While everything concerning Arsenal at the moment may be about potential, or inevitable, outgoings (e.g. which Manchester club will Alexis Sanchez go to?!), there has also been a noticeable rise of our English players within the team which has seemed to slip under the radar. ‘Super’ Jack Wilshere captained Arsenal for the first time from the start in midweek and is flourishing playing week in week out, the rise of the highly versatile Ainsley Maitland-Niles is very promising, and our defence consisting mostly of Englishmen has implanted a very ‘English’ feel into our team in recent matches.
Five out of the eleven to start against Chelsea in the League Cup during midweek were English. Two of the back three, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers, wing back Ainsley Maitland-Niles and in the centre Jack Wilshere, with Danny Welbeck providing the width up front. While the result was a stalemate, the passion of the team, especially with the English counterparts, flourished.
Firstly, Jack Wilshere, who will be facing the side he spent on loan with this weekend, has really made himself one of the crucial players in our team sheet of late. With his natural hunger and drive, Wilshere has been a much welcomed addition to the first eleven since cementing his place in the side. The reward of being made captain in midweek against Chelsea will have meant a lot to him, and will only fuel his desire to make sure he receives his contract extension and perhaps, one day, even be made the permanent Arsenal captain.
Calum Chambers’ loan spell at Middlesbrough last season has seemed to serve its purpose, as the defender has returned to the Arsenal team as a much more experienced centre back, with the right side of a back three seeming to fit his defensive style of play. In addition, Rob Holding, after facing a tough day at the office against the lower league Nottingham Forest, really expressed his defensive talent with an assured performance to keep Chelsea at bay. The signs are positive for the two players who have been previously tipped to be the ‘English centre back pairing’ of the future.
It’s clear to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles is flourishing being within the first team. While by trade a centre midfielder, Niles has fitted into the wing back role with relative ease, despite playing teams such as Liverpool and Chelsea. His pace isn’t the only thing that has caught people’s eyes, for such a young footballer he displays a high level of calmness and control on the ball, which is not usually attributed to young English players. The sense is that Niles will eventually receive his chance in the centre of the pitch, and when he does I expect him to take it with both arms; his experience at wing back will only aid to him becoming a more complete midfielder, as he’s had to cope with some strenuous defensive displays.
Although it may not be the most important thing on the minds of Arsenal fans, it is definitely good to see our English players becoming a core of our side. I’m not suggesting our team is complete with them, it’s far from it and investment is heavily needed; however, it is reassuring for fans to see English players, especially from our academy, being given the chance to express themselves. For so long Arsenal have been accused of not bringing enough English players into the first team, now perhaps times are changing. The Arsenal may be going through a potential dismal period at the moment with the future of both the manager and our best players unclear, but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining?