Adaptability and ability have earned Maitland-Niles and Saka their England call ups


England’s Young Guns

After a stressful, yet largely satisfying end to the Transfer Window for Arsenal, with the addition of a much-needed top class central midfielder in Thomas Partey, we sadly have an international break. When most fans are desperate to see their new players in action, we will have to satisfy ourselves with watching them on international duty and praying they don’t suffer injury.

For England, this entails a friendly against Wales followed by the huge challenge of one of the world’s top sides, Belgium, at Wembley in the Nation’s League. Obviously, any local UK derby will be tough for the  Three Lions but according to some of the sportsbooks found here, England are indeed favorites. Looked through a few of the sites and they all say the same thing, just slightly different numbers. Good idea to browse through the sites to see if any of the odds change in the next day or so but with such a short period of time left, I doubt they will change. Of course, it is two particular young Lions that are of interest to Arsenal fans, with two of our brightest young stars in the England squad.

For a team that once boasted 7 players in the England starting 11, and had provided more England Internationals than any team, in recent times Arsenal have provided less and less regular players for their home nation. It was probably 2016 with Wilshere and Welbeck that Arsenal last contributed two players to a squad for a serious international fixture, so it is exciting to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles again included and now Bukayo Saka as well. The latter in being selected has affirmed his desire to represent England over Nigeria.


Been a while

Whilst exciting for both Young Guns, there are some strange and interesting common themes to their selection in my view. Firstly, both have been called up without being necessarily regular starters for Arsenal. Secondly both – when they do play for Arsenal – have not nailed down a set position. Now this is in part due to the tactical flexibility and fluid in-game transition of Arsenal under Mikel Arteta, but I also think this has assisted their rise to international recognition.

Over the years England’s squads have regularly featured strong utility players, particularly at major tournaments; individuals able to step in for their manager in multiples roles are a huge asset. Gary Stevens, Terry Fenwick and Owen Hargreaves are good examples, and more recently. perhaps. Fabien Delph and – brilliantly – James Milner. In addition, the popularity of the wingback role will have enhanced this with players able to operate defensively and offensively in wide roles.

Certainly whilst I am sure both Saka and Maitland-Niles know where they see their strongest position, the modern game has handed their talent the chance to show itself in a role that at Arsenal, whilst nominally a wingback berth, under Arteta, has allowed them to equally display their attacking attributes when in possession.


Big future?

I am not sure what the long term future is for both at Arsenal, although I am convinced both are more than capable of forging a long-term career in North London, but it is their adaptability as well as their ability that has earned them their recent England call-ups. I shall be watching England’s matches with interest, hoping both Arsenal players see some action, whilst hoping more that they return fully fit and full of confidence to welcome Thomas Partey to London Colney.

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6 Responses to Adaptability and ability have earned Maitland-Niles and Saka their England call ups

  1. allezkev October 8, 2020 at 10:37 am #

    Good post, there used to be a time when being a utility player was seen in a negative light, you’d hear the guys who filled these roles stating that they needed to nail down a settled position, maybe it was because football in the U.K. was more rigid then?
    Now with tactics being so fluid the general appreciation of players who can fill several roles has been enhanced with those players now realising that being versatile is no longer a negative but seeing it as it should be seen as a strength.
    We are at Arsenal very fortunate to have two such players with such high level, quality players indeed and whilst it isn’t a surprise to see Bakayo in the England senior squad it possibly is for Ainsley and that might not have happened if he hadn’t accepted that being versatile is beneficial to him rather than wishing to see himself being cemented as a winger or midfielder?

    Gareth Southgate should maybe give Mikel Arteta a call to thank him…

    • Dave Seager October 8, 2020 at 11:43 am #

      Kev are you on Twitter?

  2. allezkev October 8, 2020 at 9:41 pm #

    I am on Twitter Dave but I don’t really Tweet mate, I kinda joined it years ago but never really got involved.

    Maybe I’ll revisit it as that’s where all the bloggers seem to be these days…

    • Dave Seager October 9, 2020 at 7:57 am #

      Ok would have followed if so

  3. Victor Thompson October 10, 2020 at 11:45 pm #

    Dave, I am delighted that AMN has got the recognition he deserves. I stood up for him when the wolves of Arsenal wanted him gone. I never argued that he was our best full back or half back. He was however a man who could play all of those positions ( including winger ) to a high degree. Now Southgate has obviously seen that too, I know you liked him from past posts you made, so secretly. like me, you nust feel a pleasant glow of “told you so” when you see him getting recognition at last.

    • Dave Seager October 12, 2020 at 10:32 am #

      Haha of course dear boy. How are you coping mate?

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