Believe it or not what set me to thinking about the English players at the Arsenal was the strength and quality of our current squad. To some that may seem strange statement as there are many out there who patently feel the Gunners still do not have the strength in depth. If the thinking behind that is the current and recurring susceptibility we have for injures then it is hard to feel sympathy for that standpoint. If however the view is purely that those we have even if all fit are not good enough for Arsenal to challenge for honours then I may lean toward an opposing view.
The other aspect of this and the question that really got me thinking was what would happen of everyone was fit say in March? That is actually not an unreasonable assumption based on what the club are saying and what I am hearing although it would be un-Arsenal like for there not to be one or two setbacks I guess. For now though let’s retain our optimism and hope that all the returnees are on schedule or close and we pick up no further injuries. The question I was asking myself, setting all personal player affections aside, was would I select and English player in my 1st 11 if I were Arsene Wenger? Indeed not only if I were him but based on what we know from his selections this season to date? If we add in form, which if we are to win the title has to be a key factor I strongly suspect the answer would be NO.
We all know his first 11 and his chosen formation from the early stages of the season with only one possible variable, namely which of Giroud or Walcott stared up top. On current form it would be extremely difficult to argue for Theo to start ahead of Olly, even given that the Englishman has not really been playing there of late.
Some may argue but the team is Cech, Bellerin. Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Giroud. (Note not my choice but I think Wenger’s.)
Arsenal fans are divided on Ramsey and many would dearly love to see him retained centrally when Cazorla is fit but given everything Wenger has said it would represent a huge change of heart. Having said that even if when Coquelin returns in a few weeks and slots in for Flamini and it does work well I still see no Englishman in the 11. Because all the arguments given by the manager for needing Ramsey on the right earlier in the campaign to give balance to Sanchez on the left would still apply and therefore it would lead us to expect Campbell to get the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott. The Costa Rican has demonstrated a higher work rate, better defensive awareness superior decision making and ball retention so would justifiably expect to keep his shirt.
So as it stand we have would have no English players in the suggested first choice starting 11 if my theorising is correct but what of the bench? With 6 outfield players likely to be chosen and if everyone is fit the list to narrow down would be:
Rosicky, Elneny, Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck, Chamberlain, Flamini, Arteta, Chambers, Iwobi, Campbell, Gabriel, Gibbs, Reine-Adelaide
That is 14 players without factoring in Debuchy who it seems may be allowed to leave. So let’s be ultra-harsh and remove the players who the club have told us will not having playing contracts for 2016/17 because who select them over younger players and newer signings?
Our list is now still 11: Elneny, Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck, Chamberlain, Chambers, Iwobi, Campbell, Gabriel, Gibbs, Reine-Adelaide
So let’s pencil in those pushing for the 1st 11 based on position and current form. Hard to argue that as a new signing Elneny will not be pushing for action. Gabriel is a racing certainty and if not in the 11 Campbell would be definitely be a substitute
So there we now have a starting go to 11 for Wenger plus 3 who would be contenders or first changes. That leaves 3 outfield bench places left and even if we agree that Iwobi and Jeff may go on loan next campaign you still have 6 Englishman competing for 3 places. Right now, if all were fit Wilshere, Walcott and Welbeck the 3 W’s would slot in leaving Chamberlain, Chambers and possible even Gibbs in the cold for me. Although if Wenger wanted a defensive option, over and above Gabriel, Gibbs might just edge out one of English compatriots.
It pains me to say this about Ox but I am not sure his style of play even with more consistency will ever suit Arsenal under Wenger. I love players who can run at the opposition but does it truly fit into the style our manager is playing now? As for Chambers I see him as a truly top draw central defender but like Jenko unless ‘Le Boss’ is ready to cut his ties with Per I think he may also go on loan.
All the above also is based on the squad from now to May as there are unlikely to be any more January additions. It is also operating on a wishful thinking when it comes to how swiftly Wilshere and Welbeck can get back to match sharpness. If they can they will figure ahead of many of those currently occupying shirts and heated Emirates dug out chairs.
Let’snot forget that in August at least 5 of the 6 Englishmen who we have been discussing would have had serious aspirations to be at the Euro’s in France this summer. I would be stunned is 2 make it to be honest.
No definitive conclusions really but based on Wenger’s own comments during the season, looking at his selections in general, players form and my own views It could well be the case that on the run in and into next season the much heralded English core might be peripheral, gone or in and out of the team or first changes from the bench. Many will argue on Walcott and trust me I would dearly love to be proved totally wrong but whilst he is currently the only Englishman who is a possible starter do we actually believe he will be leading our line next season?