Is England Bad For Arsenal?
Having just read an interesting article in the current Arsenal magazine which featured three of the Arsenal contingent who played for England in the recent FIFA U17 World Cup I turned back to the piece I read earlier in Paul Mersons regular column in the same magazine.
Merse reflects on Trevor Brookings recent call for better coaching to meet the need to improve the technical ability of young English players. In his article Merse agrees with this and says the English system didn`t improve his technical ability. He regrets the fact that we lag behind in technical ability and depth of quality and puts the responsibility for this partly in the hands of English coaches "….my faith in these coaches is also not good. I`ve seen them first hand and they don`t instil confidence. They pick up their coaching 'qualifications` easily enough but there is no creativity as far as I can see. No innovative training and very little emphasis on technical skills."
I have for sometime thought that part of the failure of English national teams at all levels is due to a culture in the English game that doesn`t appreciate the need to coach in a way that enhances natural ability instead of stifling it to conform to rigid coaching conventions. It surely can`t be a coincidence that many flair players originate from third world countries and the freedom of south american beaches and open spaces. There players develop ability naturally before being taught the demands of team play. English football has never taken coaching seriously enough. It surely can`t be entirely coincidental that no english coach/manager has been able to win the PL. There is a laziness in football that has lead the FA to over commit resources to the unnecessary 'cathedral` of Wembley at the cost of an academy to improve the level of both coaches and players. The same laziness that Nick Hornby, in considering the value of being able to pass the ball, once decided makes English managers, coaches and players favour "alternative methods of moving the ball from one part of the field to another, the chief of which is a wall of muscle strung across the half way line in order to deflect the ball in the general direction of the forwards"
The item in the magazine on our three U17 players that prompted this reflection on my part interviews Rhys Murphy, Henri Lansbury and Gavin Hoyte about their experiences in the tournament. It has a number of interesting points including the fact no club provided more players for the squad than Arsenal and that over 5 and 15 metres Gavin Hoyte is the fastest player at the club. But the parts that gave me pause for thought concerns the coaching that our boys received while with the England set up. Rhys Murphy says " It`s a different type of service, more long balls. Arsenal have their own style, which we are used to, it`s the way we are taught…different from any other club. In a way that works against us when we play for England." In talking about the difference between Arsenal and other players in the England team Henri Lansbury says "…us three pass the ball around a lot, and the others prefer to smash it!"
On this and other gooner forums we often find ourselves robustly defending the argument, borne out of naked envy, that Arsenal is bad for English football. But for me there is now a flip side to this question. If the coaching is as poor as it appears to be - Is English football any good for Arsenal?