Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: A battle with insignificance

Making his TFN debut, Harry Wallace looks at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s struggle for the limelight at Arsenal…

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s career has been oddly inconsequential. He was uncapped when he was called up to the England squad for a major tournament. But this was Euro 2012, when Roy Hodgson had been hurriedly planted in the manager job. Everyone around the country, press and fans alike, swiftly agreed that this tournament was a free hit. There hadn’t been enough time to amass a plan, let alone a squad to fit it.

In the Euros Oxlade-Chamberlain would start the first game against France and make two late substitute appearances in the other group games, before being an unused sub against Italy. On his debut he was lively the few times he had the ball, as many young fresh-faced players are. However he was restrained by one of Hodgson’s now stigmatized formations against France, looking to protect in only his third game in charge. It was also partially due to Rooney’s suspension, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could count himself unlucky not to feature ahead of a slumping Ashley Young in later matches. But the whole tournament lacked the pressure or scrutiny that has formed such a bemoaned companion for England. Certainly it was no comparison to Wayne Rooney’s dazzling Euro 2004, or even Raheem Sterling repeatedly scaring Italian defenders in Manaus. The Ox’s official arrival on the international scene was barely even a sideshow.

A year later, England traveled to the hallowed Maracana to face Brazil. Following a characteristically tepid England first-half performance, Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Glen Johnson. He then scored a goal that was a god send to narrative-seeking writers covering the game, a stunning drive in the same stadium that his Father had played in 29 years prior. It was a magnificent moment, or at least as great as it possibly could have been. After all, it was merely an exhibition game that not many would quickly recall now. Continue reading

Podcast: The False Nine review the 2014 World Cup

Host Greg Johnson is joined by James Dutton, Hugo Greenhalgh, Simon Smith and Francis Gene-Rowe as the False Nine gang look back the best bits of Brazil 2014.

Was it a worthy final? Where does the tournament sit in World Cup history? Who were the teams and players that caught the eye?

Listen on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/tfns-brazil-2014-world-cup/id784149140?i=316356489&mt=2

Why James Milner can be England’s new Owen Hargreaves

James Milner0306a

James Dutton ponders England’s use of James Milner this summer, and wonders whether he can have a similar impact on the national team as Owen Hargreaves did in 2006…

It’s fashionable to knock James Milner. His sheer unfashionability demands it.

Milner has a certain longevity which is barely credible. He broke Wayne Rooney’s short-lived record as the youngest Premier League goalscorer nearly 12 years ago in December 2002 at 16 years and 309 days. He won 46 caps for the England U21s, over a five-year period, a total that he has only recently passed with the senior side – cap number 47 coming, ironically, filling in at right-back.

He was the recipient of the 2009-10 Young Player of the Year award, in his eighth season as a professional footballer, which says as much about the credentials of that award as it does Milner’s unspectacular consistency in the years leading up to it.

Everyone expected something different from Milner. When a 16-year old breaks the Premier League’s youngest goalscorer record you’re inclined to expect something more fantastical than what Milner has offered during his dependable and steady career. Continue reading

Why Danny Welbeck holds the key for England at the World Cup

England v Poland - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Pete Sharland reveals how he has been won over by Danny Welbeck, and believes he can play a big part in England’s World Cup summer…

Right, let’s get one thing clear from the outset; my dislike for Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley had nothing to do with the fact that they play for Manchester United. The reason was that I couldn’t fathom why either were such key parts of a club like United and of the England team. Both had fairly decent loans at Sunderland and Wigan respectively but neither deserved to be where they were.

This season though that’s changed. Well Cleverley hasn’t, he’s horribly out of his depth but that doesn’t excuse some half-wits creating a horrible petition to get him out of the England team. The man who has won me over however is Danny Welbeck, and it is quite hard to pinpoint why. Perhaps it is his cheeky grin when he scores, although you can be certain it isn’t his infuriating dance. Continue reading

England: Five Potential World Cup Wild Cards

Sven-Goran-Eriksson-England-Theo-Walcott-2006_2337619

Making his debut for The False Nine, Joe Hall looks at a list of potential wild card picks for England next summer…

The World Cup Wildcard: the final, desperate attempt of an England manager who has suddenly realised the impending humiliation and dejection he is about to face.

Ahead of recent World Cups, every England manager has seemed to pick one player he knows nothing about in the blind hope he could be the next Gascoigne. The “wildcard” will not have played for England much (if at all) and will nearly always have displayed some form of skill or invention that deludes us into thinking he can have an effect.

The results have been mixed. In ’98 Hoddle caved into public pressure (The Sun ran a campaign of course) to pick Michael Owen and it worked a treat.

In 2006 not one, but two “wildcard” choices made their way to Baden-Baden. Aaron Lennon, uncapped but impressive for Tottenham, was a bold but typical choice from Sven-Goran Eriksson. Theo Walcott, who had run really fast in the Championship, was inexplicable.

And then there was Mike Bassett’s inspired and redemptive selection of Kevin Tonkinson.

Who will it be this year? Here’s five players who, with a late surge of form, could convince Hodgson they will be the man to send England into the promised land of a semi-final.

Continue reading

Adnan Januzaj: Why England must resist the call of the wild card

Sunderland-v-Manchester-United-Premier-League-2342629

James Gheerbrant argues against England’s push to naturalise Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj…

The enduring fascination and frustration of international football, the thing about it that compels and confounds in equal measure, is that there are no quick fixes. For the international manager, there are no easy answers to the sort of problems that club coaches are used to eliminating with a fusillade of their semi-automatic chequebook. If your side doesn’t have a decent striker (a problem which has plaqued a succession of otherwise outstanding Portugal teams, for example), then you cannot simply dip into the transfer market to acquire one. If the issues run deeper, if they reflect a nation’s football culture, they must be solved through grass-roots graft, not by parachuting in a panacea. The beauty of the international game is that there is no hiding from the ugly truth.

That, at least, was how it used to be. But on Saturday Roy Hodgson, the manager entrusted by the FA to nurse the ailing English patient towards Brazil, had a glimpse of just such a miracle cure. At Sunderland on Saturday, Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj, 18 years old and precociously gifted, inspired a comeback victory on his full debut with two superbly taken goals – and announced himself as perhaps English’s football unlikeliest Messiah. For it emerged that Januzaj, though born and raised in Belgium to Albanian parents, could yet qualify to pull on the Three Lions on residency grounds. No matter that Januzaj has lived here only two years, no matter that England is in no real sense his homeland, he is the prodigious playmaker we have hungered for through the wilderness years. In this modern-day football parable, he is not so much the prodigal son as the fatted calf. Continue reading

Too Much, Too Soon – Can Liverpool learn from Arsenal?

ebf7cf9f-7efa-40f6-a286-17015a5697e0_0e90d0c2-511b-4925-8930-117a74875ae7

False Nine editors James Dutton and Hugo Greenhalgh investigate the dangers of promoting youth too soon…

You could be forgiven for thinking that Michael Owen’s personal blog is nothing more than a sanctuary for the unremarkable.

Continue reading