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Football is a team game and without friends in high places...


Dorset

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Some say Theo Walcott just didn't see it coming. Pity that light at the end of his World Cup tunnel turned out to be an onrushing train and not the welcoming sight of an escape route into a world full of likeminded Englishmen on a glorious crusade. For an escape route it surely would have been, bearing in mind the season he had endured at the Emirates, one no doubt made even worse by the realisation that either one of Shaun Wright-Phillips or Joe Cole had effectively pipped him at the proverbial post. And why would this have increased the pain? Well, it all boils down to an appreciation of the argument put forward in this topic and, whether you agree with it or not, Joe might like to think about the points I'm about to make before he considers taking any transfer path across London.

Messy business, I know, but someone's got to delve into Fabio's mind, hell-bent on a fact-finding mission, when he picks players like Heskey and SWP ahead of seemingly far better options, such as, hell, Bent and Walcott. My first thought was that both these eventual outcasts had blown it while under the well-intentioned friendly fire thrown at them recently, yet this is really too simplistic a notion when you consider that Adam Johnson hardly got an opportunity to shine, or take any sort of flak, in the selfsame games and he, I think I'm probably right in saying, missed out to Joe due to our man's greater all round ability and experience, factors already known by Capello before he asked him to perform against the Japanese.

No, what cost Theo his place (and what propelled SWP into it) was Fabio's rather subtle application of the 'football is a team game' principle. Assuming that a fully fit Lennon was always going to provide the pace going forward his team lacks, Fabio took one look at the backgrounds of the remaining candidates and came to the conclusion that SWP and Joe were the better 'team players' or, more to the point, fitted in better with the rest of the squad. If this is a correct assumption, Joe can thank his lucky stars and long time association with the Chelsea contingent in the England setup, of which he is an intrinsic and popular part, and SWP can thank his, albeit shorter, association with our lot as well, because I'm pretty certain this manifests itself into an easygoing relationship while on England duty, a situation which can't have gone unnoticed by Capello.

Contrast that belief with Theo's reported unease in such elevated and cliquey company and you can begin to see why he probably has nothing to thank Arsene Wenger (along with his predominantly French foreign legion) for throughout his so-called development years at Arsenal. Okay, there will always be those critics of the lad who will say that he has no 'footballing brain' and can't deliver a decent cross, but cerebral coaching is said to be a Wenger speciality and if you come under his tutelage I believe (where have we heard that sort of conviction before?) that you have every right to expect more, especially when you arrive from Southampton as a central striker and are then shunted out to the flank in order to fit in with a different philosophy.

Adam Johnson may not be going to South Africa either, but he is effectively in the same boat now as Walcott was four years ago, as neither have actually played in a World Cup yet, nor do they have the existing benefit of [predominantly English-led] domestic club side bliss. It obviously helps at International level too, if you have these home comforts, as witnessed by the cosy groups of three and four Chelsea, Spurs, ManU and Villa players. Why, even the mired-in-club-misery Stevie G gets another playmate and a threesome with a return to the fold for Carragher, such concession being made to anti-patriotism deemed necessary for more than just dodgy right back reasons.

So, I don't know about you, but when the top level transfers start to flow after the World Cup, I'm expecting the odd player here and there to come to his senses just in time, like Lamps did over a move to Inter, whilst others will lurch into mistakes they soon live to regret. One of those little regrets could happen close to home and Joe could be the one making it. If he does, the reason likely to be put forward in justification is 'a need to play more games' and, being that it's Joe we're talking about here, the financial side of matters will never be discussed by the media in any great detail. Come what may, he'll always be someone who gets a favourable press, but what price a certain player who doesn't moving in the opposite direction? Now, that really would be a bigtime case of coming to your senses!

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hahah I just looked and every England squad player (aside from goalies) is playing with atleast 2 club teammates.

Now Barry and SWP break this trend as they are the only 2 Man City players (well Hart, but im excluding goaltenders from the theory) yet as stated SWP previously played with 4 Chelsea players in the side, and Barry with the 3 AV players in the side.

Not a single outfielder is solely representing his club, which further validates your position there Dorset!

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why on earth would you leave keepers out of the theory barry?

(well, other than the fact it contradicts what you are saying)

dorset- I'll give a proper response to your post shortly. just have to read something on monty python and variety comedy (really).

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why on earth would you leave keepers out of the theory barry?

(well, other than the fact it contradicts what you are saying)

dorset- I'll give a proper response to your post shortly. just have to read something on monty python and variety comedy (really).

Well only 2 of the keepers contradict it. I kept them out because their position doesnt require quite as much teamwork as the other positions. yes yes I know it does entitle some, but its mainly requires it with the defenders......none of the England squad defenders have a British goalie, well unless you account for 3rd string goalie Turnbull with us!

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okay dorset, cards on the table; I don't think the idea that walcott was left out of the squad because of a lack of clubmates in the england set up.

I don't know what foundation there is for such a conclusion. firstly he's called walcott up a number of times before. I have never got the impression he is an insular or in any way "difficult" person to manage. if he was, and capello decided that he could not function within the dynamic of the group (made up of more than players, don't forget coaching staff for example) he would not have received a second call up. he would have been looked at once, and discarded swiftly. that is how capello would have dealt with it. as it is, walcott was repeatedly called up by capello, so immediately I discount the idea that he is a problematic personality. capello has discarded bigger and better players far quicker than he has with walcott when he made a decision about their personalities. secondly there is an obvious flaw in the idea that walcott would have been "alone"; he's not a new player joining an established group. he's been to a world cup with many of these people before, he's been coached by these people at various levels. members of the squad have only been complimentary of him, often without prompting. to suggest he's some kind of solitary figure watching the rest from the periphery would require us to ignore all the above in favour for pure conjecture.

I'm not sure what the angle of your post is... do I read it as a dig at wenger or is this simply an attempt to understand a squad selection you cannot understand? perhaps a bit of both, and who can resist a cheeky dig at arsene? it's brilliant fun and should only be encouraged.

I find the selection quite easy to explain... certainly in walcott's case. he's been injured for a while, and capello obviously had misgivings over his form. he's given him two starts to prove he should be taken, and in those starts he has been poor. meanwhile, swp, as flawed a player as we know him to be, has performed better than walcott. personally I do think walcott will prove a far superior player than shaun is, but right now there are things in swp's favour. he's better defensively, he's a more productive player (okay, in this comparison theo is bald and swp has a very dodgy wig, but at least from a distance it looks like he has hair), and he can play on the left as well as the right. since that night in croatia, walcott has delivered almost nothing, whereas swp has been fairly bright coming off the bench. lennon is clearly better than either at the moment as his place was assured. the result is that walcott misses out for football reasons.

johnson lost out to joe cole. capello made some comments regarding the pressure of a young player winning his first few caps before tha japan game, and joe cole at the last minute popped up with a performance good enough to suggest to capello he'll be useful for him as he had been before his injury. johnson was never ever in contention to play on the right. he plays there for city, he's better than swp and he can cross the ball. none of this mattered though. almost from day one capello has set up the side with a very specific idea of which players should play where and what they need to offer to be in contention. on the right wing he uses a player who has loads of pace, little inclination to come off the line (therefore keeping the pitch stretched) and a right foot. johnson is quick, but he cuts inside... he's not a player that the midfield can look to to spread the play quickly for counter attacks. he is as unlucky as swp is lucky. one fits the requirements, the other doesn't. his day will come though.

I have total confidence in the following assertion; your contention that england players will be hesistant to move should they find themselves at a club without other potential england players is wrong. beckham didn't lose his place in the side when he went to madrid, hart in fact was rewarded by leaving a pool of england candidates to play football at birmingham. david bentley started capello's first game (before he had formulated his ideas about how the midfield would be structured). he was at blackburn at the time, with no other candidates for england called up. he moved to spurs, with all of their english players, lost his place and his career with england has ceased since that transfer. capello does not care whether these players are alongside other potential england players. all he cares about is whether they are playing well, if they fit into his ideas and if they are mentally strong enough to play for england (and consequently good enough to play well for england). if joe cole moves and plays well he will continue to be involved for england.

finally, there is myth often repeated about the nature of club form and international football; good form gets you into (in this case) the england side. it's not true. good form for your club gets you call ups. it gets you the chance to be involved in the international set up. it is good form for your contry that keeps you there. bent got into the 30 because of his form with sunderland, and he's staying at home because of his form with england.

Edited by gullit4
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G4 - Let me try and answer the various points you make by selecting a few which are, if I may say so, more relevant to a debunking of the main premise made in the topic rather than mere elaboration of your own impressions of specific players and their progress towards England selection…

“I'm not sure what the angle of your post is... do I read it as a dig at wenger or is this simply an attempt to understand a squad selection you cannot understand? perhaps a bit of both, and who can resist a cheeky dig at arsene? it's brilliant fun and should only be encouraged. “

I think you have in the main tended to brush aside the ‘angle’ in my post, the clue being in the title with the link being made between the importance of a ’team’ and ’home (club side)’ unity. I’m surprised you missed that, but the fact that you thought it was specifically designed to have a dig at Wenger probably says more about your desire to put mere frippery about him at the forefront of the topic than it does about the topic itself. And yes, it is fun to have at dig at Wenger, especially when it goes unchallenged - a sure sign that there is some truth in the comments made.

“I have never got the impression he is an insular or in any way "difficult" person to manage. if he was, and capello decided that he could not function within the dynamic of the group (made up of more than players, don't forget coaching staff for example) he would not have received a second call up. he would have been looked at once, and discarded swiftly. that is how capello would have dealt with it. as it is, walcott was repeatedly called up by capello, so immediately I discount the idea that he is a problematic personality.â€

It certainly wasn’t my intention to imply that Walcott is in any way insular or difficult to manage and I can’t quite follow why you put the latter word in quotes, as I didn’t use it in the piece. Not sure how you have managed to bring into the debate the idea that I think he is a problematic personality either. Personally, but with no real evidence to prove it, I imagine him to be a nice, quiet sort of guy, perhaps not that well suited to the more bloke-ish behaviour of your average English professional footballer, but as far from being insular, difficult or problematical as you or I might be.

“…since that night in croatia, walcott has delivered almost nothing, whereas swp has been fairly bright coming off the bench. lennon is clearly better than either at the moment as his place was assured. the result is that walcott misses out for football reasons.â€

To a certain extent I agree, although I will stick by my contention that there was really very little to choose between the two in the end and Capello’s belief in the ‘team game’ ethic could easily have been the makeweight factor in tipping SWP into [and Theo out of] the squad. Do I detect an acceptance of this ‘close run thing’ in your reference to Johnson being ‘as unlucky as SWP is lucky‘, or was your comment geared more towards Johnson’s greater misfortune? He was certainly given less of chance in the last two games and in the few minutes he did have he should have made a telling contribution on the left by winning a penalty - inexperience showing as he failed to go down on the shirt pull.

“I have total confidence in the following assertion; your contention that england players will be hesistant to move should they find themselves at a club without other potential england players is wrong.â€

This is not my contention at all and I’m not really sure where you’ve got your reasoning from on this particular point. My contention, returning once more to my title for the topic, is that football is a team game and, whilst that is stating the bleeding obvious, it has a vein of truth that runs right through from club to International level and can be seen to benefit both elements if the whole ‘team game and supportive home club ‘angle’, to use your word, translates easily into the groupings of players within the squad, as described and used to support the overall theme of my post.

Taking this a stage further, and to use that Wengerism once again, I believe Theo’s club background has done him no favours as far as his England career is concerned and for every David Beckham [late career] move away that’s beneficial there are Ashley Cole [earlier in career] moves to cosier [yes, more English] club climes that are even better for the player in terms of quality of football life. You mention Hart moving to Birmingham and away from the almost anti-team ethic currently surrounding Manchester City - supports my contention doesn’t it?

“capello does not care whether these players are alongside other potential england players. all he cares about is whether they are playing wellâ€

I disagree and call Emile Heskey as my next witness for the defence of the team ethic over the pandering towards ‘playing well at any particular moment' brigade.

“finally, there is myth often repeated about the nature of club form and international football; good form gets you into (in this case) the england side.â€

I refer the honourable gentleman to my previous answer and the player referred to in it.

And finally, one last dig at Wenger [yes, because it’s fun] based on the very nature of club form and International football. Theo Walcott went from Southampton to Arsenal as a central striker and everything about his play up to that point suggested he would turn out to be a prolific goal scorer (that‘s why they paid a load of money for him) not too dissimilar from a Jimmy Greaves or a Franny Lee. Look at him now, you wouldn’t recognise him as the same player and this is due to a direct intervention by Wenger to turn him into a wide man who would use his pace to beat a man and then cross for Adebayor, van Persie, Vela, Merida, or anybody else but him, a once equally, if not better, suited player for the task in hand.

Why? Well, even if you pay £13 million for the privilege of having exceptional electric pace up front, what good is that if you are going to pass the ball twenty times before you get to the last third of the pitch? Answers on a postcard to A Wenger, The Emirates Stadium an exercise which, if there were any justice in Wengerworld, would result in a series of letters from him to an assortment of England managers profusely apologising for wasting their time and the young man’s talent over the last four years.

Edited by Dorset
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G4 I thought that was the best post of yours that I've ever read. Perhaps mistakenly I drew teh same conclusions from Dorset's original post which I thought was written like a journalist, well thought out, good English and desperate to force a view on the reader that was nothing short of an whim of the writer's imagination.

Is Upson in the final 23? if we're leaving keepers out of it he's another example of why the theory doesn't work. Sometimes mangers and coaches see things in training and just from being around the squad that they use to formulate they're decision. Those taht don't make it, fail to make it because the management team don't think they can add as much to the outcome as those that do make it!

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thanks for the kind words barn. upson has gone... and he's played a lot for capello. I think it shows how thin our options have become. a few years ago campbell and woodgate were serious options and carragher was still one of europe's better center halves.

dorset, apologies if I misread what you were trying to say, but in any case I'll try to respond to your points (as I see them!)

It certainly wasn't my intention to imply that Walcott is in any way insular or difficult to manage and I can't quite follow why you put the latter word in quotes, as I didn't use it in the piece. Not sure how you have managed to bring into the debate the idea that I think he is a problematic personality either. Personally, but with no real evidence to prove it, I imagine him to be a nice, quiet sort of guy, perhaps not that well suited to the more bloke-ish behaviour of your average English professional footballer, but as far from being insular, difficult or problematical as you or I might be.

I drew the conclusion that you felt walcott does not fit in with the rest of the squad off the pitch because you wrote "Fabio took one look at the backgrounds of the remaining candidates and came to the conclusion that SWP and Joe were the better 'team players' or, more to the point, fitted in better with the rest of the squad. ". to me, if you suggest that capello looked at the "background" of these players instantly I think the word alludes to the behaviour and conduct of the players in question (in turn I wondered what you thought of walcott in this respect). it is also an issue fairly fresh in my mind when I think about england. I remember after croatia knocked us out how a little itlalian who also posts on these boards remarked to me "how little they seemed to care" and for once he was right. I also remember joey barton and all of the stories about how the squad felt about having him involved. I know that capello has got rid of ronaldo and cassano in his last club management job due to what he felt was their disruptive influence on the squad off the field. and I read quotes from carragher not long ago along the lines of "capello knows me as a player but he doesn't know how I am around the squad (so I don't know if I will make the final 23)". everything senior england players like gerrard, lampard, ferdinand and terry have said about the set up under capello is he places a great deal of emphasis on team unity. so knowing what I do about capello, when you conclude that swp has a better background and fits in with the squad better I think that maybe you think walcott has a problematic personality. you don't, but I hope you can see how I could have come to that conclusion.

To a certain extent I agree, although I will stick by my contention that there was really very little to choose between the two in the end and Capello's belief in the 'team game' ethic could easily have been the makeweight factor in tipping SWP into [and Theo out of] the squad. Do I detect an acceptance of this "close run thing" in your reference to Johnson being "as unlucky as SWP is lucky", or was your comment geared more towards Johnson's greater misfortune? He was certainly given less of chance in the last two games and in the few minutes he did have he should have made a telling contribution on the left by winning a penalty - inexperience showing as he failed to go down on the shirt pull.

I don't think it ultimately was a close run thing between swp and walcott. if we look at their form for england since the croatia game, it gets easier with hindsight to justify the decision. england have often improved on walcott's substitution. swp was not lucky to be ahead of walcott in the pecking order, there is not acceptance of it being a close run thing. swp is lucky because his clubmate adam johnson has taken his place at club level and looks a clearly better footballer. the reason swp is lucky is that in the system capello has set up, a pacy right footed touchline hugger is required. this is the same reason why johnson is unlucky. meryl streep is a better actor than hugh grant but if the part they are both auditioning for is an english single father, for all of streeps qualities, grant is probably going to get the role. and loz no doubt will be the one buying the dvd.

returning once more to my title for the topic, is that football is a team game and, whilst that is stating the bleeding obvious, it has a vein of truth that runs right through from club to International level and can be seen to benefit both elements if the whole team game and supportive home club 'angle', to use your word, translates easily into the groupings of players within the squad, as described and used to support the overall theme of my post.

I simply don't understand what you mean by "team ethic" or "team game". I can see you are sort of using it euphemistically, but can you be clearer? at one stage it sounds like you are talking about the relationship of squad members off the pitch, but above you seem to suggest you are talking about how they will know one anothers game better if they play together at club level (which is true).

Taking this a stage further, and to use that Wengerism once again, I believe Theo's club background has done him no favours as far as his England career is concerned and for every David Beckham [late career] move away that's beneficial there are Ashley Cole [earlier in career] moves to cosier [yes, more English] club climes that are even better for the player in terms of quality of football life. You mention Hart moving to Birmingham and away from the almost anti-team ethic currently surrounding Manchester City - supports my contention doesn't it?

firstly, cole's move to us from arsenal meant absolutely nothing as far as england are concerned. he became a better player as he matured and worked with better defenders, that's true, but he was the nailed on first choice for england before, and nothing changed after his move. if he was still at arsenal today he'd still be starting for england today. there surely can be little doubt of that? regarding joe hart, it now sounds like "team ethic" refers to the morale of the club one moves to rather than the need for english teammates. of course I totally disagree. I don't know where you've concluded they have an especially bad spirit (lots of quotes to suggest otherwise), and it surely is clear as day that hart has benefited from playing first team football. in fact capello has said exactly that. and I am wondering why in such an "anti team ethic surrounding" has gareth barry won retained his place after moving away from villa? in fact I wonder why in hart's case city have a bad team ethic, but in swp's case it was advantageous? I don't think your argument is consistent, and I think it requires one to ignore what capello is saying and ignore who is playing well.

I disagree and call Emile Heskey as my next witness for the defence of the team ethic over the pandering towards 'playing well at any particular moment' brigade.

that doesn't defend your argument. it supports what I wrote about getting into the squad on club form and staying in by international form. capello's first competitive game was against andorra in 2008. heskey was then playing for wigan (and his club form would later earn him a move to villa), and playing well in the way he plays well (not scoring many, but being a nuisance etc). that got him into the england squad. what kept him there were his performances. no doubt capello decided he'd be an important asset to the way england play and heskeys contribution for capello was good enough for him to keep his place. once again david bentley doesn't undertand why he hasn't received a phone call for ages, likewise michael owen and gary neville.

And finally, one last dig at Wenger [yes, because it's fun] based on the very nature of club form and International football. Theo Walcott went from Southampton to Arsenal as a central striker and everything about his play up to that point suggested he would turn out to be a prolific goal scorer (that's why they paid a load of money for him) not too dissimilar from a Jimmy Greaves or a Franny Lee. Look at him now, you wouldn't recognise him as the same player and this is due to a direct intervention by Wenger to turn him into a wide man who would use his pace to beat a man and then cross for Adebayor, van Persie, Vela, Merida, or anybody else but him, a once equally, if not better, suited player for the task in hand.

"everything about play suggested he would turn out to be a prolific goal scorer". you cite big names in lee and greaves. I know greaves has a ridiculous goalscoring record (and is a hero of yours as he is my dad). so that is great praise indeed. it also appears to me to be a case of retrofitting to suit your argument. this is because great goalscorers have great scoring records. greaves record as a teenager for us is simply unbelievable. I struggle to imagine a player doing that in top flight football. walcott's record in the second division of english football is ever so slightly less prolific. 21 games and 4 goals. that isn't the record of a goal poacher to me unless that poacher has "sutton 9" on the back of his shirt. I'm interested in what aspect of walcott's game made you think he'd be a prolific striker? his u21 record is 6 in 21, not a massive improvement. certainly there is nothing there that suggests he would ever have been more suited to playing up front ahead of van persie or adebayor. and if I was wenger, so long as I chose to play a 433 I don't think I could pick walcott as a central striker. that leaves my options as playing him as one of the wide forwards or not at all. I don't particularly like defending wenger but I suoose I have to if I disagree with you.

Why? Well, even if you pay £13 million for the privilege of having exceptional electric pace up front, what good is that if you are going to pass the ball twenty times before you get to the last third of the pitch? Answers on a postcard to A Wenger, The Emirates Stadium an exercise which, if there were any justice in Wengerworld, would result in a series of letters from him to an assortment of England managers profusely apologising for wasting their time and the young man's talent over the last four years.

I think you can utilse pace even if you do play a passing game. in fact there are many examples of arsenal doing so. walcott hasn't developed as we'd have hoped from an england perspective, but he still has time. one thing I wouldn't question wenger about is his development of young players. his success rate is as good as any manager out there. keiran gibbs and jack wilshere have come on a lot, and thry have one or two prmosing players in our successful 17 side (just as we do). the fact is more young players fail to make the grade than those that do, and they have to take responsibility themselves. one thing they cannot control is injuries, and walcott has had a few.

finally I'd like you bring your attention to this article:

http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11670_6190963,00.html

quotes from capello himself! we need not speculate. he talks about injuries and form in his justification for walcott's exclusion. he doesn't mention arsenal, wenger, team ethic, team spirit or arsenal's english contingent (or lack there of). to be honest I think having read those quotes there really is only one conclusion to reach.

Edited by gullit4
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At least after partial agreement we can limit the number of highlighted quotes this time, G4, which is no bad thing considering how easily I can still mess up the technical side of writing a post.

“I simply don't understand what you mean by "team ethic" or "team game". I can see you are sort of using it euphemistically, but can you be clearer?â€

I’ll try to get my meaning across by starting with the whole point of ‘playing as a team’ in any game - it’s a pretty obvious path to success, in so far as all the individuals concerned work together to fulfil the common aim of beating the opposition. This can be achieved in a number of ways, as shown by Carlo’s ability to use existing players within the squad and adapting them to various systems of play, compared with (purely for argument’s sake) Wenger’s paramount insistence on the implementation of a football philosophy as a single system of play, which by common consent, manifests itself in a fine style of flowing football. Both can be said to work (or not if we're talking trophy-wise for the last four seasons in the latter’s case) by adopting the ’team game’ principle, but one coach clearly regards the ‘team ethic’ as a kind of ‘all for one, one for all’ concept, while the other sees it as a natural consequence of his ethical (principled) philosophy on the game.

firstly, cole's move to us from arsenal meant absolutely nothing as far as england are concerned. he became a better player as he matured and worked with better defenders, that's true, but he was the nailed on first choice for england before, and nothing changed after his move. if he was still at arsenal today he'd still be starting for england today. there surely can be little doubt of that?

My mention of Ashley was not so much based on the effect of his transfer on his England prospects, but on his overall career prospects. I’m guessing that he took an overview of day-to-day enjoyment of the game at Arsenal compared with what it could be like at Chelsea and it was no contest. Now you will say it was all ‘cashley’ orientated, but I’ll stick with the idea that team mates (and England ones at that) had a fair bit to do with the decision he made and possibly the same applied to Willy going the other way.

regarding joe hart, it now sounds like "team ethic" refers to the morale of the club one moves to rather than the need for english teammates. of course I totally disagree. I don't know where you've concluded they have an especially bad spirit (lots of quotes to suggest otherwise), and it surely is clear as day that hart has benefited from playing first team football. in fact capello has said exactly that. and I am wondering why in such an "anti team ethic surrounding" has gareth barry won retained his place after moving away from villa? in fact I wonder why in hart's case city have a bad team ethic, but in swp's case it was advantageous? I don't think your argument is consistent, and I think it requires one to ignore what capello is saying and ignore who is playing well.

Hart benefited from moving away from City on two counts. Firstly, as you say, he got first team football and secondly he found a team environment for himself at a time of complete upheaval at Middle Eastlands. I’m not saying there was 'bad' spirit there, but it could not have been helped by their captain being virtually forced out to Villa. Also, by the end of a season, we saw a certain degree of unrest amongst the home grown contingent of Michael Johnson, Ireland and (surprise, surprise) Bellamy.

I didn’t want to bring Bridgey into the debate because of the ‘extenuating circumstances’, but I don’t think that he benefited from his move, other than financially, while Shaun’s season was salvaged from obscurity by his improved England situation and I’ve already stated a case on that reversal of fortune. This leaves Barry and I think we all know why he moved away from Villa. He may have retained his place in the England set-up, but it was never going to be as a result of joining the mercenary men on a project mission to Man City. Although I cannot back it up with evidence, I’d suggest that their good team ethic was always over-reliant on the superficial Adebeyor, Tevez and Bellamy-hyped atmosphere, a concern the Mark Hughes era must surely have had and one he would have loved to have supplanted with the signing of a team game master-motivator like John Terry.

[on Heskey]…“that doesn't defend your argument. it supports what I wrote about getting into the squad on club form and staying in by international form. capello's first competitive game was against andorra in 2008. heskey was then playing for wigan (and his club form would later earn him a move to villa), and playing well in the way he plays well (not scoring many, but being a nuisance etc). that got him into the england squad. what kept him there were his performances.“

What defends my argument is the fact that the only way Heskey gets into this England set-up is on team player grounds, as for most of last season Capello had to rely on recall regarding the player’s form, having had little or no up to date evidence to support his selection. Bent had blistering club form all season and scored goals till the cows came home, when all he needed to do was be a nuisance? He might as well not have bothered, if Heskey’s England performances since 2008 are deemed good enough to discount all rivals for his place.

"everything about play suggested he would turn out to be a prolific goal scorer". you cite big names in lee and greaves. …I'm interested in what aspect of walcott's game made you think he'd be a prolific striker? his u21 record is 6 in 21, not a massive improvement. certainly there is nothing there that suggests he would ever have been more suited to playing up front ahead of van persie or adebayor. and if I was wenger, so long as I chose to play a 433 I don't think I could pick walcott as a central striker. that leaves my options as playing him as one of the wide forwards or not at all. I don't particularly like defending wenger but I suoose I have to if I disagree with you.â€

First of all, the similarities are stronger with Greaves than with Lee because Franny Lee was more of a bustling bruiser and, unlike Theo, could look after himself. Greaves didn’t really have to worry about that side of the game, being naturally streetwise at a time (Chopper’s era) when you were never protected. Where all three are alike is in their instant close control and pace over 15-20 yards. When Walcott first came on the scene he beat players with the same gliding, weaving style on the ball that Greaves had, but you only ever get to see it these days when he plays centrally. He also, like Greaves, shoots with a stabbing, punching action, as opposed to using sheer power from a wider arc and maybe that’s why Jimmy was (and Theo appears to be) naff at crossing the ball accurately. In my opinion, Theo is wasted out wide and should be used inside instead, in the same way that (I hope) Carlo has in mind for Borini in the next season or two. By all means defend Wenger if you can, but it will be hard going if you think he bought him for £13 million as a future wide man in the making.

I think you can utilse pace even if you do play a passing game. in fact there are many examples of arsenal doing so. walcott hasn't developed as we'd have hoped from an england perspective, but he still has time. one thing I wouldn't question wenger about is his development of young players. his success rate is as good as any manager out there. keiran gibbs and jack wilshere have come on a lot, and thry have one or two prmosing players in our successful 17 side (just as we do). the fact is more young players fail to make the grade than those that do, and they have to take responsibility themselves. one thing they cannot control is injuries, and walcott has had a few.

I agree in the main, whether they be English players or not, but again we go back to where he places the development of these young players in his ’great scheme of things’ and I’d maintain that his football philosophy is a rigid rather than moveable feast that always seems to come first, with the rest of what might be called a coach’s footballing beliefs, including ideals such as the team ethic, a poor second.

Finally, Capello’s epiphany on Theo is, like a Ron Harris tackle, a bit of a late one for my liking, though I’m sure it’s welcome as far as the player is concerned. However, I think we both know he was never going to criticise Wenger over this leave-out issue or any other of a team spirit, ethical or English contingent nature. Therefore, as you rightly point out, there is only one conclusion to reach - we are in Mandy Rice-Davies territory here and ’well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’

Just as a parting shot, do you think Joe will leave for Emirates pastures new and, whether that answer be yes or no, do you think his team relationships here will in any way influence his decision?

Edited by Dorset
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Wenger has stated since the day he signed Walcott, his plan was to use him out wide while young and eventually bring him into a central role, like Henry, believing that Henry learned a lot about technique, dribbling and taking on defenders while playing as a winger, skills which served to benefit him immensely when moved into the centre.

I don't agree about this whole club mates idea, Dorset, in fact in terms of England it would be counter-productive. I've long believed that a lot of English players (particularly the Liverpool and Man U contingents) care much about about their domestic careers than international football, whether out of personal preference or club pressure. Picking players because of combinations in club football runs the dangerous risk of debilitating cliques within a team, increasingly so as the tabloid media and fan pressure drive such wedges deeper.

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I think the argument regarding Walcott's exclusion and also the Heskey vs Bent debate has been over complicated in a way that would make a puzzle fan delighted on a slow train to Cairo.

Walcott has become a jack of two trades and a master of neither with his creator being Professor Yaffle and his inability to realise that Bendtner has as much chance of being a top class striker as Jesus did after declaring his mission to bring happiness to all and banish heartache. He was potentially a good striker and has always been potentially a crap winger. Delivering on you potential is normally portrayed as good thing however here we see the exception that proves the rule. Taking Walcott to the World Cup to play as a winger was entirely pointless as he would have the impact of straw on a particularly windy day. Taking him as a striker is equally pointless as it has been so long since he played regularly as one that he was caught on camera asking Rooney what side of his boot he shoots with.

Heskey vs Bent is entirely down to what Capello thinks both players can deliver on the international stage. Yesterday my postman failed to make it up my drive as the clutch on his van failed, I am making a badge for him that reads 'Like Bent I Would Have Been Left Out' Heskey, on the other hand, has made an art form of looking like a Premiership bench whilst seeming to impress every international manager that as every had the chance to select him by forming an unlikely partnership with every striker he has played with at international level. Bent has the international pedigree of an English fishing boat - even if there is an argument that Heskey shouldn't be selected it would still make the inclusion of Bent pointless (quite possibly in more ways than one).

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dorset, after reading your last post I think it's fair to say we'll have to disagree, a longer reply from myself would just be putting what I have already written in different words. in any case thanks for indulging me.

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