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 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.
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.
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.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.