Monday, May 20, 2024

Nick and Jack, Jack and Nick


here we are then. Yep. It’s the Interlull. A few games took place last night. All our Irish players will be on their way back having played last night … erm … yeah. If we were a team made up of Peruvian, Panamaniacs, Romanians, Ukrainians, Cypriots and Swedes then all of our players would be coming back today. As it is most of the ones on international duty play tonight.

For England it’s Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, the former on the end of some rather gushing praise from Fabio Capello, a man who has known a player or two in his time. He says:

I remember the best players that I managed – Baresi, Maldini, Raúl – and they started really young. It’s their talent. You have to wait now and let him improve more. Jack plays with confidence, never with fear. That’s incredible for someone so young.

High praise indeed and it looks as if Capello is going to use him as the player in front of the back four, doing that ‘Makelele’ role he spoke about a few weeks ago. And despite the perception peddled by sections of the English press that the Italian is some kind of bumbling halfwit who doesn’t know what he’s doing, I think he knows what he’s talking about. When you look at the teams and players he’s managed it’s really encouraging to hear him talk like that about Wilshere. It’ll certainly do his confidence good.

It’s also slightly encouraging that the subject of the summer has been brought up. England U21s take part in the European Championships and we know there’s been some history with Stuart Pearce down the years, particularly in the case of Theo Walcott. Arsene Wenger will not want Jack going to that tournament if he’s being used for the senior national side as well and Capello confirmed his involvement with them.

I can understand why Pearce would want him but there’s got to be some understanding of the situation and doing what’s best for the player. It’s his first full season and we all know important a proper break is. However, I suspect this is going to get a bit ugly and I expect Pearce to select him. Anyway, that’s something to worry about in the future.

Tonight Jack will play against Denmark and against teammate Nicklas Bendnter. He was asked about Wilshere and urged some caution, saying:

Jack is definitely capable of playing for his country now. But young players are always put under a lot of pressure very early in England. You always throw players around really quickly. I have my own theories on how Theo Walcott was treated by England but I don’t want to get too much into that because it will probably just get me in trouble. But Theo can be a lesson for the way you treat Jack.

Which makes a lot of sense to me. The things most players have to overcome is the hype and the fickleness of modern football. A few good games and you’re the next big thing, some duff games and you’re written off as a has-been. I don’t see that being an issue with Jack there’s nothing quite like the English football press for building someone up before smashing them down like a bitter Richard Keys.

Bendtner’s also been speaking about his own future and said:

I have a lot of feelings for Arsenal and it means something great to me. I would be sad to leave it, but you have to think about yourself and, with the career goals I have, I cannot be sitting on the bench. Hopefully I will be there next season as well but we have to wait and see. But, if my situation at Arsenal doesn’t change, I will have to look at it because I want to play football.

I suppose the obvious thing to point out is that he was responding to questions specifically about his Arsenal future. He didn’t just bring that up as a point of order. The second thing is that it all sounds absolutely fine to me. I’ve always said I’d have more of a problem if a player was happy sitting on the bench. A footballer who doesn’t care if they play or not is not a footballer worth having in your squad, in my opinion.

Of course it’s all down to him and how he performs. There’s clearly a pecking order for the central striking role and at the moment Robin van Persie is at the top. His scoring record and his quality dictates that this is how it should be. We know Bendtner is confident, perhaps a little too confident at times, but we need to see more of the Bendtner that scored that goal against Ipswich and less of the fresh-air kicking Bendnter.

That goal against Ipswich was seriously good. Not just in terms of its quality and the technique shown but because it was so, so important as well. And had it been scored by a more favourite player then I think it would have got more praise. That’s what he’s capable of in his best moments but we know he’s a bit clumsy and careless at others.

Nevertheless, for a player who hasn’t had a run of games in his best position this season and has spent much of his career as a back-up forward he scores goals. Last season he got 12, the season before 15 (mostly from the bench), so there’s goalscoring ability there and he is still just 23. Of course it’s all down to him. He’s got to take his chances when they come and realise that at a top club there’s a demand for consistency of performance, something he hasn’t really managed to achieve yet.

I like him, I have to say, he’s frustrating at times, no question, but I’ve seen enough crap strikers in my time to know he’s not one of them. And I don’t think there’d be any shortage of takers if he were on the market. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes tonight against England.

There’s still no official news regarding Johan Djourou but from the bits and pieces you can pick up online it seems he’s not in danger of missing many games. Can’t find the Tweet but some bloke from the BBC reckoned he could be back for the weekend, another chappy who puts go-faster kits on all the players cars said Djourou told him he was fine, and a random bloke who nobody has heard of saw Johan at his local Sainsbury’s and said he saw him buying ‘ Sainsbury’s own brand knee bruise poultice’ which is specifically used for knee bruises which aren’t that serious.

I have a feeling he’ll sit out Saturday’s game against Wolves, perhaps making the bench, to ensure that he’s fit and well for Barcelona next week. Fingers crossed that’s the case and fingers crossed, candles lit, sacrifices made and holy incantations made that the rest of our players come back safe and sound from their Interlullian efforts tonight.

Ivan Gazidis talks about Fanshare.

And that’s about that. Have yourselves a jolly good Wednesday. Back tomorrow with the casualty update.

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