A Squad Of Arteta’s Is Better-s

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Oct 14th, 2012
23 Comments

It’s been a while since my last post and this is only a short one so please forgive me if you had planned for one of my epics. I had planned to come back with a really big piece but whilst doing my research I found that I was completely wrong and the blog was a duffer.

I had planned to do a piece in the run up to the West Ham game as we would be facing a Sam Allardyce team that looked at the size of the Arsenal team. It was going to be titled “Are Arsenal Big Enough To Win The League?”. I have seen Arsenal lean towards smaller and more technical players over the past 10 years and was convinced that our average squad height was significantly below the average height for the eventual champions. Our title-winning squads under Wenger were built on a mixture of strength, power, flair, technical superiority and physical dominance. We were a big team and our natural athleticism aided us in overpowering other teams with ease. I spent a while researching the squads of every Arsenal team and the eventual champions since 2002 and calculating the height of every player that would qualify for a league medal (using as many references as possible as different sites have different heights for players) and coming out with a squad average height and an average height for outfield players and I was a little surprised to see that Arsenal have been getting a little shorter over the years but have kept in line with the champions of those years. I thought we had been smaller for years and this year was different as we have a few more “big” players and was building up to saying we could win the league because we have the mixture of the past including the height now but it seems we’ve always had the mixture but maybe it just was with poorer quality ingredients?

I thought we were getting shorter….

However that piece kind of led me onto this piece as there has been a lot made by some bloggers and some journalists about Arteta’s brilliance in his new role and how the “DM” (I prefer holding midfielder) role has changed and destroyers are no longer a necessity if you have intelligent players in those positions. Whilst looking at Arteta for Arsenal for the past year and especially more so since he moved back a bit I have formed an opinion and that is the topic of today’s blog.

I’d like to have a squad full of Arteta’s.

Not because Mikel is extremely intelligent, an excellent passer, a fighter, a winner and a leader. Nor because he has impeccable hair and is an exemplary professional. No, it is because he doesn’t play international football.

When I was younger I loved international football. I believed that there was no greater honour than to play for your country but as I’ve grown older I have grown to loathe international football. I’ll watch it in the summer because there’s nothing else on but between August and May it really pisses me off.

The best player to never have played for Spain? Good for us.

It’s a crying shame that a footballer as good as Arteta isn’t recognised by his country but from a really selfish point of view with my red and white tinted glasses on I really don’t care and I’m actually quite pleased that he doesn’t play for Spain.

Arsenal reap the benefits of Arteta not playing international football and I’d be over the moon if none of our players played for their countries.

I see no benefits to Arsenal when a player plays for his country. In recent years we have suffered as a result of international football in my opinion. For example, Theo was injured on Friday. We lost van Persie countless times to injuries picked up on international duty. We lost Toure, Eboue, Song and Gervinho in the middle of the season to ACON over the years. From a very cynical point of view we lost Fabregas because of Spain and the world cup. The prolonged time spent with Barcelona players made him yearn for something he had previously been happy to wait for. Don’t get me wrong, we all always knew he was going to leave eventually but most of us assumed he’d leave aged 27/28 to be Xavi’s replacement. Winning the world cup gave him a taste of success that Barcelona players promised him he’d have on a regular basis which outweighed his previous desire to captain Arsenal to success.

On the other hand I see many times that Arsenal have benefited from players not playing international football. Nasri was left out of the France squad and he put in a sensational 6 months (ultimately it didn’t work out for us but his performances in those 6 months were crucial). Ian Wright and Ray Parlour didn’t play as much for England as they should despite putting in the performances to warrant inclusion. Did they try harder to get noticed? Possibly and if they did we benefited from it. Belgium didn’t qualify for WC2010 and Vermaelen spent the summer getting fit. Arteta never plays for Spain and will only ever get injured playing for the Arsenal cause.

No international football and this would never have happened

As a club football fan I love not having to worry about what we’ll do if such and such gets injured playing for their country. I used to worry like mad when van Persie played for Holland and would wince every time another players foot came within 10 yards of him.

I don’t like our players coming back fatigued from international duty and I hate losing important players to silly injuries picked up in needless friendly matches. I would be quite happy if none of our players played international football and all their efforts were focused on Arsenal.

International football used to be the pinnacle of a players career but for me, as a supporter, I think it is Champions League. Club football is about assembling the best possible squad you can with all the available players in the word, international football is doing the best with what you have. Would Spain beat Barcelona if we had two of all the Spanish Barca players? I don’t think so. Would Holland/Italy/Germany/Brazil/Argentina win the premiership over Arsenal, Chelsea, City and United? La Liga over Barca and Madrid? I don’t think they would.

Maybe I’m just being grumpy because the international weekend causes me to have Arsenal withdrawal symptoms but I think a squad of Arteta’s make Arsenal much better-s.

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About "" - 215 Posts

South London Gooner born and bred now living in Bristol. Trainer enthusiast and aspiring author.

23 Responses to “A Squad Of Arteta’s Is Better-s”

  1. wenkev02 says:

    Your thoughts are very interesting and in most cases probably true.the other issue is the African boys who go midway.the height thing,I think the arse get that ok…..cheers bob….

  2. Madge says:

    I completely agree Daniel, wouldn’t care if none of our players ever went on International duty. Selfish I know but as you say the injuries we have had to endure, have pushed me towards that way of thinking. Thanks.

  3. ZB20H says:

    I am surprised and saddened by your arguments.

    The argument about players getting injured on international duty is spurious. Injuries are simply a part of football and ultimately what is the difference in which game a player gets injured? ‘We pay his wages’ blah blah blah, Arsenal get compensated if a player gets injured whilst playing for his country so financially it is probably better if he does gets injured on international duty but anyway the net result is exactly the same and that is the important point.

    “I see no benefits to Arsenal when a player plays for his country”

    This is really short sighted. Robert Pires had an indifferent first season at Arsenal but really announced himself with his stellar performances for France during the 2003 Confederations Cup. Similarly Alex Song made his breakthrough playing for Cameroon in the 2008 African Cup Of Nations. You don’t think the confidence boost and increased recognition gained by playing well for your country has no benefit to Arsenal?

    For a man that proudly quotes Wenger on his website: ‘We do not buy superstars, we make them’, your last point is particularly poor. Of course the elite teams in the Champions League can buy the best players from all over the world, so what? For me that is an argument for international football not against it.
    International football, to my mind, is the purest form of the game because it is the one that is least shaped by money. It is the truest test of coaching, tactics and intelligence because you can’t solve all your football problems financially, you have to find some other way of doing it. Obviously money is still an important factor as a rich country will have a much better organisational capability than a poor one and can afford (should they wish) to import expensive coaching talent but it is not deformed by money. If, say Belgium, suddenly produce a crop of outstanding young players then, say England, can’t just go out and buy those players. It will be Belgium that will be able to reap the rewards of their own good work. Bet you wish it was the same for Arsenal?

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Belgium have a crop of great players yet can’t make tournaments. I dislike international football & see no benefit to it. Pires was an integral part of the team in 2002 so confederation cup means nothing. Song benefited from a run in the first team and the confidence of his club manager not his international manager.
      It’s not about money so compensation means nothing. If a player is injured in a needless friendly we lose that player. If they weren’t playing international football the likelihood is that injury would not have occurred but even if it still happened on club duty at least it would be for a cause not for a friendly.

    • Nilesh Bhagat says:

      Begium are improving pretty quickly and could be a force soon, my point is that if they do have success it is all their own work.

      For Pires I meant the 2001 Confed Cup not 2003, sorry. He was top scorer in the 2001 tournament and voted best player, he took that confidence and form into the 01-02 league season and we all know how he played. International bought a big benefit to Arsenal, you can’t deny it.

      Needless friendlies eh? How about Wilshere aggravating an injury in the Emirates Cup in summer 2011 and not playing in the first team since? What do you think would happen if there was no International calendar? More needless club games, there wouldn’t be any less injuries.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Emirates cup is pre-season, it’s essential to fitness. Pires would have shown his brilliance earlier were it not for his injury.

      There wouldn’t be more needless club friendlies at all. Once the season has started clubs would only play competitive games at senior level.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      You also miss the point about the champions league over international football. It’s not about money. Ronaldo is stuck with what Portugal can produce but with Madrid he is guaranteed to play with and against the best players in the world. Football is entertainment when stripped back and CL is more entertaining than the World Cup for the majority of fans.

    • Nilesh Bhagat says:

      We all have different ideas about what constitutes entertainment and in any case to say that football is merely entertainment is weak, it surely is much more than that?

      Moreover you completely fail to address my point about what is the truest football test. Buying superstar players like Real Madrid, Man City, Chelsea, PSG etc or taking what you have and trying to make it better? That is essentially the difference between the CL and International football.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Not at all. In the most basic sense football is entertainment. It’s not a weak argument, it’s a fact. Sure it is culturally significant but so is opera, cinema, theatre, television, music etc. They are all forms of entertainment.

      Minnows rarely win the WC or Euros but outsiders have won the CL and league etc.

      Ask 1000 people what they prefer and what is a greater test and the majority will say club football.

      I get it Nilesh, you like international football, I don’t and neither do the majority of my readers but the difference here is I am expressing my opinion whereas you are trying to convince me that yours is right.

  4. weedonald says:

    FIFA and to some extent EUFA are the big winners in the Internationals….it brings in additional revenue and allows minnows to measure themselves against the sharks but ultimately it is about how much money goes into their coffers, thus into the corrupt Blattersphere and Platinipockets!

  5. Nilesh Bhagat says:

    “There wouldn’t be more needless club friendlies at all. Once the season has started clubs would only play competitive games at senior level”

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/football/top-stories/Bayern-Munich-set-to-dazzle-Delhi-on-Tuesday/articleshow/11428900.cms

    Bayern Munich played a friendly in India last January during the ‘winter break’ in the Bundesliga. Less or no international would not mean less games and more rest for players, it is naive to think otherwise.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      In India…. commercially driven mate. That wouldn’t happen in EPL. EPL players are stretched as it is. But again, I’d rather lose a player to the Arsenal cause than to the cause of his country. If playing in a friendly for Arsenal was about bringing in more fans/money or for fitness etc then that would be with the benefit of Arsenal in mind.

      I think it’s naive to think that clubs would overplay their players just because they have free time on their hands.

  6. Nilesh Bhagat says:

    “you like international football, I don’t and neither do the majority of my readers ”

    that is because you (and presumably your readers, how kind for you to speak on their behalf and obviously I am one of ‘your’ readers as well) don’t properly grasp what international football is all about. And that is why you still haven’t answered my point about what the truest test in terms of coaching, tactics and football intelligence is.

    It is as equally valid and as interesting as club football. I find it a shame that intelligent people are willing to dismiss it so readily just because they don’t get to see Arsenal for a couple of weeks.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I don’t claim to speak for them or for you. I stated a fact, the majority (ie, a large number not equal to all but significantly more than none and at least 1 more than half) don’t like international football.

      How very pompous of you to assume that I do not grasp what international football is about. I understand what it is about fully, I just don’t like it. I grasp what overseas aid is about but I don’t like it in the sense that Western governments spend a lot of money on education and social projects in places like India and Pakistan yet their governments continue to increase their military spend and have space programmes. Just because you don’t like something it doesn’t mean you don’t understand it.

      I’ll address your point about international football as you seem to think that me ignoring it is reason for you to continue to bang your extremely worn drum.

      International coaches have the disadvantage of a limited talent pool but that does not make their tactical approach more pure than club coaches. In many respects it makes them more limited as they have to get the best out of what they have and hope they can keep their job long enough for a super talent to emerge to allow them to try new things. Would you say the way the Greeks won Euro 2004 was true coaching or something Sam Allardyce gets him teams to do week in week out? Is Sam Allardyce now the beacon of true football?

      Sure, international coaching is tough but so is club football, club football tests you on a weekly basis and there is little room to hide. In international coaching you can hide behind a forgiving media, a lack of talent, a waterlogged pitch, injuries, a hard group, only having the players for a few days at a time, a limited talent pool and the excuses go on.

      Club football is a truer test of intelligence and coaching ability and managerial talent too. When have you ever heard of player being accused of being crap for club but good for country? Hardly ever and the reason is that club football allows players to express themselves more freely and benefit from playing with better players. What is a more impressive feat, Spain winning the Euro’s or Montpellier winning Ligue 1? In international football it is very rare for a team to win when they weren’t the best team. Greece and Denmark are probably the only two examples from the past 25 years.

      What is more impressive and a truer test of talent, Wenger assembling the invincibles during a time when Chelsea were spending millions, Man U had been spending big for years and European giants such as Barcelona, Madrid, Juve, Munich, Milan and Inter were after our best players and when Real Madrid’s official recruitment policy (according to Valderon) was to find out who Wenger wanted and pay more or is it Del Bosque being blessed with a generation of players that include Xavi, Iniesta, Torres, Fabregas, Ramos, Pique, Silva, Villa, Reina, Casillas, Puyol, Busquets, Cazorla, Alonso, Pedro and Alba?

      International managers benefit from the nurturing and risk taking of club managers. They are top quality managers in their own right but that doesn’t make them better than club managers. In fact, most international managers are older coaches winding down their careers. Is Mancini manager of Italy? Mourinho of Portugal? Guardiola of Spain? Club football is a tougher test for these managers and requires a lot more skills and ability than calling up the in form players (in form because of the tactics of their club managers and contribution of team-mates) and choosing a few tactics.

      Make no mistake, I respect international football and international managers, coaches and players but I just don’t like it and as a club supporter I wish that international football was not part of the August to May calendar.

      You believe that it is interesting and that is your prerogative but it is entirely out of order for you to question my or anyone else’s intelligence because they do not share your interest.

      I dismiss international football as boring and uninteresting because that is how I find it and yes it is partly because I’m not seeing Arsenal play but I say the same thing in the summer when the Euro’s or the WC is on. I’ll watch it because it’s football but I enjoy it about as much as I enjoy watching Championship football on Sky.

      You may have a different opinion and that’s fine but don’t tell me that mine is wrong because this is a subjective matter where there is no right or wrong only personal interpretation. If you wish to disagree by all means share with me and your fellow readers what your take on the matter is but please don’t make it personal.

    • Nilesh Bhagat says:

      No ofence meant and I wasn’t questioning your intelligence, apologies if that is how it came across.

      Don’t have time for a proper reply and I have to start thinking about the Norwich game now anyway.

  7. Rohail Waheed Khan says:

    Lovely piece and counter argument to Nilesh’s argument, Daniel.

    It is all about differing opinions but in the end its what majority of the viewers prefer. Trying to mix up international football with club football only disrupts the players momentum with their clubs. I would suggest a couple of weeks after every season for the qualifiers to be played in, before the players leave for their vacations. Lets say if a season ends on the 23rd of May. They can play the scheduled ‘friendlies’/qualifiers in the next couple of weeks and leave on a delayed holiday i.e round about the 6th of June. The same way a European team prepares for the Euros or an international team prepares for the World Cup.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’d be very happy with this and that would actually help national teams and they would be playing with players who are fit and in form rather and getting to know each other properly rather than having a group of players qualify for a tournament and then half of them get injured and you have to change tactics etc.

    • Nilesh Bhagat says:

      That would be an excellent way of organising it and of course if the club season was not interrupted by internationals it could probably finish earlier anyway.

      Also, if the club season was over then people would not feel like they are being deprived of domestic football and might even have more interest and enthusiam for the national side.

      I am glad we can all agree on something.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’m not sure that I feel deprived of domestic football but it is certainly something I’d rather watch. I don’t think I’d have more enthusiasm or interest in my national side either, mostly because they are rubbish.

    • Nilesh Bhagat says:

      I will grant you that England are very very rarely exciting to watch and they disappoint on a regular basis but they are not rubbish.

      They are in the top 10-12 in the world, probably about where Arsenal are ranked worldwide too.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Haha, I love how you assume that I am English.

    • Nilesh Bhagat says:

      You must be Scottish?

  8. Julien Durand says:

    I think this is all a bit harsh on internationals. While I hate these breaks (and their inevitable injuries) as much as the next guy, I feel that the greatest thing a player can ever achieve is to win a World Cup.
    This disillusionment with international football seems to be gaining momentum in the UK, and perhaps that’s because the last “greats” of England included wonderful role models like John Terry who consistently underperformed for their nation and were just generally not-so-great people.

    But in countries like Germany, France, Brazil, Spain – there is still that public perception of the magical days when your country’s best get together and triumph over someone else. I’d say my favourite moment this season has not been an Arsenal one, but Giroud’s equaliser for France yesterday (though Podolski’s free kick does come in at a close second).

    Maybe when England’s next crop – the seemingly mature, level-headed youngsters – like Wilshere, Oxlade Chamberlain, Gibbs, (we make them good at Arsenal ;) )etc. come through, the nation can once again get excited about international competition.

    My fondest football memories will always be the summer World Cups.

    The timing of the friendlies is problematic though… I doubt it’d ever happen, but if FIFA and the various global FA’s could work it out so international matches happened during the summer off-season and they also formed a shorter winter off-season, it’d probably be much less of a straining experience for all involved, fans and players.

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