An outbreak of sanity for the next few months, transfer targets remain more fanciful than they were in the summer as football turns its attention to the proper stuff. You know, the game itself. Amid tepid disinterest, the Premier League clubs announced their squads yesterday. Well, thanks for that I couldn’t work out the information from the clubs websites, conveniently structured into ‘First Team’, ‘Reserves’ and ‘Youth’ sections. The farcical nature of it all is highlighted by the 71 players registered by Arsenal.
The arbitrary twenty-five man ruling by the Premier League serves little purpose. The wording is couched so loosely in their rules that there is no lower limit – theoretically, a club could submit a squad with no names and rely on their Under-21s – and no imposition of homegrown quotas. There is a maximum of 17 foreign players over the age of 21 who do not satisfy the rules designed to encourage the nuturing of local talent. Except the Arsenal squad proves that you do not have to be a native to be considered a product of the domestic youth system.
Simply listing English players on a piece of paper does no more than guarantee them a place on the bench or stands. The only manner of improving their technique and experience is by coaching them properly from a young age. There is no other substitute and it is the only way for them to progress to the top clubs and play. Still, Fifa and Uefa have coerced the footballing world into believing that this is a solution and I suspect that it will sit quite happily as one of the legacies left by Platini and Blatter. It is typical of them; hot on words, cold on actions or achievements.
Back to Arsenal. There has been mixed news for Arsene in this international week. Nicklas Bendtner has apparently suffered a relapse or new injury, depending on your interpretation of the report whilst Tomas Rosicky has reportedly been suffering from a virus. I doubt it is the sort of virus that my mum used to claim she suffered from at weekends.
Whilst they suffer, Samir Nasri has returned to training. His return is some compensation for the loss of Robin van Persie and sets the Frenchman on a collision course with Rosicky for the midfield place as Arshavin will presumably move into supporting striker role in the Dutchman’s absence. Assuming that all of them return unscathed from international duty, a by no means certain outcome.
Arsene’s choice is not simple. Rosicky has been outstanding whilst Nasri had a terrific first half at Anfield, subdued in the second by injury. It bodes well for the coming campaign but consistency from Nasri in particular, is needed. Both players can fill wide and central positions giving more variety to the Arsenal attack than other teams possess but the pair look to worked harder on their defensive game. Perhaps Walcott was not the only player told by Wenger to be more aggressive in their approach.
Theo Walcott may covet that role as well. Top scorer this season, it has been a marked improvement which the England international believes can be simply explained:
I had a very good pre-season, no injuries, I had a nice break over the summer and everything is going well so far. I stay behind to improve on things like the final ball, the end product, stuff like that. I practice crossing and finishing and penalties.
As the official website put it, the early season form is the result of ‘hard graft’. The self-confessed work in the gym is evident for all to see as are the improvements in his technique. The ludicrous claims of Alan Hansen have been roundly derided in all quarters but consistency needs to come to the fore so that Hansen’s smug grin is permanently wiped from his face.