Gareth Southgate on Jack Wilshere, November 2: “I don’t know how you get in an England squad without getting in the Arsenal team.”
Jack Wilshere has 25 Premier League minutes to his name this season, 521 in all competitions. Danny Drinkwater has 22 Premier League minutes this season, 103 in all competitions.
Guess which one Southgate tried to call up?
The Dunn thing
Few people will be inspired by the “options” Southgate has been forced to call on after seven players withdrew from his initial England squad. Andy Dunn thinks he has the answer.
‘Phil Foden was named as the Under-17 World Cup’s best player, an award Jadon Sancho might have been in contention for, had Borussia Dortmund not called him back after the group stages,’ he writes for the Daily Mirror.
‘Both these young players will be 18 when the World Cup kicks off next year.
‘As fanciful as it seems, who would you rather imagine helping England’s challenge? Foden and Sancho or Cork and Livermore?’
Should we not wait for them to play an actual game of senior football before calling them up to the international side for a game against the world champions? Cork and Livermore might not be the most stirring options (they aren’t), but they do at least have more than 16 combined career minutes of senior football.
The white stuff
Writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail:
‘Having won their battle with FIFA over poppies, how frustrating that the Football Association cannot be as determined when dealing with their strip manufacturers, Nike.
‘England should be playing in white tonight – or as white as their ghastly current shirt allows – but Nike are upset that not enough air time has been afforded England’s blue strip, the one that looks like France. So, at home, at Wembley, England will play Germany wearing blue.
‘It is a farce. If they can’t play like England, they should at least try to look like them.’
England, looking like France? In a game against Germany?! That’s it, we’re done with this game.
Tell you what is a ‘farce’, Martin. That England looked like bloody Switzerland when they won the World Cup in 1966.
If Mediawatch were to compile a list of the issues facing the English national team in the modern day, the general lack of enthusiasm, the proliferation of foreign players in the Premier League, the scarcity of chances for younger players, a lack of technical proficiency and the fact that we sometimes have to wear a blue kit would sit high. Samuel has spotted a far greater issue, however.
‘Eric Dier was asked about the 2014 World Cup,’ he begins. ‘What did he remember? “Not a lot, to be honest,” he stumbled. “I was in Portugal and my memories are not much. Who won?”‘
Thus begins one of the more bizarre articles on England in recent memory. The dismissive, scoffing nature of the next line – ‘Ladies and gentlemen, meet tonight’s England captain – confirms as such.
The article, sat beneath the headline ‘Dier proves ignorance is still bliss for England stars’, is based on the premise that Dier, who captains England against Germany on Friday evening, is indicative of the modern player, who doesn’t watch enough football.
‘This really isn’t about captaincy. It’s about football. When are we going to start producing players who actually watch the game; who feel there is worth in studying style and technique; who are engaged enough to want to observe great teams and great players via more than the fantasy world of a game console.’
Quite how Samuel gets from Dier’s initial response to an inane question to ‘kids nowadays play too much XStation 364 or Playbox One’ is astounding. As is the rest of the article, from which we have picked out a few choice lines:
‘Maybe Dier had a brain freeze in front of the cameras. Let’s hope. The alternative explanation is dismal indeed. That another generation of English footballers consider ignorance bliss.’
‘When does he plan to start paying attention; or is he just destined to make the same mistake as previous generations, like the one that got England knocked out against Uruguay?’
‘Our players come into matches like students who haven’t properly revised, wondering why they feel so nervous on exam day.’
‘The irony is that Dier should be one of our smartest footballers.’
All this from a throwaway response to a meaningless question, and the England hatchet job is already in full motion a full seven months before the World Cup begins.
Dier, for what it is worth, speaks both English and Portuguese, has been praised by Mauricio Pochettino for his tactical fluidity in being able to seamlessly transition between central defence and central midfield, and is widely considered as pretty intelligent. But because he was unable to enthusiastically share his memories of a tournament three years ago he is now accused of ‘not paying attention’, with the implication being that he is not a ‘smart footballer’.
Which true England fan or player can honestly pretend they have not tried to forget the 2014 World Cup?
Completing his hat-trick, Samuel climbs atop his soap box for one final time.
‘One of the most awkward aspects of the Eni Aluko affair has always been the attitude of some of the colleagues who knew her best: her England team-mates.’
And there Mediawatch was, thinking that ‘one of the most awkward aspects of the Eni Aluko affair’ was a highly influential journalist describing the ‘real scandal’ of a case involving racism as ‘the wasted cash’.
That apology is still due, Martin.
The Daily Mirror’s back-page headline: ‘No-nonsense Moyes set to dump £25m Hammers flop Arnautovic in January’
The Daily Mirror’s first paragraph: ‘David Moyes could axe £25million flop Marko Arnautovic in January.’
The Daily Mirror’s third paragraph: ‘Arnautovic, the club’s record summer signing, is under threat after failing to impress both the fans and the board.’
That deescalated quickly.
‘Meet the Premier League fringe players: One star to improve YOUR club’s fortunes – without spending a penny’ reads the headline atop the Daily Mirror‘s website at lunchtime on Friday.
To be fair to Izzy Brown, Danny Drinkwater, Ilkay Gundogan and Danny Rose, being injured for most of the season hardly accounts to being a ‘fringe player’. You can have Andrew Robertson, mind.
That is the biggest story in football today, if the Mirror are anything to go by. But what is the sixth-biggest?
‘Ryan Giggs breaks silence on relationship with Strictly Come Dancing’s Gemma Atkinson’
Stop the bullsh*t train. We want to get off.
But what is the second-biggest story in football today? Let’s ask The Sun.
‘Benjamin Mendy is latest football star to visit A Star Barbers after Chelsea ban hairdresser to the stars from training ground’
Look, international week is a ballache for everyone, but at least pretend to try.
Recommended reading of the day
Melissa Reddy interviews Naby Keita.
Jeff Rueter on the NASL.
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