What an absolute pleasure to be asked by Sun Football, for my thoughts on Arsenal providing four players for the England squad announced by Gareth Southgate last week. It has been a fair few years since the likes of Welbeck, Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain were in and round the international scene simultaneously and I cannot imagine the last time my team contributed four to a squad.
In part, this is easily explained by the lack of English first teamers in the later Wenger era but if we are honest perhaps even those who were looked at, such as Gibbs, Chambers, Holding and let us not forget Carl Jenkinson were not truly international class. How different then in 2022 to be an Arsenal fan, not only proud to have four of our own, in the squad, but even more that 2 of them, Saka and Smith-Rowe, truly are our own, produced by the Hale End set up.
It is desperately sad for Aaron Ramsdale, to pick up a minor injury has caused him to drop out of the squad, at time he must have felt he would have had a chance to show why he might be considered as a viable alternative to Jordan Pickford. The Everton keeper has bee consistent for his country, but his club form must have shaken his confidence, so vital in that position. Confidence is certainly not a quality one would ever accuse Ramsdale of being short of, and with Nick Pope, really not being required to play out from the back to often for Burnley, I am sure Arsenal’s No.1 will soon be England’s too.
On current form, and I doubt even the most ardent Gooner, who have suggested this a year ago, Bukayo Saka must be now considered nailed on to start for Southgate. With Sterling and Grealish sharing the left flank for Man City, and Foden playing centrally, I would be astonished if the national team coach does not see Arsenal’s most consistent player as a go to player now.
Saka might have surprised non-Arsenal fans with his scintillating displays in the Euros last summer, but he has taken his whole game to another level this campaign. He is stronger, smarter, making the right on-field decisions consistently and has added more goals. Worth noting the Arsenal talisman has raised his game despite the disappointment of the penalty miss last summer, while Sancho and Rashford have suffered seemingly and neither have made this squad.
Emile Smith-Rowe is our most recently capped player, and he has retained his place in Southgate’s thinking ahead of the 2 more experienced United players mentioned, despite not starting regularly for the Gunners. I see his position as very similar to that of Saka last season. Perhaps for England, as he is for Arsenal, he is currently seen as an ideal impact substitute. Like his friend and teammate, able to come on for England, on the left, right, in central midfield as a ball carrier or as a 10 if needed.
The really interesting one however, is Ben White, called up as a Brighton player, as a late replacement last summer, but now back in as a Gunner, with a real claim to the right central defensive role. After, a baptism of fire for his new club, against Ivan Toney, when many pundits queried his £50m price tag, White has settled into a fabulous partnership for Arsenal with Gabriel. It is hard to think of a performance in 2022 from the likeable young man that has been less than an 8/10.
He has proved far better in the air than many believed, shows fabulous anticipation and game reading, which invariably means he is well position for interceptions and challenges. Crucially for Southgate of course is his ability to either pass accurately from his defensive position, short or long but also how comfortable he is carrying the ball out when the opportunity presents itself.
The real problem for the England boss is that Tyrone Mings is his only left footed central defender, and when fit he has opted to play Maguire on the left ahead of the Villa skipper. Coady is the other option, who is usually selected when Southgate players with 3, a system in which the Wolves captain excels at. On the right in a two, the go to player partner has been Jon Stones, who seldom lets his country down. However, the simple facts are that Stones has only featured in 11 Premier League matches for Man City, and that might make the step up to international football tough at this time. It is for this reason that I fully expect to see White given a start in at least one of the 2 up coming matches, and on current form, and with his confidence sky high, I believe he will grasp his chance to shine.
There is an excellent chance for all four Gunners, if their form and improvement continue on the same trajectory, to be involved in the autumn World Cup.
This is the full, unedited version of Dave’s Sun Football Fan column from yesterday.
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.