The Arsenal English Core – Rotten, Forgotten or just not making the grade?

Arsenal's Forgotten Englishmen
Arsenal’s Forgotten Englishmen

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.

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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.

Starter of close to it
Starter of close to it

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.

I love him but.....
I love him but…..

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.

Would Theo start if all fit?
Would Theo start if all fit?

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?


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  1. If we dont buy a world class striker in the summer then Yes. I can see Walcott leading our line next season. He offers a lot more upfront than Giroud. The french man of course is currently on form but he always has these kinds of periods every season and is also very limited as a CF. I cant imagine him carving up the really top not teams like Walcott did with his movements against Bayern and United. AT home against Barca i would definitely like to see walcott upfront. His movement and pace will really hurt then like he did in 2010. Giroud offers a lot but is more a plan B striker to be fair to the french man. Walcott is more an Aguero than Giroud. Not comparing him to the City man but he offers a lot of of what Aguero offers than Giroud ever will.
    The biggest disappointment though must be Ox. I for me thought this was the yar he would come into his own. It just hasnt worked out well for him has it? For me he had the potential to like Sanchez or even better with his pace, trickery and work rate. Dont know whats wrong with him but im very disappointed.

    1. I agree with your assessment on Giroud, he’s good at linking the play but he never runs in behind which makes it easier for good defenders to defend against. 90 % of his goals seam to be one touch finishes whether it be headers, flicks or getting on the end of pin point deliveries.
      Walcott offers movement that helps to stretch defenses which makes more room for the likes of Ozil, Sanchez, Campbell and Ramsey to exploit.

  2. Fantastic analysis. A few thoughts though.

    First of all, I think that when every body is fit and firing, we have a starting 16-19. I say this because outside the obvious starters (Cech, Bellerin, Kos, Coq, Ozil & Sanchez) I feel like we have a bunch of players who can push each other in and out of that 11.

    At LB Monreal is on top but I feel if Gibbo got an extended spell in the side (maybe due to an injury to Monreal) he would make choosing between the two a much harder decision to make.

    At CB, it is just a matter of time before Gabriel is a permanent fixture in the side. The only thing Per has over him is experience.

    At central midfield we have Cazorla, Ramsey & Wilshere fighting for the same spot. If all of them are at the peak of their powers, I wouldn’t know who to pick over the rest. Honestly. Let’s not forget that we haven’t yet seen what El neny is made of.

    Then in wide areas & up front we have Giroud, Theo, Campbell, ox & Welbz. Giroud is currently the number 1 but let’s not forget that he has his down times. Let’s also not forget that when Theo is on form he is a ruthless finisher. Campbell at the moment is number two for me but we are all aware of the Ox’s obvious talent. Welbz also has shown that he can develop to be a fearsome CF. It just shows that when all are firing, some HARD decisions will have to be made.

  3. Please, let’s not deceive ourselves whit :
    Theo- is not a striker , is not a winger, is not a footballer at all.
    10 years and counting except his speed ain’t nothing to talk.
    Good sportsman , no bad attitude and that is that.

    Ox- Still I rate him . Me think that the willingness to learn from the likes of Sanchez is not there . Hope I am wrong but to be in the first 11 made him and Willshere a big arrogant.

    Willshere- Sorry ! In order to be evaluated has to be available first.

    Promotion to the first eleve has come way to early.
    Just look at Campbell .How many hurdles has to overcome and compare to our English boys . And yet people still question wether Campbell has to be called before the Ox or Theo.
    English players ard way overrated.

    1. I totally agree with.

      The “English core” including Ramsey seem to have no incentive to grow. They are assured of squad space due to Epl rules, they have a longsuffering manager in Wenger and they command (and know they can command good salaries) at the club as well as any other Epl clubs.

      The malaise is not limited to Arsenal FC alone as you will find it replicated in other Epl teams. No wonder Man City was desperate for any English player. The Epl’s ‘affirmative action’ has reduced their incentive to attain world class status and thus they stagnate.

      is it not disheartening that Gibbs who understudied Ashley Cole and was supposedly heir apparent has retrogressed. In other clubs you find English players not doing enough to push the envelope of their talents. For example, Rooney always seem to be one step below where he ought to be in world football.

      The truth is this is the best that will be produced by the English core with probably the exception of Ramsey whose natural attitude of surmounting challenges will push him higher. Consider Campbell and how he has become a selection head ache for Wenger due to his attitude and work rate.

      Alternatively, could it be that Wenger is too soft on them and other young players. Szczesny comes to mind, so much talent but poor attitude.

      On the other hand, we could all be wrong and they will all explode on the world stage but I think not….

  4. Nice article. I feel Wengers idea to build this Brittish core is great for our togetherness and contact with the Brittish fanbase. For that point I can see what he is doing there.
    On the other hand if I look at the master Wenger is on the transfermarket when it comes to finding young gems, that core has cost us a lot of money. Compare Ox, Walcott, Chambers and Wellbeck to the likes of Vieira, Anelka, RVP, Cesc, Kos, Bellerin, Monreal etc.

    Not only where those players cheaper, they are undoubtely world class at a stage. Sure, Walcott has delivered, Jack is an amazing player and Ramsey is great to have in the squad, and, as said I like to see us with a Brittish core, they players who will win you the PL are foreign.

    So I find it strange when I say Aaron Ramsey is a good player but no way near guys like Kroos, Modric, Busquets, Vidal.. People go mad.

    Fine, I like Aaron but dont critize Arsene when we get trashed by Bayern or Barca again. If we want to make the last step to that level I feel in the formation below, we should replace 1 or 2 players with world class. Like going from Szcenzy to Cech.

    Hope next seasons line up will be
    Cech, Bellerin, Kos, Gabriel, Coq, Santi/signing, Alexis, Ozil, signing, Giroud.

    But hey, I also hope Wilshere, Ramsey or Danny will make that last step to being a world class player and I fully support them if the wear the shirt. I just dont see it happening.

  5. Good article, but It may be a bit harsh. For one thing Walcott is perfect for certain games where Giroud is not the ideal e.g away game in Champions league, you are playing a big game in the premiership vs a very defensive team eg Chelsea.

    The same is true of Ramsey. Stoke away is a game you’d probably let Ramsey play instead of him. But also Cazorla is 30 or just over, so in any season you dont really want him playing twice a week. Remember how knackered he was vs Spurs this season? So Ramsey is sort of a half starter behind Cazorla.

    As for Gibbs, Monreal is playing out of his skin, but he is 29 now and playing a high-intensity position. You need a player who can step in be a part time starter. Gibbs does that. No complaint.

    Wilshere, between injuries and his lack of game intelligence, I have completely written him off, personally. Ox can improve enough to do a lot of what Wilshere is capable of inside – and some other things on the wing that he cant.

    Chambers is young, his time will come. I see a lot of Phil Neville in him. Will be a handy player now matter what.

    Also you forgot Jenko, the perfect backup for Bellerin, who also really should not be playing every game.

  6. Sometimes wonder how we ever put a team out,so many of our players are shit!!
    Cant figure out how we win so many games and are always near the top of the league with all these shit players!!
    So many players who are not the standard for our club and want shipping out (cos there shit!!)
    Yet all our fans have all the answers,solve all the problems and can recruit all these world class players (who are not Shit!!) at a flick of a keyboard hit.
    Maybe the fans are Shit !!!

  7. I think Wenger should seriously consider converting Aaron Ramsey to a CF. He is a highly talented player who in my opinion possesses all the qualities (and desire)to thrive in that position. He has proven time and again to have goal scoring ability. He has decent pace on and off the ball, can shoot accurately from inside and outside the box, is decent in the air, can easily take on defenders as he is a great dribbler, has an incredible work rate, He even makes better runs than any of our current strikers! A manager like Pep Guardiola wouldn’t even think twice about it!
    I think Aaron Ramsey is one of a number of arsenal players who have not fulfilled their potential simply because they are confused about which position suits them best. Since Cesc Fabregas left for Barcelona, Arsene Wenger has been obsessed with finding the perfect replacement for him and every attacker Arsenal have produced just want to be “number 10”.
    I say give Ramsey a chance at CF and he will be world class. He is more qualified than Theo Walcott for the position in my opinion.

    1. You make a great point about Ramsey and the potential for him to be a centre forward, at least in the more mobile style how Wenger uses Theo in that position.

      That said, it would be wrong to say Wenger has been “obsessed” by turning everyone at the #10 role into Cesc. In fact he changed the team around when Cesc left. And of late things have clicked when Wenger split the playmaking load around, such that Cazorla is the deeper playmaker and then Sanchez and Ozil are doing the job closer to goal. In contrast, when Cesc was here at his peak seasons, everything when through him. Whether we got the ball deep or in the opponents half, everyone was looking to give the ball to Cesc. But now there are playmakers all over the park in this team. Even the lives of Bellerin and Campbell weigh in from the wing too.

      I would not rule out Ramsey playing center forward at Arsenal before long. Wenger’s pattern is that he might have it in mind but won’t do it unless there is an injury crisis or a need to rejigger for a domestic cup tie etc, out of respect to the specialists already playing that position. But it could happen.

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