more than jetting off for some utterly pointless mid-season jaunt to the other side of the world, especially in a week when the core of the French team has failed miserably to come to terms with the considerable threat of Charlton Athletic.

Added to which, I don't think I could bear it if the Aussies take another step towards being as good at football as they are at every other game involving a ball.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 7, 2001
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