A headline for our times
‘Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin shows off longer hair as it emerges Barcelona deem him ‘too expensive” – MailOnline.
Ox on the box
From the player ratings in the Daily Telegraph on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: ‘Trusted with a deeper midfield berth, his erratic passing let him down on more than one occasion. Showed plenty of energy but not much else. 5/10.’
From the player ratings on the BBC website on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: ‘Very poor start and while the second-half brought improvement, a very strange selection ahead of Everton’s Ross Barkley. 5/10.’
From the player ratings in the Daily Mail on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: ‘BACK in the international fold and kept things simple in central midfield. 7/10.’
Spot the player ratings by the man who has penned several Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain exclusives.
Even Sami Mokbel’s Mail colleague Matt Lawton wrote that ‘it could be some time, for instance, before Southgate turns to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield again’.
But didn’t he ‘keep things simple’ in a performance exactly as good as Jermain Defoe’s?
Jermain: The champion of the world
Mediawatch agrees with The Sun’s Chief Sports Writer Dave Kidd that Jermain Defoe was worthy of an England call. But the evidence is strong enough – Defoe’s goalscoring, Harry Kane’s injury, a lack of options – without the contortion Kidd attempts.
‘Defoe is the second-highest Englishman in the Premier League Golden Boot standings – despite playing for the worst team in the top flight.’
Well, he’s joint-second, but you know…
‘And he is the only Englishman to have scored a winning goal at a World Cup finals in the last decade.’
‘Last decade’ obviously encompasses two whole tournaments. And if you add European Championships, you also add Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. It’s still a pretty sodding depressing list, but it’s a rather more accurate list than the one Kidd provides to make a point that every sane person already agrees with.
One door opens…
According to the back page of the Daily Mirror: ‘GARETH SOUTHGATE opened the door for Jermain Defoe to go to next summer’s World Cup after his goalscoring return to the England team.’
Hmmm. Pretty sure he opened the door when he named him in his England squad.
Why oh why oh why?
And of course, with Jermain Defoe’s goal, come the inevitable questions. John Cross writes in the Daily Mirror:
‘It took Defoe 21 minutes to find the net and pose the question as to why a succession of England managers decided against a recall until now.’
A succession of England managers did not decide against a recall; Roy Hodgson stopped picking Jermain Defoe when Jermain Defoe went to Toronto. And then England somehow scored 31 goals in qualifying for Euro 2016 and nobody was suggesting that they needed him anymore.
It’s true that Sam Allardyce left him out of his one England squad but he did have Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy at his disposal. Do two managers make a ‘succession’?
You know what – it’s okay that England picked Jermain Defoe when they needed Jermain Defoe without asking why they didn’t do it before.
Thinking that England’s cupboard is pretty bare? Shush because the Daily Mirror learned the following while watching England beat the 107th-best team in the world:
‘It is often said we have neither the players nor the options to get us excited about England. Nonsense. Southgate was able to change things for the better on the hour.’
Nonsense, indeed. Because when you’re struggling to break down a team ranked lower than Mauritania, it’s a blessing that you can bring on two strikers with 11 combined Premier League goals this season.
Is it too early to call them the Golden Generation?
It’s international week and it’s difficult to think of new things to write – especially on England – but when ESPN made Mark Ogden their Senior Football Writer, they probably expected better than this.
Apparently, England should not ‘waste’ Marcus Rashford’s time with the England Under-21s, because he needs a ‘rest’.
‘Despite the weight of evidence which points to Rashford having progressed beyond the U21s, Southgate and the FA are ready to allow Boothroyd to select him in his squad for Poland.
‘Having traditionally overlooked young players who have established themselves at senior level, England are now keen to travel to U21 tournaments with the best players available to them, whether they have made it into the senior team or not.’
Well, that’s not actually true, is it? John Stones, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling are all eligible to play for England’s Under-21 team this summer but they will not be picked for that tournament as they are all established at England senior level; the clue is in the way all four started for England against Lithuania on Sunday evening.
Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, started on the bench for that game – as he has for every one of his eight England caps bar one. When Ogden writes that Rashford ‘has played in five of the six senior games since Southgate stepped in to replace Sam Allardyce as manager in the autumn’, what he neglects to mention is that Rashford has played a grand total of 103 minutes for England. But then neglecting to mention is a theme of Ogden’s work.
‘Whether Kane’s involvement in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2015 had a knock-on effect the following summer, when he appeared drained of energy during a hugely disappointing Euro 2016, is up for debate, but there is a danger that Rashford could risk the same issues if he goes to Poland.
‘He has already made 38 appearances for United this season, five for England and one for the U21s. He is almost certain to break the 50-game barrier and could play on until May 24 for his club if United make it to the Europa League final.’
Of those 38 appearances for United, Rashford has been a starter in just 20. He has played a grand total of 2072 minutes for United, 84 for the Under-21s and 104 for England this season. That’s 2260 minutes so far and we might comfortably expect him to reach 2600 minutes.
When Harry Kane went to the same tournament in 2015, he had played 4182 minutes for club and country.
That really is quite a lot more.
‘If the decision is made in Rashford’s best interests, he will not be selected; if it is made in the interests of the FA and the U21 team, Rashford will go.
‘Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, who were both selected by Southgate for the seniors during the recent international break, will go to Poland, but both have been regulars in the U21s and neither are established at senior level.’
Odd that Ogden is not so keen to save Redmond or Ward-Prowse – who have both played more football than Rashford this season – from burn-out. Just poor ickle Marcus. Presumably Ogden is not trying to curry favour with Claude Puel.
All or nothing
Headline on the Daily Mirror website: ‘Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson a summer target for ALL the Premier League’s top six’.
Clubs actually credited with an interest by John Cross: Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson a summer target for HALF the Premier League’s top six, then.
No surprise that Dion Dublin makes Sky Sports’ out-of-position XI.
Some surprise that Dion Dublin makes Sky Sports’ out-of-position XI as a striker.