It will never be proven of course yet I cannot help but believe that Robbie Savage’s continued employment at the BBC is, at least in part, funded by Adrian Chiles in his desperation to find a more oafish football broadcaster. This World Cup may well stick in the mind as being the first time that the promised festival of football arrives from the first kick-off but it will never be forgotten for the decline in punditry nor Chiles sitting on the beach with his shirt firmly tucked into his shorts, missing just the knotted handkerchief to complete the typically English repose. Thank god for Thierry Henry with his Internationalist attire and sharp put-down of the Welsh Sheepdog. Or perhaps that’s just me hoping Savage will be put down; I get confused.
It’s all a bit quiet on the transfer front, as you would expect with the focus on the injured and untested. Arsène spoke very briefly about Joel Campbell, refusing to commit to a future longer than August for the youngster. He might privately enthuse about the Costa Rican but if you in indulge in the dangerous game of taking Wenger’s words at face value, he is not sure that the promise of this international is going to translate to the Premier League. Perhaps he is; perhaps this is nothing more than managing expectations, preventing the hype beginning. Equally, he will be mindful that the absence of transfer activity is most likely to engender an underwhelming response given that a wide forward was not high on most people’s summer wish list.
What he will be sure of is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain not being fit for Thursday’s encounter with Uruguay. Not that Wayne Rooney is, the story stemming from his admission that he doesn’t take his place in England’s starting XI for granted. Of course not Wazza, and I am sure you genuinely believed that you had influence during the defeat to Italy. The left side of England’s defence was a problem all night but it is not a peculiarly English affliction as several nations have been exploited profitably by their opponents down that avenue. Whatever questions were posed, Rooney was not the answer.
I am not sure a half-fit Oxlade-Chamberlain is either but he might be a better solution than the United player. Via The Telegraph – an outlet fast becoming as close to a pet paper as Arsenal could get – the club has briefed that there are concerns about using Ox too soon, especially with the initial reports that he would not be fit until the Costa Rica match next week. With England’s campaign hanging in the balance, Roy Hodgson must be sorely tempted to use Ox to resolve the issue. The combination of Baines and Rooney didn’t work, Balotelli’s winner came with Welbeck occupying that side of the pitch to support his defensive colleague. It’s harsh on the younger of the United players, he closed down the Italians all night and worked his socks off for “the cause“.
Perhaps the problem isn’t the forwards, it’s an issue that no-one seems particularly minded to consider. Personally, I think Baines was the culprit, his positional sense all evening was questionable and it begs the question quite what Kieran Gibbs has to do to win an England place. He needs to solve the same sort of problems, at times too eager to push on into attack but such is Arsenal’s style that it is required from the full backs. He gets more protection from the midfield than Baines gets but Italy had too much joy in sucking him into a more central position, it left acres of space and most worryingly of all, neither he or Rooney learned the lessons which began early in the game. If England are to progress, Hodgson needs to find the footballing paracetamol for that headache.
Elsewhere, Arsène is worried that his quota of Spanish full backs who have not gone to Brazil is worryingly low and wants to sign Joseba Zaldua from Real Sociedad to solve that problem; Seamus Coleman is the answer to the questions posed by Bacary Sagna’s departure as Stephan Lichsteiner fluffed his lines during Switzerland’s win over Ecuador though. Meanwhile, the Cesc Affair can be put to bed with the player’s admission that Wenger did not want him. Or has it stuck the spoon into the can of worms about whether or you can have too many world-class players in your squad? It’s a row that will rumble on until May when the answer will be revealed by league placings. In no way should his comments at a press conference be seen as deflecting vitriol away from his shoulders for the coming year or so he is in the Russian Republic. He will be able to plan his hamstring strains this week when the Premier League fixtures are announced on Wednesday. Ashley Cole will be able to give him advice on missing trips to The Emirates…