Saturday June 14. That date will be significant for most English males, and Italians too, as that marks the opening day of the World Cup for those nations.
The most important game takes place on this date as England battle Italy in their first Group D fixture, before facing Uruguay and Costa Rica in the following 10 days.
But, with just a few months left for the English hopefuls to play their way into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup plans, which Arsenal players will be jetting off to Brazil with the Three Lions this summer?
We can assume that, given his heavy involvement with England and Arsenal over the last number of years, Jack Wilshere will certainly be included in the 23-man party. Similarly, given his season-ending injury, it is pretty safe to assume that Theo Walcott would not be able to recover in time to stake his claim for a place on the plane.
That leaves three English lads in the Arsenal first team that find themselves in with a shot of making the tournament, but are far from guaranteed to be picked this summer. Here, Gunners Town assesses their chances.
Given his links with Finland and the fact that he was plying his trade at the likes of Welling United and Eastbourne Borough, it’s taken some wild turn of events for Carl Jenkinson to even reach being considered for the tournament.
CJ has found himself, as you would expect, behind Bacary Sagna in the right-back pecking order but that does not mean that he has found game time impossible. Whether it’s a result of Sagna moving inside as a centre-back, or CJ coming on in the right wing position to sure things up, Jenkinson has managed to get minutes under his belt for Arsenal.
However, I’m not sure it’s enough to keep him busy this summer. Jenkinson has a handful of caps for England at youth level (as well as Finland) but has just one senior appearance for the Three Lions.
Given that he is up against usual England picks Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker, who both receive regular playing time at their respective clubs, I highly doubt that Jenkinson will be on the plane to Brazil this summer.
Chances in a word: Unlikely
You don’t need to just talk to Arsenal fans to realise what a good player this young man is turning into. Kieran Gibbs has been one of the star performers for the Gunners this term, and it comes as a surprise to no one at the club.
Gibbs has been brilliant both offensively and defensively, and managed to keep Nacho Monreal, at times the first-choice left-back for defending champions Spain, on the bench. What may also give Gibbs the edge to make it into the team is his versatility. Not a huge amount of people know but Gibbs can play on the left wing (not a shock) but also in centre midfield. In fact, Gibbs has represented England at youth level in that midfield berth. So he could provide cover in other areas if needs be. However, I wouldn’t expect that attribute to count towards much as he hasn’t played there for club or country in a number of years.
Gibbs, who has three caps for the England senior team and a fair amount more at U21 level, will compete mainly against Chelsea’s Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines of Everton to be picked for two left-backs berths in the squad. It’s fair to say that Luke Shaw, who has been very impressive for Southampton over the past two seasons, also deserves to have his name thrown into the hat.
However, I think this may be a tournament too soon for Gibbs. Despite limited time in the Chelsea team this year, Cole has over 100 caps for England and provides some integral experience that England need, as well as knowing what it takes to win major honours. I would expect him to be joined by Baines, who could be considered quite unlucky to not have nailed down an England starting place already. This will be Cole’s last major tournament with England, no doubt, while Baines will be 31 by the time Euro 2016 comes around.
So for Gibbs (and Shaw), France in 2016 may be the more likely international target, but I expect them both to miss out this summer.
Chances in a word: Slim
The Ox is without question the man from this short list that possesses the best chance of getting the call-up for England this summer.
Despite suffering a long-term injury at the start of the season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has wasted little time in making an impact upon his return. He came back in January, and has already shown what is he is capable of. Whether deployed on the wing or in the centre, Chamberlain has been one of the best players for Arsenal in 2014. Aside from his goals, Chamberlain has terrorised defenders with his speed, strength and trickery.
The Ox is no stranger to the England set-up either. On top of numerous England youth appearances, Chamberlain has 13 full England caps and can boast that he has already played for the national team at a major tournament; he was selected for Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland.
England have a number of wingers vying for the same position as Chamberlain, who also find themselves in with a chance but are not a definite name on the squad list. The likes of Andros Townsend, Adam Johnson and Gabriel Agbonlahor to name but a few.
With Theo Walcott’s Arsenal and England place up for grabs while he sits injured at home, I would expect Chamberlain to use the former to achieve the latter. Being one of few runners in the Arsenal team, I think that Chamberlain will show enough between now and the end of the season for his club to earn the nod from Roy Hodgson. Chamberlain is almost a guaranteed starter in the Arsenal side due to his form and position, so I think it would be safe to assume that we will be cheering on Chamberlain when he takes to South America in June.
Chances in a word: Huge
Of course this is all just consideration and opinion from an Arsenal fan. All three could go, or none at all could be picked. We’ll just have to wait and see what Roy Hodgson thinks come the end of the campaign.
Thanks for reading.