The return of club football is in sight, with the weekend’s qualifying matches and sprinkling of money-generating friendlies completed. Rumours abound of injuries and a smattering of goals – Olivier Giroud’s finish against Denmark yesterday was probably the pick of the bunch – mean we go into the week ahead none the wiser about who will be fit and more importantly who won’t, ahead of the visit of Liverpool to The Emirates.
One thing is for certain, neither Alexis or Gabriel will be suffering the after-effects of jet lag this week having been present at The Emirates yesterday to watch Brazil and Chile niggle it out in the former’s single goal victory. That Alexis played in the fixture was entirely unsurprising but at least he seemed to still be walking unaided at the end of the match.
As an aside, Andy has put together an article at Arsenal History of the international matches played at Arsenal here.
There’s not much going on beyond that. We welcome Real Madrid supporters to our world, one where the media are prising their best players to wealthier clubs as Chelsea and Manchester City square up to sign Gareth Bale for £75m. In order to do so, both clubs will use up the balance of their rolling FFP losses for the next three years in one summer which rather makes a mockery of the rules. Or perhaps that should be the latest mockery of the rules?
Arsenal meanwhile are the latest pawn in Raheem Sterling’s contract renewal game. It beats being linked with Chris Smalling every day of the week, even signing Sterling as a centre back beats signing Smalling. Oh, the irony that the strongest noises about the United defender came on the day that Arsène chose to note Greg Dyke’s plans promoted mediocrity.
As if to underline the extent of the problems facing the English national team, 1950’s throwback, Wayne Rooney, spoke of how he wanted their opponents to fear England’s aggression. Not slick passing, pace, exceptional technique, visionary passing or lethal finishing. No, their aggression. An admission of failure if ever there was one.
Which is a startling legacy for the Premier League era of English football. We are no further forward in terms of technique or having players who are comfortable with the ball, than we were when Don Revie was in charge of the national team. Indeed, Rooney’s words might well have been sung from Revie’s hymn book.
With all the money which has flowed into the game since the Premier League’s inception, it is a stunning indictment of the clubs and powerbrokers that the technique of English-born footballers is still largely flawed. As with every generation of footballers, there are talented individuals but they remain exceptions to the rule and rather than being capable of passing and moving, the English still lag years behind all but the average European nations.
The recent poor showing in the Champions League by English clubs clouds rather than clarifies the issue. The Premier League teams were coached and largely staffed by non-English players. The problem is more than just native talent football but the style of play. English teams in Europe have lost the ability to adjust their style of play to different tactics and masterplans, not just on the pitch but in the training ground as well. There is little tactical innovation generally in football but Premier League football suits power or parking the bus.
The guile needed to succeed on the grander stage is only sporadically evident. We gloss over it by admiring the product, as does the rest of the world. It certainly is one of the most exciting domestic leagues in the world, there is no denying that. But the greater good of the game can do one as far as PL executives are concerned.
Developing English talent has been the Holy Grail for more than three decades, the concerns raised now are the same for when England were destroyed by Gunter Netzer and failed to reach any of the subsequent three major tournaments. The England team was like an apple bobbing in a water-filled barrel. It rose to the surface for the briefest of time from 1986 to Euro ’96 before the bites taken out of it sent the core plummeting to the bottom.
It’s never recovered. There has been no bridge between the incompatibility of the money-fuelled club game to international football in this country. There is no coming together of like minds, just a coven of self-interest. Until that balance is found, fundamentally flawed thinking such as Greg Dyke’s is the best that we can come up with which is the most damning indictment of it all.