Morning all, the international break comes to a close this evening with the final matches. Fingers or whatever crossed for no injuries. England take the focus with a match against Poland, almost forty years to the week on from a seismic encounter at Wembley. The match in 1973 ended the international careers of legends such as Moore and Ramsey whilst killing those which had yet to begin, e.g. Clough. It seemed inevitable that the original Special One would take over from Sir Alf given the propitious timing of his dismissal from Derby County.
Arsenal meanwhile were playing a friendly in Barcelona, the first time that the clubs had met. The Catalans had Johan Cruyff in the ranks following his record-breaking transfer. With the forward line decimated through international call-ups – Kennedy and George were with the Under-23 squad playing Poland at Plymouth, a Trevor Francis goal settled the match – and Radford with the seniors. A makeshift team lost by a single goal in the Camp Nou.
This time around, England will be in the Polish capital, a change in venue for the match. In past qualifying campaigns, the Poles have preferred to play these games in Silesia where the atmosphere was more hostile. In 1994, England’s campaign got off to a mixed start. Dropped points at home to Norway in a 1 – 1 draw were followed by the expected wins over Turkey (twice) and San Marino, a match in which future Arsenal player, David Platt, would score four times. Next to Wembley were Holland, Dennis Bergkamp, Overmars and all. England battered them and by the halfway point in the first half, were 2 – 0 up through Barnes and Platt. As was typical of Graham Taylor’s reign, the good times were a fleeting byline in a tragi-comedy that would make Shakespeare weep. The match ended 2 – 2 with England holding on at the end following a Bergkamp goal before the interval and van Vossen’s late equaliser from the penalty spot.
The point of that potted England history? It led England to Katowice, requiring a win against Poland to keep pace at the top. It didn’t work out that way with England utterly outplayed by the Poles. If the defeat in Oslo in June 1993 was shambolic, this was not much better. Adamczuk gave Poland the lead and just when it seemed that this would be enough for the points, up popped Ian Wright, Wright, Wright with his first England goal to steal the point.
You knew there was an Arsenal point in there somewhere.
Wright’s international career was baffling. From the point he joined Arsenal, he was criminally underused by successive England managers. The leading scorer in the domestic game, Wright was rarely given the chance he merited. For whatever reasons, a man who scored a goal every game and a half surely deserved more than 33 caps for his country, sixteen of which were gained from the substitute bench. According to his wikipedia entry, only Mick Channon played more than Wright without going to an international tournament.
You wonder if part of the problem was Arsenal’s metamorphosis into a long-ball team. The over-reliance on Wright for his club possibly created a weight of expectation that could not be matched at international level. From that he suffered; the media were not kind to him. It was almost as if he were viewed as the problem rather than being part of the solution.
As it is, Wright scored nine times. One above, four below.
Apparently San Marino’s goal is still the fastest in international history. Certainly in a European Section World Cup qualifier.
As you might have guessed, there’s pretty much bugger all going on for Arsenal at the moment. Vito Mannone is keeping his options open with a contract due to be renegotiated but more than anything, wants to stay at the club. Whether he’ll feel the same when Szczesny returns remains to be seen. Presuming of course, that the Pole is not suffering a tactical injury of which the manager is growing increasingly fond. Nicklas Bendtner meanwhile has taken the chance to moan about Arsenal’s training regime, claiming the one at Juventus was much harder. Given the £52k per week striker was asked by the Italians if he’d eaten all the pies at Sunderland, I’m not surprised that he found it hard. Nor that it has taken him nearly three months to get down to his ‘fighting weight’ as he calls it. But there’s a more simplistic reason for training being easy at Arsenal; the manager didn’t think you were good enough for the first team or the reserves. The presence of Marouane Chamakh on the bench proves that. Christ, even Park made the bench and no-one understands why he was signed.