How many World Cup players do we have, and is it a concern?
This coming WC is odd compared to recent ones, since we don’t have many players as stars for top teams.
This is an anomaly compared to the past 20, maybe 30, years or so.
There was a time even when Gooners would have France as a second team, largely since Henry, Vieira, and Petit played for them. Or we’d feel proud Cesc won the World Cup, or Seaman saved a pen vs. Scotland, or feel happy when Alexis won back to back Copa Americas. But this year is pretty “meh”. Well for me it as, at the least. It feels weird that we have no definitive players in the very best teams.
Is this a concern, or just a sign of our descent?
I believe it’s both but it shows how we can improve.
In the past few decades, we’ve had the following as key players in the key international teams:
And no doubt numerous others.
All of these either won tournaments or were in teams with some chance of doing such.
As of now, it’s different.
Only Ozil would have this status. with no disrespect to Xhaka, Welbz, Iwobi, Elneny, or Ospina, I cannot see their countries winning it. and yes I include England in this. Monreal has a shout in fairness, and Koscielny could have if he were fit.
We’ve had in this period too players who have won Copa Americas, the Euros, and the World Cup, and have truly been at the pinnacle of the global game.
Are our players rubbish?
Is it because we have players who don’t represent countries who are in shape to challenge? Partly. PEA is world class, but Gabon (with respect to them) is not a strong team in CAF (Confederation of African Football). Mkhitaryan and Armenia are similar, though evidently in UEFA.
So, yes, it’s about luck much as it is quality.
But then it’s both an honour and a statement to have many players in leading international teams. For the basic reason that it shows how good our team is, and can be, and the value our players hold.
So are there other reasons? We need to examine the Wenger effect. Yes, the great man has gone (and is enjoying himself, and rightly so). But it’s self-evident that the team was demoralised towards the end of his tenure, and this effect stopped our players from fully shining.
Bellerin, Mustafi, Cech, and others who won’t attend the World Cup (though to be fair Cech has retired from the Czech national team), clearly suffered from the malaise and lack of coaching that was causing negative results.
We also finished 6th, so this may have prejudiced international managers’ minds against us. It could be that Southgate thought this vis a vis Wilshere. I personally believe, with admitted subjectivity, that he hasn’t been that bad this season. However, it could be a factor, along with his stated injury record (which for me is moot at best considering he played many games this season).
With Emery’s skills in coaching, it could improve the value and status of our players. We clearly were not coached well, and this took its toll.
However, with this in mind, we can try and move from rock bottom, and develop players who have been shut out.
Emery had a supposed dossier of the entire squad, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, and whilst not a coach with a UEFA Pro Licence as our new head coach possesses, I think there are some points to note here.
My view on Bellerin is that he has immense pace, but possibly due to the coaching malaise at the tail end of the great man’s reign, his defensive abilities were not honed. Moreover, he seldom used to beat the last defender, and thus not provide attacking width when required.
Possibly, he could be deployed in a more forward role, and not be a full-back. Or he could be taught better positional awareness, and how to rough-up attackers and be more solid on the ball. Either option could suffice, based on his talents, and if this progresses, he could be a choice for Euro 2020.
Whilst naturally two players, I think their styles and circumstances are similar. Both came from smaller clubs and initially started very well. Both also have achieved at youth international level, and are eager for regular first-team/big-time football. Both really need it, as they’ve shown adequate potential.
Like all of the other defenders, they need to develop better decision-making and awareness, and a strong defensive shape. Smalling, Jones, Maguire, Cahill, etc. are England’s first choices in the centre-back position currently. But if they can start regularly and improve, there is no reason they cannot be a contender for Euro 2020.
Akin to Bellerin, he requires similar treatment. Though not exact treatment as his defensive capability is superior. Though in fairness to him, it depends on how well Bosnia and Herzegovina do in qualifying, as much as his perceived quality.
I believe it’s a similar position to Holding and Chambers. He needs to address his shortcoming, and this can come with coaching. He is a World Cup winner, let’s not forget, as he was in the same Germany squad with Ozil and Mertesacker. So he had the pedigree and only needs to regain it.
Jack has the ability, no doubt. Though he was omitted from England’s squad due to questions over his fitness, and whilst not really fair in my mind, I don’t think he needs to do much to improve. He requires consistency, ultimately.
If Wales had qualified, then he would have started, period. If he were English, he would start, period.
He has featured and shone in for youth England teams. He needs coaching and game-time at the highest level to prove he can get into the Euro 2020 squad.
Given Gabon are not as strong in CAF, traditionally, as Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Algeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tunisia, etc. it’s unfair to cite him here. We all know though that he is a world class forward, and would light up any tournament.
Well, he is on French stand-by duty. However, the issue is not his quality. Had he been fit all season, he would have got 20 plus goals, without question. The issue is stylistic, in that Deschamps (the French team manager) likes to play our old boy Giroud and Griezmann up top. However, should this change, he would get more national-team game time.
Akin to Kolasinac, it’s more dependent on how well his country (Armenia) do in qualify. Few if any dispute about his quality.
This may seem a wild card, though if (and it’s a big if) he can replicate his form in the Norwich League Cup game, then who knows? It will be difficult though since with PEA, Lacazette et al ahead of him, his chances to play will be limited.
So there is a lot to look forward to. It’s clear that the ebb in our team means that we won’t see the glut of top players in top international teams this year, unlike much of the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s to date. Hell, even John Jensen won the Euros before he joined us, and Carlos Vela did well in a World Cup and Copa America one time.
There is a sense, amongst us as fans, and our new manager and an emboldened Gazidis as the clear head of our club’s operations now, that the only way is up, and that things must and are changing. With the proper tools in place, who knows, it could be that we’re seeing Arsenal players as we did in Euro 2000, WC 2002, or WC 2010. In key roles, and in winning or at least challenging for major international cups.