Just as the Premier League begins to stretch it’s legs into a stride, the ill-timed, oft-hated and much maligned international break emerges like some disease spread upon the world footballing community. I don’t necessarily dislike the break as some do, but do I look forward to it’s oddly timed, momentum sucking arrival as club football bows to the international slop? No.
This summer taught me that international football is far from what it used to be (dead? does anyone really care anymore?). Gone are the days of commitment in attack, a stage big enough to display the brightest stars or even a reason to get excited about your country or adopted footballing nation. Here to stay: caution, defensive tactics, caution, glitzy commercials, hype, controversy, the Gods of football dead as a Ghanaian team carrying the hopes of a continent slashed at the end by some trickery and treachery, and enough cautious tactics to make one pluck out their eye in protest.
Did I mention caution?
As an England fan, I somehow convince myself to stay optimistic. Surely the Three Lions won’t muck Euro 2012 qualification up the way they did for the tournament in 2008. No, qualification isn’t what bothers me this time. Capello will likely get enough out of the boys for the ticket to be punched for 2012.
A few glaring concerns I do have though, one of which is squad selection, the other tactics. The ‘England problem’ won’t likely be solved for the next 15-20 years. So, in the meantime, who will England fans get to see take up the call? I’m not in the class of delusional England fans who think a major tournament is some ‘in arms reach realism’ likely to come before my 40’s. But where I’m drawn in this time, where my interest is acutely peaked is Fabio Capello’s squad selection and tactical formation.
Will his 4-4-2 ever give way to the new continental brand of 4-2-3-1 where the English aren’t outnumbered in midfield?
As the golden generation of English football slowly creaks and cracks into international retirement, the buoyant optimism of young, fresh faces emerging through the England ranks invigorate this England supporter enough to lend a watchful eye to their unassuming potential.
Are the old guard good enough players to get England to Euro 2012? Likely yes. Are they good enough to win it? Likely no. So out of interest and maybe just a little bit of fun, can we have a glimpse of what the younger English talent look like in meaningful matches? The optimist says we already have and Capello himself seems to say yes.
Whether by choice or lack of other viable options due to injury, Capello has included the likes of Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, James Milner, Joe Hart, Kieran Gibbs, Ashley Young and Carlton Cole in his most recent installment of the BBC hit drama known as the England team.
Odd though, no Germans, Dutch, Brazilians or Spaniards in the mix to represent mother England in this new world of global football. Wait-, should we even go there? You knew it was coming.
Mikel Arteta, the handsome, enigmatic midfielder from Merseyside, yet to speak (in English or Spanish) concerning his international involvement in this international incident continues to pull the strings for under-acheiving Everton as the club languish towards the basement of the Premier League.
Is this Mr. Arteta good enough for England? He certainly looks the part, but what does his potential inclusion to the England squad say about the state of current England players? One part of me says little, the other half screams a lot.
First off, England have a player named Paul Scholes who is all things Mikel Arteta but better, yet refuses to take part in the play. Secondly, is Mikel Arteta really better than Frank Lampard, the man he’d likely be replacing? No. It’s really not even worth pointing out stats, goals scored, etc. over the past few years, Lampard wins all of them in a landslide. Not to mention the Champions League and international experience Lampard has tucked neatly under his belt while Arteta has played a small handful of UEFA Cup matches and obviously, or we wouldn’t be discussing this matter, appeared no where near the Spanish national team in recent years. Does some covert proof exist that Mikel Arteta is the answer for England?
So what of the debate that Lampard and Co rarely perform well on the international stage? A solid and well taken point that is backed up by years of proof, so where do we turn, what to do? Does a tournament finally approach wherein England aren’t expected to win it in a glorious fashion thus allowing football to return home? What will be the expectations this time around? Will a new look, fresh smelling England squad be enough to hold back the rabid haters and tabloid clowns?
An American telling the English to play a Spaniard in place of an Englishman dare not be uttered. Regardless of your stance on the debate or deaf to what Capello or Arteta themselves eventually say on the matter, my recommendation, until I’ve made up my mind, is to look at home first for what you’ve lost along the way, to nurture, and to somehow get into the mentality of the now tainted mind of the English footballer. The idea of my brain being able to work out whether or not a Spanish midfielder should pull the strings in the England set up is an idea too intricate, too complex to want to fathom. Where do we go once that can of worms have spilled upon our plates?
Until this seemingly impossible feat is achieved, that of calming the intellects of the England internationals, England fans can expect more of the same from an England team that so miserably underwhelmed this summer at the World Cup. At least this time around, we’ll have a new batch of untested internationals to blame.