About five years ago, we all expected Arsenal’s British core to take the British football by storm. Cut to the present and we are in a situation where not even a single Gunners player was included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad to face Germany. In fact, there was no Arsenal representation on the bench or in the squad at all.
What makes things all the more worrisome is the fact that the XI named by Southgate looked rather weak. That Arsenal cannot get a player into this squad is quite an indictment of the current state of their homegrown contingent. The English team consisted of players from 14 different clubs, but not a single one from the Gunners.
Danny Welbeck’s fitness has been a concern, but the continued excellence of Marcus Rashford means his grip on a first-team place is quite dicey. Jack Wilshere has a chance as well, but Southgate’s criteria needs him to play more for Arsenal and that hasn’t really happened much off-late.
If Welbeck’s fitness continues to falter and Wilshere doesn’t adhere to Southgate’s demands, then it seems likely that England will travel to the World Cup without a single player from one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. This state of affairs is all the more troubling for Arsenal given Wenger’s aspirations to build an English-centric squad.
By itself, one might say that the idea was quite flawed. Wenger’s plan was to create a more loyal set of first-team players based on their nationality. However, there is no point in maintaining a narrative like that, if the players are not up to standard. To add salt to injury, their North London rivals Tottenham have provided better talent for England over the years.
The likes of Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Dele Alli and – of course -Harry Kane are all vying for spots and rightfully so. As far as the future generation of English stars are concerned, Chelsea appear to be front-runners. They supplied 15 of the players who were part of the historic U17 side that recently picked up the FIFA U17 World Cup in India.
Having said that, the future may not be all that bleak considering Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are both youth internationals for England and have been impressive in the appearances they have made as makeshift wing-backs in the cup teams this season. And, of course, there is the exciting Eddie Nketiah, who helped the Gunners win over Norwich City.
Hence, at present, the Gunners may be straying afar from Wenger’s dream but the future does look brighter. Provided Arsenal are able to bring out the best of these players and retain them in the squad, these emerging young players could possibly make up for lost time.