Morning Gooners, did you all watch the mauling of the San Marino Minnows yesterday by England, eh?
I have to tell you, I experienced a wide range of emotions yesterday, whilst watching England smash the worst team in the FIFA World Rankings:
at the fact we had three Arsenal lads starting for the first time since gawd knows when. Ramsdale, Saka and Smith Rowe all getting the nod. Ramsdale had little to do bar one save and so for him it was more a ceremonial position and a first cap, which was well deserved given his Arsenal form.
At the Harry kane stat-padding ‘love-in’ that we had to sit through as they talked up his achievements in this calendar year. He’s scored something like 13 or 14 goals for England this year, which have included seven goals in his last two games against Albania and San Marino. Two of which were penalties and, frankly, that tally is a bit like talking up a 20n goal season when you’ve bagged a load in the UEFA Conference League. The only time I’ve ever even bee a slightly bit interested in the form of the Dribbler is when international tournaments rock around and, let’s face it, his top goalscorer stats there have also been littered with penalties.
For the poor San Marino players. Their awesome Sherbet Double Dip kit didn’t deserve to be battered like that. It was a sad and sorry sight and even by the end the wife – who had been out for a work dinner – was saying “shouldn’t they just all stop now?”. By the end, all I had was…
Because it wasn’t competitive in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, if it was Arsenal I’d probably be loving it a bit more, but the lack of competition hardly made for the most interesting spectacle and the fact that England also had two perfectly good goals disallowed just showed how much of a competitive match it wasn’t.
I also loved the England fans borrowing a chant on loan from The Arsenal Collection, in singing away at the ‘Saka and Emile Smith Rowe’ Status Quo number that we’re giving a revival to this season with the emergence of our two stars.
And both were on the scoresheet too, which feels massive. Both also got assists, with Saka playing as that high press wing back and Smith Rowe floating in front of them. Clearly mine eyes are tinted in red and white, but it also felt like everything was flowing through these two young superstars who are growing game by game. They connected well with each other, they moved the ball well, they connected with other teammates and Gareth Southgate must have looked at that display and started to wonder whether the late call up for ESR was an absolute touch for him. Smith Rowe was great all game, gliding across the pitch, using that turn of pace with the ball at his feet, plus putting in a good cross for one of the Kane goals, as well as finishing well for his one in the second half too, to make it 7-0. That’s four goals in five matches for him and he really is in one heck of a purple patch right now. Long may it continue I say.
Now, we can of course talk about the calibre of the opponents, but that caveat aside, let’s just focus on the confidence that performance will give these two players ahead of a very difficult trip to Anfield on Saturday. I am still not expecting anything from the game, but if these players along with the other players Arteta chooses on Saturday can give Liverpool a game and show that we have the potential to be a growing force, then that is a-ok with me.
Saka too was great I thought. He had his man on toast all day, jink past him at every opportunity and showing the same effervescence that got him in to the Arsenal side at such a young age. Honestly, yesterday evening I watched those two and I couldn’t feel anything but excitement if we can keep them both fit and happy at the club.
What we need now though is confirmation of a clean bill of health from those returning players. The pitch yesterday was a disgrace and most of those England players found themselves slipping in the turf, losing their footing and there was one instance where Saka put a ball in on the left and got up very gingerly. Hopefully they are ok enough and can come back and get the all clear from the club ahead of Saturday.
The next questions come from the other players. There are still matches that are to be played and that means we still need to hold our collective breaths with regards to fitness and players returning. Ramsdale, White, Saka, Smith Rowe we hope are all ok (White having stayed at home), Lacazette too as he didn’t travel with France. So we know we should have a few that should be ok, but we need to hear those words and keep our eyes peeled on the remaining international games, first.
All-in-all though it feels like the confidence I am hoping the England lads will have taken from playing will be big and I hope they can take that in to their Arsenal form too, continuing the good work and giving a good account of themselves at the weekend.
That’ll do from me today, so you have at it, enjoy you’re Tuesday and I’ll catch you in the morrow as we count down to the daunting trip up to the North West.