This international break succeeded where others failed: it’s broken my perspacity.
Arsenal are in Dubai for “warm weather training” which must hack Aaron Ramsey off given he’s been sent back to the club due to a thigh injury. “Hellooooo…” echoed through the empty Colney corridors in his dulcet Welsh tones. Spare a thought for the medic whose stay in the sun ended abruptly with the news of Ramsey’s injury.
On the pitch, there has been one upside so far. Gabon failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals so Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will get next summer off. Not that it will be a long break. The players return to training in early July and play either Bayern Munich on the 17th or, if we finish sixth, the second qualifying round of the Europa League.
That will queer Stan’s pitch in the US next summer if we finish that low. And it would be pretty embarrassing for the club as the ICC friendlies would be canned. I’m surprised we committed to them but presume that we have an escape clause because there’s no way we’re playing a first leg UEFA match and then sending the team off to the USA for friendlies. It’s madness to think that and an incentive for the players to finish in the top four this season. As if they needed another.
England’s thumping win over the Czech Republic drew attention to youth and exuberance. The Golden Generation, who are now all pundits, ran around like The Scousers telling everyone to “Calm down! Calm down!” as excitement levels rose.
Quite right too. It was a good performance but let’s see if they can keep it up. Nonetheless, it’s good to have an England team which isn’t monstrously overhyped and is just being enjoyed for the football.
Young Hearts Run Free
At the Under-21 level, Reiss Nelson played well in England’s draw with Poland, grabbing an excellent assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal. His time with Hoffenheim hit a ‘rocky’ patch when he was dropped for disciplinary reasons. Julian Nagelsmann described the action as ‘educational’ which suggests it was a series of minor infractions totting up to one too many.
It’s a learning curve for the player, one which previously was almost all-positive. Recovering from this is part of that process, getting him ready for the Arsenal first team squad next season. I don’t think he’ll anything more than a bit-part player, a substitute for Iwobi – who was criticised for his performance for Nigeria – or Mkhitaryan.
That’s the problem with youth; it’s so unreliable when judging a player. If you think back through Wenger’s reign to all the promising youngsters who were going to be the next ‘big thing’ in the first team, how many actually made it?
Very few with Gedion Zelalem the latest to move to pastures new, joining MLS club Sporting Kansas City. Whatever the ‘x’ factor is, it’s good enough for other clubs but not for Arsenal. Our standards are higher, it seems.
Then again, while the primary objective of an academy is to bring through players for the first team if they are good enough, a close second is to be a source of income. Does history mean we’ll be any less excitable in the future. Of course not; seeing a player break through the ranks and make the grade is almost a holy grail in football that no amount of television money and cocking around with the kick-offs can wreck.
The international break is one day closer to finishing and that end cannot come soon enough.