By Andrew Mangan
So, while I was working yesterday evening, I had England v Brazil on and it was fantastic to see Jack Wilshere show his stuff against such exalted opponents.
Although I only saw 60 minutes he was clearly the star of the show, and having received the man of the match award for his performance over 90 he kept it up right until the end. That he can play like that is no surprise to Arsenal fans who have watched him closely over the last few months, but perhaps it was the moment he firmly established himself as an essential part of Roy Hodgson’s team.
Although little surprises me these days, and despite the fact Stuart Pearce has shown himself to be a nincompoop of the highest order in the past, the fact that he still wants to take Wilshere to the Under-21 European Championships next summer shows how out of touch he is. He wants Jack, and Oxlade-Chamberlain, to go play in a tournament that nobody (except him) cares about, saying of Hodgson:
"I’d probably prefer a bit more support in regard to the players. If he deems he wants those players with him in Brazil then so be it. I see a lot about players being rested, but where should the priority be on burn-out? Should the clubs rest for the national team?"
Which rather misses the point that clubs pay players wages and this anachronistic system that still prioritises a national team over a club is a throwback of the worst kind. Both Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain are in the senior side because they’re good enough to be there, and too good to be playing U-21 football. If the point of the ‘junior’ side is to give certain players the experience of playing for their country, then the job is done with regards those two.
Making Wilshere play U-21 football might be good for the U-21 team but it’s not going to benefit Jack in the slightest. Nor will it do the senior team much good if players are trompling around playing in meaningless tournaments surrounded by no-marks and never-will-bes like Jonjo Shelvey.
Once again it looks as if Pearce is more concerned about himself than what’s best for the players or for English football (it’s all well and good for me not to care, but I’m not employed by the FA with a large part of my job based on player development). Anybody else, anyone with a bit of common sense and awareness, would laud Wilshere for his performance and accept that they’ve just seen the future of the England midfield for the next 10 years. Not him.
In other international news there may be some injury worries as we head towards the game against Sunderland this weekend. Aaron Ramsey returned to Arsenal without playing for Wales, having picked up a calf injury in training. That’s compounded by reports that Laurent Koscielny picked up the same kind of injury playing for France against Germany last night. If true, and based on what we just saw with Mikel Arteta, that could be three weeks for both of them, meaning they miss the Bayern game.
In Ramsey’s case there’s certainly more cover in midfield, so as well as he’s been playing recently, it’s not that big a blow, but centre-half is a position where we’re kind of walking on thin ice a bit. I know he wasn’t everybody’s favourite but I have to admit I found the decision to let Johan Djourou go on loan a strange one, especially when we didn’t then sign any cover.
Thomas Vermaelen missed the mini-Interlull with an ankle problem which has to make him doubtful for the weekend. Hopefully he’ll be fit, and that his absence from the Belgian side was precautionary more than anything else, but if he’s not then the manager has to choose a partner for Per Mertesacker. His options: Sebastian Squillaci (a man who has barely played football for two years), or a youngster like Ignasi Miquel or Martin “Lookbackin” Angha.
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Even with three established centre-halves it leaves a team open to being weakened considerably in a crucial position. One injury, one suspension, and all of a sudden you’re scratching around in the bottom of the barrel looking for options. I realise it’s difficult to have four top class centre-halves at any club. Look at Laurent Koscielny - he’s played far less than he’d have envisaged having been our best defender last season, but the lack of depth is a worry and could prove very costly.
That said, it could be a real chance for one of the youngsters, maybe they can come in and show they’re ready for the big time, but it still feels horribly risky. All we can do is keep fingers crossed and hope the injury to Koscielny isn’t as bad as we fear it may be.
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