It’s reassuring to know that Arsenal’s scouting network is in fine fettle. Having signed Mesut Özil, Arsène despatched his finest appraisers around the globe in search of German footballing talent and they have already reported back with the names of Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Lars Bender…
The international break wove its treacherous path through the season as the Road To Brazil – Roy Hodgson is cast as Bing Crosby, Gary Neville as Bing Crosby and Jack Wilshere as Dorothy Lamour with the rest of the squad as No Hope of winning it. Wilshere and Walcott played well for their country, the former kicked from pillar before picking himself up to be kicked to the post as well whilst the latter’s explosive shot led to Ricky Lambert’s goal in the first half, being his contribution of note. That both came off unhurt is a surprise given the treatment meted out to both before England took a grip of the scoreline. Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey returned to the Welsh side and scored a penalty in their 2 – 1 defeat in Macedonia having been felled in the first place whilst Tomas Rosicky scored an absolute belter as the Czech Republic succumbed to a 1 – 2 home defeat against Armenia. The French trio of Koscielny, Sagna and Giroud all played in France’s draw in Georgia as did Mertesacker and Özil in Germany’s win over Austria. For Ramsey, it topped off the day when he retained the Player of the Month trophy nicely. All except the result, that is.
The hype surrounding Wilshere is building once more as the media seek solace from the paucity of talent available to Hodgson. Whilst the concerns are there about his fitness as he follows the path trodden by Ramsey, it was encouraging that the England hierarchy withdrew the player as the hour mark approached in this one-sided affair. Wilshere provided the spark in England’s midfield, providing the link between the ageing Lampard and Gerrard, a mazy run followed by a clipped effort lifted the spirits of the watching public.
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs, the English core in the Arsenal side should be representing their country; Carl Jenkinson may have longer to wait before joining them with Walker and Johnson vying for the slot in the national team. If the Arsenal youngster cannot usurp that pair, there is something seriously wrong with his career progression. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gibbs spoke with Jim White in this morning’s Telegraph, an interesting insight into the lives of a by-standing player on transfer deadline day but more succinctly from Gibbs on the North London Derby,
Winning gives you a sense of ownership of the city if you like. It’s definitely getting bigger. Look at the old days compared to now, it’s huge. The pressure’s more on with both teams getting stronger. Without a doubt Tottenham have improved and that game is becoming more of a challenge for us.
A back-handed compliment if ever there was one from the left back; ‘you’re good but not good enough. No hint of the word ‘yet’ either.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has faith in the coming generation of English players, particularly after the performances of the junior levels at recent international tournaments. Having named the few who are knocking on the door of the senior squad, there is a gap in quality which White ascribes to the influx(!) of foreign players this summer. Whilst it was denied, the claim that learning from world-class players is off the mark. If you look beyond Özil, how many of the signings this summer were in that category? How many of the existing players fall into that group? Few and that highlights the continued problems that the FA are incapable of addressing.
The clubs scour through their ranks for the premium that is a homegrown player but when mediocrity stops them, that is not a signal to bemoan the overseas players or adopt a ‘Little Englander’ stance. It is a time to focus on the lack of technical ability of the native players. Greg Dyke challenged the England youngsters to win Qatar2022. Rather than issue vacuous soundbites, is it not time that those in positions of power – Premier League and FA – invested more cash in the grassroots of football in this country to promote technical ability rather than energy and endeavour without purpose. Refreshingly, some coaches below the professional game are looking to escape the stereotype but it will take time and dedication for them to change the way the country approaches football.