03 October 2014

Three Lions has more Gunners than Red Devils for the first time since 2001

In a bit of an ironic twist, Roy Hodgson has named an England squad with more Gunners in it than Red Devils, the first time this has happened since 2001. It stands as a bit of a tribute to the man who did so much in the early part of his tenure to bring an international flavor to Arsenal and to the Prem but who has, more recently, focused on developing a British core to deliver Arsenal back to prominence—and perhaps, by extension, the Three Lions as well. Remarkably, but for a few unfortunate twists and turns, the shift might have been a bit more dramatic. Suffice it to say, Arsène is playing an outsized role in shaping the fortunes of England's national team, coming full circle from the influence he had wrought on Arsenal while showing that he can, when circumstances or his mood suit him, adapt his philosophy to the changing times.

Say, Roy, can I talk to you about this guy Chuba I know?
In the early days of his tenure, Arsène revolutionized Arsenal through the introduction of international players. Yes, Dennis Bergkamp was already in the squad, but notable players such as Vieira, Overmars, Henry, Ljungberg, Petit, Kanu, Silva, Pires, and a host of others would reshape Arsenal as a very European squad, delivering along with it a playing style and raft of honors that stand to this day as one of the club's most-glorious periods. More recent returns have shone less brightly as Arsène struggled to learn the painful lesson that internationals are less likely to show loyalty to the club, leaving when the price was right or when homesickness (cough) kicked in. Fàbregas. Clichy. Nasri. Van Persie. Adebayor. They'd stay long enough to learn and develop only to leave when suitors beckoned.

Perhaps stung by the defections, perhaps motivated by noticing a surge of domestic talent, Arsène has built a British core for Arsenal that might also provide a firm foundation for the Three Lions as Hodgson prepares a squad for the next round of international competitions. In the recently named squad are no fewer than four Gunners, with Wayne Rooney the only Red Devil to be found. But for an injury here and a birthday there, that number might have cilmbed to five, six, or even seven, but let's not stretch matters too far. In the squad are Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, and Danny Welbeck. Just a step behind them is Calum Chambers (named to the u21 squad). Surely, a fit Theo Walcott would find a spot. For that seventh, could Carl Jenkinson find a spot? Well, that's the one that might stretch things a bit.

Still, it's a dramatic shift. The last time there were this many Gunners in the England squad was in 2002 when Lehmann, Seaman, Cole, Campbell, and Keown represented, matching Man U's Beckham, Scholes, Brown, and Butt. The increased representation of Gunners in the England squad may presage a resurgence both for Arsenal and England, but it's still too early to draw such sweeping conclusions with any confidence. For one, most of these players are still in their professional infancy, with Gibbs the oldest among them at 25 (but frequently left out behind Baines and Cole). Walcott (25), Welbeck (23), Wilshere (22), and Ox (20), joined by Chambers (19), could join to make up six of the XI the next time England compete for something more vital than the Euro 2016 qualifier against mighty San Marino. Looking further ahead to the 2016 Olympics and 2018 World Cup, is it too much of a stretch to think that the England XI could include all six?

Of course, the downside to all of this is that more matches means more injuries. We at Arsenal can ill-afford to subject our best and brightest to further wear and tear; then again, when your country comes calling, it will call on only the best, will it not?

Yes, there is still the lingering preponderance of Liverputians, but their days are surely numbered even with Henderson and Sterling stepping up. Will Gerrard make it to Euro 2016? Will Lambert? Doubtful. At the rate things are trending, Arsenal will completely dominate the Three Lions sooner rather than later. Now, if only the same could be said of the Prem...

Vote for Woolwich 1886 as Best New Blog in the FBAs--click below! Before any of this can come to fruition, of course, Arsenal has a sphincter-tightening match to play on Sunday against Chelsea, they of the solitary call-up to the national squad (Cahill). Let's hope that the call-up serves as a proxy of sorts for that one. Between then and now, I hope you'll take a moment to vote for this blog in the 2014 Football Blogging Awards, which you can do by 
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We'll have more on the Chelsea clash in the next post. Until then, weigh in with your comments below the fold.