The continental media have often suffered from a superiority complex towards English football – both at national and club level. They love to talk down English tactics and the ability of English footballers and managers. They often get away with this as it fits the general perception of English football in Europe, and the media are generally lazy and stick to their dusty old scripts.
For example, after round one of the CL games, a journalist of Voetbal International – a renowned Dutch football magazine to which I subscribed as long as 38 years ago – came out with the cheap, presumptuous statement that German clubs are far better tactically than English clubs. In fact, he called English clubs tactically naïve.
Yes Arsenal had been beaten by a far better team on the night, yes Bayern managed to win at home against MC (but only just and with a late goal), and yes Schalke was able to hold the Chavs to a draw. So what? MC and Arsenal still have to play the Germans on these fine shores, and the Chavs probably had an off-day. Let’s see what will happen in the next few months, and how many German teams will top their groups come the end of the group stages.
The football played by Arsenal and Citeh is of a very high order, both tactically and technically, and the Chavs are the Chavs, as much as Maureen is Maureen. We might not like the way they generally play football, but nobody can call it tactically naïve, can they?
On a national level, things have been quite different for a very long time. The FA tried to change the way the national team played football by throwing lots of money at very expensive, internationally renowned managers like Capello and SGE. It did not really work out as various England teams underperformed during the last major tournaments. Roy Hodgson seems to be making a difference, albeit slowly. The oldies have gone and a whole new generation of more technically and tactically gifted footballers are now wearing the shirt with pride.
Last World Cup clearly came to early for Hodgson’s (long term) vision, as the team performed without much bite, purpose or self-belief. But with SG now retired as well, Woy can shape the team as he pleases. And it looks like our own boys will play an important role in England’s future, by occupying key positions in defence, midfield and attack. England started with four Gunners, and at the start of the second half there were even five on the pitch: Gibbs, Chambers, Wilshere, Welbeck and Ox (2nd half). And our most experienced international, Theo, will soon be available as well.
Some Gooners questioned whether this is a good idea, as our players will likely suffer fatigue and injuries from their international games and tournaments. But I reckon it will be key to both their individual development as well as establishing a strong core to the English and Arsenal teams.
It is hard to judge our players’ performances against a part-time park the bus team, full of players who’ll never stop believing their luck for playing against the big stars of Europe a few times a year.
We saw the versatility of Jack, playing more advanced in the first half and a bit deeper in the second. His over-the-top balls for Rooney were exquisite, but so were his defence splitting balls during both halves. His vision was sharp as a razor and his composure was professional throughout the game.
Danny was busy with putting pressure on the defence and had a few good opportunities before he scored his well anticipated and executed goal, made by the Ox. San Marino did not give England a lot of space, so we did not necessarily see the best of Danny on Thursday, but a goal will do and nobody can deny he put in a fine shift.
Chambers had one of his weakest games since he joined Arsenal. There was not much to do defensively as his attacking skills were mainly required on the night. He worked hard and played with healthy aggression and thrust, but his passing under pressure was often off and so was some of his decision making. I am hoping he will be rested for the game on Sunday, so he will be fresh when we face Hull City in a week from now.
Gibbs was solid and disciplined and supported the attack constantly. There was a maturity in his play that really pleased me, and I hope Hodgson will give him more opportunities like these.
Ox brought real thrust and excitement to England’s second half performance, and he will be pleased with his two assists (for Welbeck and Townsend). We all want him to burst through to the top this season, just like Aaron did last season. At the moment he seems unable to keep up his performances throughout the whole game, relying too much on periodic bursts of energy and purpose, whilst disappearing in between them. With Ozil out and Theo not yet back, AOC has a great opportunity to play himself into the team, rather than remaining a great option from the bench.
Let’s see what Hodgson will do against Estonia tomorrow: how many Gunners will he start and in which positions? Of course I am worried about our young talents getting injured, but I am also excited in seeing them play in an undoubtedly tougher game than midweek’s. I like it that Hodgson sticks to a system (the Diamond formation) and is getting his players to learn to play in it. He is a pragmatist and will make changes if and when required, but it is very important to have a system that all the players recognise and have learned to play in, and our boys are becoming the very core of this.
With the right system of football, tactics and quality footballers, England could soon be at the top of European football nations again, and once and for all silence the lazy European football press. And Arsene/Arsenal will have helped to build it. Arsene to proudly lead England at the next world cup? Pourquoi pas? 🙂
What did you make of our boys’ performances? And who are likely to become core players in the national team for the next few major tournaments?
Written by: TotalArsenal.