For the England contingent, returning to Arsenal will be a welcome relief I should imagine. Jack Wilshere in particular, having run both England shows, must wonder why he bothered creating any momentum for his country with the knowledge that Wayne Rooney was going to squander each and every opportunity.
The deeper role was embraced by the midfielder and he played well in both matches. That has to be tempered by recognising that neither San Marino or Estonia provided much opposition. They were the perfect matches in which to adapt his game, build his confidence and ready himself for a step up in quality. That will come with the qualifying group perfectly balanced, laying out that path to the finals themselves.
Let’s not kid ourselves; when the commentators talk of this rabble of mediocrity winning each game and in the process becoming the first England team to do so, you have the only indication you need of the quality of England’s opponents.
Nonetheless, it is something for Arsenal to build on as well, partnering Wilshere with a specialist defensive midfielder may well be the way forward and free the attacking instincts of the likes of Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The latter could not reproduce his form of last week but in the shorter timeframe of his substitute apppearance yesterday, that was hardly surprising. Neither was Chambers willingness to push forward or make mistakes.
Youth is not experience and a dozen games for Arsenal is not going to make him into an international full back, especially when a number of those matches have been in the middle. He acquitted himself reasonably well and certainly offered more defensively that the likes of Glenn Johnson. His attacking work? If he can beat himself as he did at Wembley with a deft touch going out for a goal kick, he can beat opponents. That’s if he is given time to learn which judging by Glenn Hoddle’s comments about worrying what the following morning’s headlines will say, is in short supply at international level.
It wouldn’t be an international break if there wasn’t an injury scare. Yes, I know last week more than made up for the clean bill of health enjoyed in recent times – basically since Robin van Persie left – but Danny Welbeck’s slight ankle knack is of concern, mainly because of the predilection for talking of injuries in terms of months and not days. Welcome to Arsenal, Danny, the club where players get plenty of rest.
Or demand a transfer every international break. The rumour mill has finally picked up on the Mesut Özil isn’t really injured, it’s just a ruse to keep him fit for Bayern Munich theory with this morning’s Heil fearlessly blazing the trail so that they can trumpet it as an ‘exclusive’ in five years when the German does eventually depart. “Remember, we told you first!”
The French media got their ‘exclusive’, Mourinho and Arsène both talking of the handbags at Stamford Bridge. Wenger is assumed to have apologised but did nothing of the sort, instead talking of his regret at the incident. Fair play to him, why should he apologise for what was little more than shove and blown out of proportion in the aftermath of the defeat. Unseemly yes but in the heat of the battle, in the circumstances and with Mourinho in the opposite technical area, can we really blame him for losing his rag?
Players and managers are placed under intolerable pressure in their jobs. They are involved in physical exertions, subjected to abuse from the touchline yet we expect them to behave like gentlemen. It’s a bit biblical to be honest, turning the other cheek and all that, as well as being hugely hypocritical. Administrators demand the best of manners and a certain level of decorum whilst thinking nothing of taking a £15,000 bung which is what the watches were, nothing more, nothing less. You can dress it as a gift all you want but there were strings attached, future favours being curried; in short, it was a bribe. And these rule makers expect players and managers to be role models?
Supporters are not blameless either, for centuries we have taken every opportunity to crank up pressure on players and officials. Now we are so precious that we get upset when a player cups his hand to his ear that he gets booked for as it is deemed inflammatory. Jesus wept, what happened to give and take. Yes, the referee overreacted when cautioning Chadli but only because of the reaction if brought in the stands. People complain that there is precious little atmosphere as it is but the biggest culprits in sanitising football grounds are supporters.
There are boundaries, of course, and transgressors should be punished but let’s judge football realistically. It isn’t a game for saints and almost every player is a sinner of some sort. Indeed, our heroes tend to have that nasty little streak which surfaced every now and then. Those for whom it was a regular occurrence pass through as little more than pantomime villains. Which is quite fitting I suppose given that a Vice President of Real Madrid openly spoke of football being nothing more than the biggest branch of show business.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the WWFA Premier League! Don’t forget, you read it here first.