It’s come to light today that Fabio Capello has held face to face talks with Everton’s Mikel Arteta about playing for the England team. The first reaction I’ve read online is Henry Winter and his usual Capello bashing saying ‘Capello’s ludicrous damaging pursuit of Arteta reveals total naivety about England fans reaction...or maybe he's goading FA into a red card’ followed by ‘Capello’s wooing of Arteta is an affront to his FA employers' vital attempt to develop English youth. Does Fabio simply not care anymore?’
A few thoughts spring to mind reading this, the first being that Capello doesn’t have a ‘total’ naivety about England fans reaction – I’m an England fan and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing Arteta in and England shirt, a recent poll on Goal.com showed 89.77% of voters backing an Arteta call up so clearly i'm not alone. Second of all the FA have been banging on about developing English youth for years yet nothing has actually been done by them, Trevor Brooking frequently champions more investment at grass roots and improving conditions etc for kids yet they do very little, the St George’s centre in Burton is still not completed and that was started in 2001 whilst in contrast the French centre Clairefontaine was completed in just over 3 years and is widely considered to be a major factor in them winning a World Cup. Why should it be Capello’s responsibility to bring through young players, some of whom aren’t even regular starters for their club (Rodwell & Wilshere spring to mind) and risk his job on unproven players? Of course Winter is one of many journalists who think that an English manager will fix everything, just like Steve McClaren did in 2006/2007 and the current list of English managers currently in the Premier League - Roy Hodgson, Harry Redknapp, Steve Bruce, Ian Holloway and Sam Allardyce are so over whelming good. No need to panic though, the walking tango man Phil Brown recently said he would be interested in the England job, phew that’s that problem solved then.
I digress though because this isn’t an attack at Henry Winter or the other moronic journalist’s that think they have all the answers (think The Sun on Wednesday) to England’s problems, but a case for why England should call up Arteta. It’s the pig headed attitude of ‘were English, we invented this game, we have morals blah blah blah’ that is the mentality that has lead to so many disappointing campaigns recently. England lacks a creative spark as such in the midfield trio – Gerrard and Lampard, other than not working when they play alongside each other, do not possess the ability to unlock a defence with a key pass or a 60 yard pin point ball on a consistent basis, and if they do they’ve hidden it well from England duty, and Gareth Barry....well I’m not quite sure what he does for England anymore. In fact the last player that was able to do this is Paul Scholes, Capello realised this when he asked Scholes to play at the World Cup and clearly the media realise this with their campaign to get him out of international retirement (after ridiculing Capello for trying to do the same in the World Cup). So why is it any different getting a 35 year old (clearly not looking to the future) to play instead of a person who wasn’t born in this county? Because of his place of birth? Funny how the England cricket team is made of none English players yet people celebrate like Christmas has come when 2 South Africans (KP 2005 & Trott 2009) save England against the Australia and they are hailed as heroes.
If Arteta does play for England it’s not like he’s the first player to represent a country he has no link to, Deco did it for Portugal (as well as the more recently Liedson) and Cacau also did it for Germany and neither of those players had any link to the country except living there long enough to qualify. However if this isn’t enough to justify things then look at the Spain team in Euro 2008, one of the key players was a guy that goes by the name of Marcos Senna. That’s right, a Brazilian by birth who has no link to Spain at all other than living there for long enough to qualify so if it’s good enough for the reigning European and World Champions then why oh why are we so pig headed that this is still a problem for England? Owen Hargreaves has spent more time outside of this country than he has in it and only qualifies because of his English father, but that means more than actually living in the country does it? There are plenty of other recent examples, Eduardo who play’s for Croatia despite being born in Brazil or Amauri playing for Italy despite being Brazilian as well are two more examples that spring to mind.
Of course two of the most famous names in world football both switched nations when they needed to, the great Ferenc Puskas was Hungarian and played for Hungary 85 times before representing Spain and another all time great, Alfredo Di Stefano played for 3 countries! He represented his home nation Argentina 6 times, 4 times with Columbia (although they weren’t a FIFA recognised team at the time) and finally Spain. I appreciate that nationality rules were slightly different at the time, and in the case of Puskas it was off the field reason’s that he stopped playing for Hungary and if it was in recent years he would never have been allowed to play for Spain, but if these players and nations can do it there is no reason why England can’t do it.
Before anyone starts with the ‘we don’t want other country’s castoff’s’ argument, let’s be honest here the only reason Arteta doesn’t make that Spain squad is because they currently have some of the best midfielders, if not players, in the world in Xavi & Iniesta, and the backup player is just some guy called Fabregas so it’s not like he has a huge amount of competition in front of him is it? Arteta’s only flaw is peaking at a time Spain have an overwhelming choice of midfielders that are considered great and that isn’t his fault and if an English player had anywhere near the same level of creativity and passing Arteta posses we’d fall over ourselves to demand he’s called up to the national team. He’s not blocking English development, if anything he’s a short term solution to a long term problem (just like Scholes at World Cup would have been) that might well help people like Wilshere develop, if they were both in the national team Wilshere would have a quality player and a role model to learn from, not someone like John Terry who can’t stay out of the papers for the wrong reasons. If we had youngsters bursting to get in the squad and Arteta was taking one of their places then maybe they should get the nod over him, but the fact is the same players have been trotted out time and time again and failed time and time again to deliver, Arteta would certainly offer something different to Frank Lampard and in a good way because Lampard criminally under performs at international level, yet there is no young player right now that could honestly say they deserve a shot over Lampard because none of them perform at the same level as he does week in week out, they aren’t as key to their club team as Lampard is, but Arteta is.
Arsene Wenger says he was ‘surprised’ that Wilshere was in the U-21’s squad instead of the full squad, why? Against Liverpool he started in a much deeper role than he is used to and lasted an hour before coming off, not really having a good game as he isn’t a defensive player and its far too young for him to try and develop into a multi positional player, let him excel at his natural game of attacking like he did against Blackpool and let him develop. Clearly the U-21’s need good players to progress from the European Championship qualifying stages and Wilshere will be more useful there than he will be warming the bench for the full team and will probably gain more from being in the U-21’s than the full team.
Fabio Capello’s job isn’t to protect the future of English football or to try and develop players for a future manager; his job is win matches using the best players available to him during his time as manager. Did Jose Mourinho worry about Chelsea’s future? Of course not, he simply worried about winning trophies and at the other end of the scale you can look at Arsene Wenger, since he started concentrating on youth development he hasn’t won anything. The job for protecting English youngsters is the job of the F.A, and all they seem to do is get in the way of Trevor Brooking who desperately wants to try and do this, so maybe calling up Arteta would wake a few of them up and realise they need to do something and do it now.
If Arteta is called up it should be considered a ‘one off’ instead of a blue print for the future, when Almunia was discussed as a possible call up I was against this because he was no better than what England had available at the time, but in the case of Arteta I think he can offer something that we lack, a truly creative player that can make something from nothing and offer different options to what we have normally in the squad. In giving Arteta a chance what is the worst that could happen? We defy our beliefs? This is a very extreme reaction, like I said it should be looked as a 1 off because a player of this quality is hardly available all the time and isn’t a blue print for the future, we have an excellent U-21 team developing and given time they will be able to make the full squad, but whilst we are waiting for them Arteta really could solve a problem