The international break begins in earnest – I don’t where Ernest is but he’d better brace himself for it – with Alexandre Lacazette enjoying what may be the shortest international call-up on record. About three hours after he’d been called into the French squad to cover withdrawals, he himself withdrew. There’s a Catholic joke in there to be made but I’m too bunged up with cold to make it.
Anyway, so there’s one less injury to worry about in the next fortnight. Although anything can happen at any time so I’m not tempting fate by claiming he can’t get injured. No…
Which loosely segues into Danny Welbeck’s ankle. He’s undergone a second surgery which the club said was “planned”. Both operations went well and he’s eating plenty of jelly and ice cream in hospital. How long he is out for is anyone’s guess and nobody’s been brave enough to have a go yet.
It’s opened the door for Eddie Nketiah, according to Unai Emery, for the lesser competitions but in the Premier League, it’s a case of more playing time for Iwobi and Mkhitaryan over the course of the season. Or until January, depending on how Unai Emery assesses our needs.
Finding the balance on promoting youth is tough. No manager gets it right every single time, just as not every signing is perfect. With so few young players making the grade at a top-flight club, it’s hard to call for patience particularly when they themselves are eager for their chance.
Nketiah left Chelsea because he felt Arsenal presented a better opportunity for first-team football and we’ve lost players from our academy as well in similar circumstances. I hope Nketiah takes this opportunity although some people’s expectations are a little high, to say the least.
A Difficult Case
One who bore those expectations previously was Daniel Crowley. There’s an interesting and honest assessment of his career, as well as life in the Dutch league.
He freely admits his desire to play made him difficult to handle.
I started to fall out with people because I wasn’t playing. I was getting on the gaffer’s nerves and he just said ‘You have got to go’.
[Lower league players] might not be the best technically but they are a lot more experienced and they know how to win games.
With focus on Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson breaking records for Hoffenheim, the question of whether more players should move abroad is on the agenda.
It’s good for their careers if things work out. Crowley dropped into the second tier to keep on
However, Crowley seems to be the forgotten man, particularly given his prodigious talent. Despite appearing for England at youth levels, he’s keen to represent Ireland. No call yet from Martin O’Neill or Noel King yet.
Therein is the rub. The parochial nature of English football and the media coverage in the lower levels of the tabloids, focuses on the names; the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga. Money leads the way and the media follow.
The likes of Crowley are reliant upon sporadic reporting and initiative from national team coaches. Which judging by the squad selected by Gareth Southgate is in short supply.
Crowley is scathing about football in England:
This is the problem for English youngsters: where do you take the next step?
Under-23s football is not competitive enough, there are no fans and you are not playing for anything.
The Young Ones
It’s a problem for which there is no easy solution. Entering the Checkatrade Trophy is all well and good but when the likes of Coventry field a lot of reserves, the point is lost somewhat.
I don’t know what the answer is. You can’t ‘test out’ a few under-23s in the Football League – although if 15 Championship clubs continue to greedily assert they deserve more television cash, there’s an opening. That’s a seismic change in English football, not a ‘try and buy’ scenario.
Maybe the time has come to insist each Premier League subs bench includes three Under-23 players? Or maybe more to ensure the best are used? We shall see.