(Reuters) - Having seen the well of talent dry up in France, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has identified Japan as an emerging market to find new players for his Premier League side.
The Frenchman has built a strong reputation for plucking the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Robert Pires and Emmanuel Petit from clubs in his homeland and turning them into world class players.
But Wenger, now in his 17th season with the 13 times English champions, has struggled to replicate the successful transfer dealings in recent seasons with Arsenal’s last trophy being the 2005 FA Cup.
Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh is set to move to West Ham United after becoming the latest to fail at Arsenal after joining from Girondins Bordeaux in 2010, with French defender Sebastien Squillaci also expected to leave this month.
“The competition is high on the scouting front. The country where we were really, really competitive was France. They produce less players than they did 10, 15 years ago at top, top, top level in France,” Wenger told reporters on Thursday.
“The emerging countries that are producing players look to be Germany and Spain and they have many good young players. They have taken over.”
”We are trying to diversify much more where we are looking. In England you are a bit limited.
“I find that a new market that is very interesting and very competitive is the Japanese market. Look at the number of Japanese players who play now in Germany for example.”
Asian champions Japan beat France away in an October friendly and eight of their 24-man squad for their World Cup qualifier against Oman in November play in Germany.
CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda, Inter Milan fullback Yuto Nagatomo and Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa have also impressed in European leagues.
Wenger coached J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight before moving to Arsenal in 1996 but has had mixed success in signing players from Asia.
Former midfielder Junichi Inamoto made only a handful of appearances in his one season with Arsenal before leaving for Fulham shortly after the 2002 World Cup, with promising winger Ryo Miyaichi currently on loan at Wigan Athletic.
Wenger said that the demands on players who were little known in England before moving to the club were tough.
“It’s very difficult because the level of expectation is very high,” the manager said.
”People want to see Lionel Messi. They don’t want to see a promising guy.
“First of all the name gives hope. When a guy has no name people are already sceptical. So it’s much more difficult for us.”
Arsenal are sixth in the Premier League after Tuesday’s disappointing 1-1 draw at relegation threatened Southampton, who easily restricted Wenger’s side with Japan international Maya Yoshida marshalling the Saints backline.
Arsenal face a tricky FA Cup third round match away to Swansea City on Sunday.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Greg Stutchbury