It’s been ‘a bit’ of a summer for England. Not the seniors, they are beyond hope but the youth levels are enjoying their time in the sun. The Under-17s scrambled their way to victory at the Toulon Tournament, the de facto yardstick by which teams at that level were judged before FIFA hopped on the bandwagon.
England retained the trophy which they won in 2016, with Calum Chambers in the squad. Next up were the Under-20s winning the Little World Cup; Ashley Maitland-Niles involved and things are looking rosy for the future with English football.
Whether it will last is another matter. The Under-21s have a tough group featuring hosts Poland and defending champions, Sweden. Good luck to Chambers and Rob Holding, and, sniff, come home safe.
Krystian Bielik is in the Poland squad, Hector Bellerin with Spain. Ditto, gentlemen; ditto.
Alexis and Shkodran Mustafi are at the Confederations Cup, and if all goes to plan, neither will return to training before the end of July, if at all. If you fancy a punt on any of the summer tournaments, you can get £20 Free Bets With Sky Bet
Two trophies is two more than the seniors have managed in their entire existence. The Rous Cup, Home International Championships; sorry, they don’t count since frankly, the opposition was – how can I put it politely – for the most part, not very good. Nor were England before you say anything.
The spate of victories means the usual soul-searching about how we can progress the next ‘Golden Generation’ to the senior level. Adding on, ‘so we can be let down by them as well’, just seems cynical but let’s face it, we all think it.
Pontificating about how we get these players into Premier League sides misses the point; it’s when they pull on the England shirt that they are let down by uninspiring coaches or natives who are hopelessly out of their depth.
But crucially, when they get into the Premier League, they appear in the least adaptable style of football.
What’s That Coming Over The Hill, Is It A Striker?
The Premier League is an exciting product in terms of action, competitiveness and speed of play. Technically, that trio of traits makes it hard to be excellent, which is what players need to be to succeed in Europe or with their national teams.
Until coaches at English clubs learn to marry those four together, the gap to the elites at club and international levels will widen. I don’t expect Spurs or Liverpool to fare well – indeed, one or both will bid the Champions League farewell at the group stage – but the other three could reach the latter stages.
Not win it, just the last eight. The galling thought will be three of them reaching the last four, or an all-English final. It would underline how far behind we’ve fallen as a club. No doubt we’ll lose the tie against the English side when we meet them in the quarter-final of the Europa League.
Not that I have low expectations or anything like that. The silence at Arsenal regarding squad strengthening is deafening. Other clubs are waving their shiny new players around which in itself is not worrying. Where it becomes an issue is that they will be ready to join their new team-mates for pre-season training.
Of course it’s possible that Arsenal could do the same but previous summers tell us that they won’t. Kolasinac will, he’s already tucked in the back pocket but adding a left back alone isn’t going to haul us into the position where we are genuine title challengers.
We’re in for Mbappe with no evidence whatsoever that we’ve made the £100m plus Giroud which is circulating. Are we being dumped on our Aulas’ by Lyon over Lacazette? Whatever the case is, the club’s Transfer Window Action Team’s not very dynamic.
Life Is A Cabaret, Old Chum
There is good reason why, in their defence. Mbappe is a punt but a transfer of that magnitude isn’t going to be simple to negotiate; it took United a long time to land Paul Pogba and others before then were fought out in the back pages over a month or two.
Which is all well and good. Alexis’ situation needs resolving if it isn’t already. To be honest, it’s a massive lost and PR disaster for the club whenever he leaves. A damning indictment of Wenger’s management over the past few years. Announcing Mbappe or Lacazette and then losing Sanchez isn’t strengthening the squad but its addressing a hole we’ve dug ourselves into.
The concern is that we have taken our eye off the ball so far as other positions are concerned. With departures aplenty forecast for this summer, there will be holes to plug.
FIFAs transfer window opened for Premier League players the moment the final whistle on 2016-17 blew. It seems from the outside looking in, that we weren’t ready to move, held hostage by players set to leave and more importantly, the manager’s future.
As ever, it feels like we’re playing catch-up. The test comes in a fortnight’s time when the FIFA global transfer window opens, followed quickly by a return to pre-season training.
At that point, concerns will either fade or be very real.