The back of the international week is broken and players are one game away from returning to Arsenal. Which means football is nearly back.
Congratulations to Alex Iwobi on netting the winner against Zambia, a goal which confirmed Nigeria as one of the finalists at Russia 2018. If they are lucky, they will be drawn in the same group as England which should see them through to the knockout stages.
Granit Xhaka netted the easiest goal of his career with comedy goalkeeping from the Hungarians which set the tone for their defending in the Swiss 5 – 2 win which sets up their trip to Lisbon on Tuesday rather nicely. Avoiding defeat sees them through; defeat sees them fall into the play-offs with Portugal topping the group.
Aaron Ramsey meanwhile faces a make-or-break match in Cardiff against Ireland, which even if they finish second in their group may see them eliminated, depending on Slovenia vs Scotland and Ukraine vs Croatia. A summer’s rest might not be a bad thing in any case.
Maybe he could join Jack Wilshere on the beach. Gareth Southgate is in no particular hurry to recall him to the England squad which is understandable given Wilshere’s injury record. “Everyone knows the quality Jack has,” warbled the England boss. “But he’s got to be playing regularly. He has the quality to play at highest level.”
“Playing regularly” is a broad church. To most, the immediate interpretation is to be in the starting line-up at club level but then you look at Ox and Lindegaard, who play regularly from the bench. England is not blessed with its most talented squad.
Not Everyone Can Carry the Weight of the World
Arsène got the Jack ball rolling last week when interview on beIN Sport,
“Wilshere struggled historically with repeated injuries. Nobody would question his talent. Nobody would question his exceptional ability to beat people with the ball. But in this job you need first health. Today the requests and demands in the competitions are so high physically that you can only be your best physically if you can play at least 10 games on the trot.
“That is what’s at stake for Jack Wilshere. Keep health and compete and be capable to compete. If he can play from now until December at the top level he will be back. If there are other setbacks then it will be difficult for him. It’s a vital season, it’s the end of his contract, a World Cup year. He’s an Arsenal player since he’s a kid so all that is at stake for him.
“You would love a player like him, of that quality, to come back. In fact he had a very good game in BATE Borisov, a very brilliant first half when he was back to his best. So he’s not far away now. But let’s hope in the next two to three weeks he can play regularly in the first team.”
The only man who can answer that last question is the one who, by his own admission, overplayed Wilshere when he was in the red zone. But he does that will players regularly and Wenger is not unique by any stretch of the imagination. A results-based business means making the best of assets available.
Combien de Temps?
Talk of Jack’s contract being at stake makes it seem as if we’ll get stacks of cash if he isn’t offered a new deal. Instead it’s another player walking on a free – or hobbling might be a better description – and the funding requirement to improve the squad increases. Little wonder Stan’s trying to buy the whole club; it’s a prelude to selling so the begging for transfer cash is heard by someone else’s ears.
All that in a World Cup summer and a shorter domestic transfer window. Thank god the native talent is thin on the ground. So thin that we’re looking to sign Anthony Martial as a replacement for Alexis. Yes, that’s right; we’re going to sign a player from a club managed by Mourinho. One who isn’t at the end of his career but one with the future ahead of him.
Cech was a one-off, a case of Abramovich honouring a promise to the player but Martial? This is a manager who wouldn’t even loan us Demba Ba…
Ah, the joys of the transfer market yet to come.