David Bentley claims he left Arsenal because he felt like English players ‘weren’t the right fit’, and not because of money like he had been accused.
The former forward left the club after nine years, picking up just the one Premier League appearance before leaving to join Blackburn Rovers.
The winger ended up leaving Rovers to return to North London two years later to join rivals Tottenham Hotspur, but his career went on a downward spiral from there, and he eventually retired early from the game at the age of 29.
Bentley has now claimed that he left Arsenal initially because he felt like Arsene Wenger didn’t believe that English players were right at the time, before later changing his mind with the likes of Jack Wilshere blood into the side.
“He did, he did [value those things, youth players],” Bentley told The Athletic. “But at that time, English players weren’t playing that much and I think mentally, he thought they weren’t the right fit.
“But in the years after I left, the philosophy changed and that team with so many great players in front of me was dismantled. When I left, the young lads came in. So yeah, it was just timing, even though there was a backlash when I left.
“There was one article that said I left for money and I didn’t get on with the Arsenal fans. I was like, ‘I haven’t left because I don’t like you’. It was strange. I didn’t want to go but I had to for my career.
“And I’ve spoken to Wenger since. When I played for England against France, he was really nice and complimentary. I always got on with him and he was a brilliant coach.
“But at that time, I was looking around and saying to myself, ‘You have to fight’, so I went to Blackburn and fought my way in.”
Did Wenger struggle to see eye-to-eye with English players in his earlier years? Was the concentration of French players an issue for some at the club?