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All Guns Blazing: England’s new Arsenal core is enjoyable, but no more injuries please

11:00 15 October 2014

England

England's Jack Wilshere (left) and Estonia's Martin Vunk battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying match at the A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti curses Arsenal’s injury problems but says their young English players could benefit from extra games together.

Even the most enthusiastic of England fans must struggle to get excited about tournament qualifiers. While it is at least encouraging to see the national team winning a few games as opposed to crashing out with a whimper, in recent times they seem to have developed a peculiar habit of making even 5-0 drubbings fairly laborious to watch.

Considering most of the San Marino team have day jobs as accountants, electricians and removal men, there are barely any indications in these games of how England might fare against teams that actually have the privilege to consist of over-pampered millionaires.

For Arsenal, this international break has been both a revelation and a curse. Uche Amako must have angered the football gods in his column here last week: he called for Mesut Ozil to start performing and five minutes after the article went online, the German FA declared the midfielder out for three months. You really couldn’t write the sort of irony regularly (and sizeably) dumped upon Arsenal fans.

Laurent Koscielny also seems to have picked up a knock; Tomas Rosicky only this week has admitted he’s also carrying an injury. For any Gooner watching the England games, half the time was surely spent worrying if Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs would get through the game without…I don’t know, losing a foot to gout perhaps.

On the other hand, look at that list of names (and add Theo Walcott). Suddenly, for one moment in the San Marino game, half of England’s outfield players were from Arsenal – a marked turnaround from nine years ago, when Arsene Wenger fielded an entire squad without an English player against Crystal Palace.

You get the impression the Frenchman has actively pursued a more localised recruitment policy in the years since his more troublesome youth project. The logic is clear: a group of English youngsters who grew up in love with the Premier League and club heroes like Tony Adams, Ryan Giggs and even Steven Gerrard are more likely to stick around than foreign players with fewer natural ties.

It seems to have worked and another benefit is that the players now have more time to work on their chemistry, their form and fitness away from the club, which is good to see.

But please, no more injuries, otherwise we’ll soon be the ones fielding local electricians.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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