In his laboratory, Professor Arsene Wenger of Arsenal creates the perfect players for the modern game. They must have speed, touch, vision, a final ball and the resilience to shrug off challenges from those less capable. They must play the game as it deserves to be played: beautifully. They must not wilt on the big stage, they must not succumb to temptations that other footballers do, and many opposing fans would have you believe they must also not be English—French will do just fine, thanks.
But this season Wenger has proved he has no Anglophobic bones in his body. After years of always insisting he is concerned not with the passport, but the talent, there are at least three English talents looking to break out of the Arsenal team this season who might as well reserve their Rio hotel room now for the summer of 2014.
I will try not to go overboard in my compliments for this young man, but some of the moves he is capable of must remind some Arsenal fans how they felt about their first crush. He has showed in the Premiership this season that he can play with the big boys, and at 18 and completely comfortable in the Premier League, he is one of the best young prospects in the Premier League. That’s no hyperbole. He can put himself about, but attack with grace—his back heel to Andrei Arshavin against Partizan Belgrade was fabulous.
For England he could solve the left-footed problem, and play on the wing. But by the time 2014 comes around, he will be ready to play in the middle for England and hopefully be threading through balls for Wayne Rooney and the next young man on the list.
Some players are synonymous with bad news, others have more beneficial attributes. When you think of Didier Drogba you think of his strength, David Beckham has his passing, and Theo Walcott undoubtedly has his pace. Recently measured to be the fastest player in the Premier League, before this season he was considered a bit of an inconsistent flop, especially by the media. Fabio Capello leaving him out of a dreary England team when he was fresh was the cherry on top of a tasteless cake.
This year, for Arsenal, he exploded back into action, showing that he can be a realistic attacking threat from his right wing position. Unfortunately he was injured trying to score for England, but he will be back. Hopefully Wenger has the courage to eventually move him into a more central position, one that he has said himself he favours. Or maybe he can continue to learn under the tutelage of a wing master like Arshavin. Either way, he’s still just 21, and his skills can help England, as a starter, or as he showed against Barcelona, as an impact substitution.
Kieran Gibbs may have an almost impossible task in trying to take Ashley Cole’s position on the England team, but even if he has to play back-up for some time, it’s worth noting that 2014 will almost certainly be Cole’s last World Cup.
For Arsenal he has shown his quality every time he’s played. His skills at left back even allowed Wenger to loan the impressive Armand Traore to Juventus for the season. He has pace, height not usually seen at left back, and should be an even more mature player come 2014, where he will be 24.
Add to those players like Craig Eastmond, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Sanchez Watt and more, and the future begins to look bright for Arsenal and England.
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