International breaks are universally accepted as boring; it shouldn’t really be the case with so much football being played during a condensed space of time – or should that be space in time, I’m not sure, I seem to have lost my Time Lord mojo – but try writing about it. The tedium is numbing. A major aspect of the dislike is timing; you get into the new season, time for international breaks. Unlike London buses, international breaks come along as regular as clockwork and stick unfailingly to their timetable, nothing can be allowed to halt Blattini Enterprises on their motorway to Football Hell. It’s alright for them, they occupy the leather-upholstered seats at the front whilst the rest of us are lucky if there is space on the handcart trailing in their wake.
Being at the peak of the game is certainly a rollercoaster ride for players, particularly those in the England camp. One minute they are heroes, the next they are forgotten men unless of course they are the remnants of the self-styled Golden Generation who simply will not crawl into the corner quietly to allow us to forget how overwhelmingly disappointing they were. Will the new generation be any better? In all likelihood, no but they are seemingly intent on not playing up those expectations either.
The manager is helping, building them up and then telling the players that in truth, they were really quite rubbish. Roy Hodgson‘s technique for keeping egos in check is interesting,
We’re very pleased with him. He did what we wanted him to do and I selected him to do what he actually did in the first half extremely well.
A previously unseen Jekyll and Hyde side to Hodgson’s character subsequently emerged,
I thought Alex was very good first-half. We made it clear to him we were going to take him off after 60 minutes, so I think he forgot to play in the 15 minutes of the second half but that will be an interesting lesson for him as well. Especially when I tell him
Just as well Alex doesn’t read The Daily Telegraph, isn’t it Roy? Best you hope that he doesn’t read any other newspapers either. The beginning of Soap! seems so appropriate. I am sure that Oxlade-Chamberlain knew all of this anyway, football managers rarely tell players anything through the back pages of the media and then tell them “See You Next Tuesday“; “Tuesday, Wednesday And Thursday, Boss“….
If Hodgson has been talking this way of Oxlade-Chamberlain, his silence on Theo Walcott is telling. Or is it? In some ways, sympathy is hard to come by for the former golden boy. Seemingly out of favour at Arsenal, his England decline began in the summer when he was relegated to the substitutes bench. In truth it started years ago, dropped for South Africa 2010 in favour of Aaron Lennon. How low can it sink? Missing that tournament was, I still maintain, a blessing in disguise for Walcott; he wasn’t tarred with boorish behaviour, Bacary Sagna reminding the French public that their players don’t swear into cameras. Well, England players don’t go on strike Bacary, we prefer our players not to turn up in the first place, we’re used to that.
Back to Walcott. It’s hard to know what is the problem at Arsenal. Part of me hopes that it is tactical flexibility from the manager. Theo was not bad against Sunderland and I understand the rationale for leaving him out against Stoke. It is the trip to Anfield which leaves an uncomfortable feeling with regard to tactical omissions. A match played on the counter-attack is tailor-made for someone blessed with Walcott’s pace; leaving him out suggested hardball over contract negotiations, succession planning on the pitch. That is a double-edged sword for the club; Walcott will either knuckle down and be minded to resolve the differences or cop the Arsenal and not be bothered, knowing in all likelihood he will be sold in January for a knockdown fee.
What will happen is his choice, genuinely his choice. I have no doubt that he will be used against Southampton, whether it is from the start remains to be seen.
But why the focus on England players today, I hear you ask. Well, yes, there is not a great deal going on but the comparisons are too uncomfortably close to home. Both have seen their Golden Generations pass unrewarded, the masters of all they surveyed could not deliver when it mattered most. For Beckham, Neville, Owen, read Cesc, Hleb, van Persie. Both club and country have allowed arguably their most talented players to pass without honours yet both club and country seem to have more professional outlooks subsequent to that, more determined, more focussed players. Whether the missing silverware will be found remains to be seen.
Arsenal and England, peas in a pod.