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All Guns Blazing: Despite England’s new Arsenal contingent, international football still fails to excite

18:47 09 September 2014

England

England's Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring his sides first goal of the game during a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying, Group E match at the St Jakob-Park Stadium, Basel.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti laments the watered-down nature of international football.

Usually I can’t bear international breaks. England are one of the few big teams in recent years who, despite theoretical potential, have bottled it even more than Arsenal when it comes to the crunch.

In addition to this, they’ve also been full of players that many of us either hate or don’t rate, and as a result of all these factors, the very prospect of supporting them becomes the football equivalent of bleeding radiators.

Over the last year, this has changed slightly for me for one obvious reason. Suddenly, the Three Lions potentially include Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers and, of course, Monday night’s two goal hero, Danny Welbeck.

Is it sad that I, alongside probably a good few other Gunners, have just begun to feel excited about watching England again simply because they sport a few more Arsenal players to keep an eye on? Quite possibly, but national football and club football are increasingly becoming such different concepts that it’s pointless to even compare the two.

The nature of England’s qualifying group meant that even if we had lost the game on Monday, we would most probably still qualify nonetheless; the blame lies at UEFA’s feet for this, but this usually means the only time you really need to be nervous about an international match is every two years or so.

While Hodgson was evidently relieved the result lifted some of the pressure on him personally, it’s hard to imagine anyone else felt enough was riding on the game to truly get into a funk about.

You could see from Ian Wright’s animated post-match analysis that even as an England pundit, he was noticeably excited about what Danny Welbeck’s display might promise for Arsenal – who, unlike England, have a massive game to look forward to next.

International football, quite simply, has become so watered down that until it gets to the knockout stages of a competition, it really is hard to invest yourself in.

While it occasionally unites the country in bursts of patriotism, these days it does so at much the same rate as the latest royal baby announcement. Furthermore, over-scheduled, meaningless friendlies often result in players coming back injured for their club, which just breeds hostility and annoyance in the affected fans.

Last week’s half-filled Wembley stadium should tell both the FA and UEFA that something is lacking, but likely the message will fall upon deaf ears. Until real change is made, they shouldn’t be surprised to see supporters saving their money for the latest Premiere League blockbuster.

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