With the domestic football season now winding down to its conclusion, we’re left with just the scraps of international friendlies to spend our time talking about, which is never ideal.
On Saturday I went for a nine mile hike across Box Hill in Surrey and I spent a bit of time with a Chelski fan discussing the England team. It was a bit of a challenge because I had to feign vague interest in the England team, but as most people do right now, the Chelski fan took the time to tell me why it was madness to take Jack Wilshere to a European Championship when he’s not fully fit.
I found it hard to disagree that he looks anything other than rusty right now and although I didn’t watch all of the game yesterday against Turkey, I could see why people aren’t too convinced he can have too much of an impact. Jack did OK, had a couple of decent touches and got 66 minutes under his belt, but he does look short on match fitness and there’s only so much training he can do to get himself at his peak. That’s not going to happen in two weeks.
I do find it surprising though, that all of the media are judging Wilshere a little harshly. There are some people who I think are being a little over-critical because of his fitness, almost as if it doesn’t count that he’s trying to get himself back fully fit, he’s going to be judged and judged harshly because he’s taking up space another player could have on the plane.
Which brings me back to my conversation on Saturday. My Chelski compatriot was insistent that Mark Noble should have replaced Jack Wilshere. Both Steve and I – we were doing a group hike – dismissed the notion instantly. I personally have nothing against Mark Noble. He’s had a good season, probably deserves to have got a couple of caps more, is a great representative of West Ham and wears his heart on his sleeve.
But from a technical point of view, he doesn’t give you anything near what Jack can provide, he just isn’t on his level. Mark Noble will give energy, running, tackling and all the effort you could ever want. But the English mentality is that if you do that then it’s enough.
It would never be enough. The reason England fail is because people think that blood, guts and thunder is a blueprint to success. But how many international teams have won tournaments with that approach? Germany in 2014? Spain 2012? Nope. These teams relied on the technical superiority of their teams over and above anything else, with drive and desire being important but only in collboration with a collective of players that have the skill to produce on an international setting. Mark Noble is a decent pro, but the Mark Noble’s of this world don’t get you deep in to international competitions.
That’s why Roy is taking a gamble on Wilshere. He knows that Jack has the ability to beat a man. He has the ability to spot a pass and in close, confined, quarters, he can wriggle out of difficulties or be a perfect player to knit together passing moves. Noble can’t do that.
If Roy Hodgson replaced Jack with Noble, he’d have another squad player replacing a potential first teamer, which to my mind would be pretty pointless. He has to take 23 players to the Euro’s. It’s unlikely all will play. In fact, I’d wager that he’d only use 16 players, 18 tops. So that leaves between five and seven players who won’t play. No offence to Mark Noble, but he’d most likely be one of those players who wouldn’t get any game time at all, so what’s the point in having a player like that at the tournament?
You’re far better off imagining that Jack is one of those players in position 18 to 23 and if he’s not shown enough fitness by the time England play Russia, use him as an impact player. At least then you’d have somebody who could potentially do something different.
For what it’s worth, I dont think England will get nearly enough of the best out of Jack, but then it comes down to the manager to make the right decisions on him and play him at the right time and with the right level of game management.
Right, that’s me done for a Monday, so enjoy yours.