How Do England Stack Up Against Arsenal’s List Of Weaknesses

Just over a week ago I made an attempt to document all the complaints against Arsenal in a comprehensive list of weaknesses. As I’d mentioned at that time, I did not agree with many items on the list but was compiling it for the sake of having a reference point.

Today I want to compare the English national team against that collection of gripes. Please don’t mistake it as a judgment on the English team. This is simply a comparison to see how many of those criticisms are applicable to the Three Lions.

I’ll start with the issues against the players

  1. Strikers (and others in general) are not clinical enough
  2. Club lacks a 20 goal a season striker

Over the years, England have had the likes of Shearer, Lineker, Wright, Rooney, and many others who have scored plenty of goals, at least at club level. I’d think the first two points are not valid as far as the English national team are concerned.

  1. Big stars were never replaced

The best players from the club teams get picked for the national side. This argument does not seem valid either.

  1. Players lack a winning mentality

Many of the players have won titles with their clubs.

  1. Players lack leadership

Critics of Arsenal often mention the likes of John Terry as the kind of leader Arsenal have been missing. Tony Adams and others have provided leadership through the years.

  1. Central defenders don’t command their area

Fans often say the Gunners need defenders like Tony Adams, Rio Ferdinand, Terry, and others.

  1. There is no organizer in the team

Similar argument as the points 5 and 6.

  1. Full-backs can’t cross

England have had an abundance of full backs who can cross

  1. Full-backs can’t block crosses

There have been many English full-backs who defended their flanks really well for their clubs.

  1. Very few players can attack balls put in the box

No shortage of such players in the England ranks

  1. Players can’t defend set-pieces

Often the national defenders are amongst the best in the league at defending set-pieces.

  1. Can’t defend long balls

Same argument as point 11

  1. Attacking set-pieces are wasted

The current national side has players like Young, Gerrard, Lampard, and others who can provide excellent delivery. In the box there are players like Terry who have scored many goals from set-pieces. Similar strength was available in the past.

  1. No consistent free-kick taker

Partially same as 13

  1. Club lacks a world class goalkeeper

From Seaman to Joe Hart, England have had plenty of highly rated goalkeepers. There might have been small patches where the Keepers were not as good.

  1. Don’t shoot from outside the box often enough

The Three Lions have almost always had a number of players who can score from outside the box and aren’t shy of shooting.

  1. Not physical (big,tall) enough for the Premier League

Hard to say this was ever applicable to the English side.

  1. Lack grit and determination

Well the argument is more like Arsenal lack English grit and determination.

  1. Some players are lazy

Aren’t English players supposed to be more industrious? There might have been some lazy ones though.

  1. Some players lack commitment

Do the English lads lack commitment while representing their country?

  1. Get injured on a regular basis

Hard to say whether this is valid or not about the national team.

  1. Cannot hold on to leads

Similar argument as point 5, 6, and 7. Players like Ferdinand and Terry are hailed as those who can help the team hold on to a lead.

  1. Cannot counter-attack at pace

Again, the national side does not lack players who can break at speed.

Now let us look at the criticisms levelled against Wenger and his staff

  1. Tactically – Anywhere from weak to utterly clueless

Are all those who have managed the English side tactically clueless? Looking at the resume of people like Capello this is hard to accept.

  1. Defensive coaching is poor

Can we comment on this aspect with regards to the national team?

  1. Playing style lacks balance

England have a wide variety of players available for selection. Does the national team lack balance and has lacked balance for years?

  1. Lack of a plan B

With people who can cross, those who can shoot from distance, clinical strikers, tall strikers, leaders, and those who can hold on to a lead, it’s hard to say England lack a plan B.

  1. Blind to obvious problems

How many English managers have been blind to the obvious problems?

  1. No/Poor training on attacking and defending set-pieces

I don’t really know enough to comment on this

  1. Reluctant to spend money

Irrelevant. Big stars are available for selection.

  1. Arrogant
  2. Stubborn

Hard to say so many English managers have been arrogant and stubborn.

  1. Gives ridiculous interviews/ Makes excuses

I haven’t really heard enough interviews to comment on this

  1. Rewards underperforming players

Don’t think this is applicable to the Three Lions

  1. Happy to finish fourth – lacks winning mentality

How many England managers have lacked winning mentality?

  1. Prefers tika-taka football and ignores the other needs of the team (many points mentioned under players)

Again, hard to say such an argument is applicable to the men who have managed the national side.

  1. No 2 and others are ‘Yes  Men’

Same as 13 above.

  1. Medical staff cannot keep players injury free

I don’t think the national medical staff has that big a role as most of the players are treated by the club medics for majority of the season.

Apart from this list there were some suggestions from the readers

1.       Not Enough English Players

2.       Protects the French players/Foreigners

Can’t say these two are applicable to the national side

3.       Wenger is inflexible with formation and approach

Have all England managers been inflexible?

4.       Money being spent on Real Estate projects and not on the squad

Does not seems relevant in the context of the national side.

Now ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time England won anything of significance?

As a number of people didn’t get the point in the previous article, I want to emphasize that I am not trying to judge the English side or make fun of them. I am just analyzing their performances within the context of the weaknesses that Arsenal supposedly have.

My original list had 38 issues and if we add the four from the readers it gives us 42 separate points that people have used to criticize the Gunners. Very few, if any, of these are applicable to the Three Lions. Still the end result isn’t very different. What do you think is the reason?

Don’t take my word for it. I haven’t analyzed every point in detail. That would need a book not a blog post. Just think about it. The list is in front of you. Look back at England’s performances over the last few decades. Try and explain them.

As I said, I am not judging. I have some thoughts on the issue but will leave them for the next post as this one is already quite long. I am travelling for the next couple of days and after that we will have the Emirates Cup to talk about so I will return to this subject after that tournament.

24 Responses to How Do England Stack Up Against Arsenal’s List Of Weaknesses

  1. Joe says:

    Do you work in consulting, Desi?

  2. Gooner Cartman says:

    Comparison is very lame, albeit few points…

  3. reality check says:

    excellent post desi especially the choice of the team to compare with. you some time say some times it just dosent work out. there is some thing missing from our team as well as england’s. there problem is they cant hold the ball for long and fail to use it wisely in attack i think they found the cure in jack wilshere to combine all other talents around him. but our problem is collective defending, if we correct that we are there.

  4. George China says:

    Arsenal have been leaking goals the last five seasons and yet continue to do so with alarming regularity. Any manager conceding goals at the last minute should have have done something. Wigan were two goals down and and managed to win the game and so did Spurs.And what about the grandmother of all in the newcastel game.
    Managers of such teams would have been fired but Wenger is leading a charmed life. He better not push his luck too far.This could be the defining season where if Arsenal continue in this manner,Arsene will have to pay the price.

    • santori says:

      I think he is fully cognisant of this fact and yes, if we end up in similar circumstance end this season, he may move on.

  5. Aussie Jack says:

    This may sound stupid but both England and Arsenal seem to have a common problem…”incentive”(or lack of it). Money is no longer an incentive, they`re multi millionaires at 21 years of age, and an England shirt (or Arsenal) you can pick up at most sports stores for 50 quid.
    In my day you didn`t wear it until you`d earned it.

    Just to walk on the Wembley or Highbury pitch was a young boy`s dream and there were no `rock` concerts, this was hallowed ground.

  6. Felix Turton says:

    I think comparing the plaudits english players get to the criticisms of arsenal illustrates a clear point: there is a cultural football bias against arsenal based on traditional english football (and perhaps past football) ideals.

    It is an obvious fact that arsenal get by far the worst press of all the epl teams.The fact that arsenal have spent on average 80% less on net transfers than the other top five teams, play the best football and ran under british management longer than any other top 5 team, seems to count for nothing other than occasional praise for playing well on the day.

    There is even a strange excitement at critical points in our season when we start to stumble. It is almost as if the press want arsenal to lose. Why though? Were the good guys.

    This list of comments makes it quite clear. Arsenal play the least english game of all teams in the premier league. Arsenal play in a distinctly continental way, an anti-english way.

    In reality, the continental way is set of football principles that dictate that a team should move foward through on-the-ground ball control and avoid dependence on crossing and aerial balls to advance. The latter is clearly the tradition in england (perhaps this is mostly likely down to fact the football originated in england and other countries have taken advantage of the lack of entrenched football culture by evolving their game).

    The press (which are mostly financed by nationalistic middle and lower class england) don’t want arsenal to win with a minuscule budget because winning would demonstrate that the english style is inferior. The animosity is a form of xenophobia and cultural stubborness resulting from a feeling of being threatened.

    Moreover, when arsenal dont win it is easy work for the press to point to the lack of english qualities and generate satisfaction with the english public. Such behavior sells papers.

    Many criticisms of arsenal makes the illogical point that if arsenal do not play according to english game (e.g. long balls) and they lose, it must be because they lacked the qualities that are idealized in the old the english game (grit and determination). This especially funny when one notices that england has not won a major tournament since 1966.

    Just listen to half time commentary when there is both a british and foreign announcer. The brit will attribute the supieriority of one team to “endeavor” and defensive resilience while to foreigner to something almost always more techincal. When arsenal dont win it is always because of their lack of british qualities.

    My point is that the fact that the praise of british players mirrors the criticisms of the arsenal teams shows there is a systematic and consistent bias against arsenal. Arsenals failure becomes england’s football vindication.

    One more point: No one in the media seams to recognize the work wenger/arsenal has done for english football. we have the best academy and we are willing to play young players. Soon the english team will have more arsenal academy reps than any other. wenger is playing a big part in bring english football up to scratch. yet the press wont admit it. Instead of lack of englishness criticisms leveled at arsenal there should be lack of arsenalness critcisms leveled at england.

    but that would that would that would strike a little too deep, wouldnt it.

    • santori says:

      We have 5 first team Brits at the moment (Walcott, Wilshere, ramsey, Jenkinson, Gibbs + Afobe) which is almost the same as the French contingent (Nasri, Diaby, Sagna, Koscielny, Traore and Squillaci whom I think we should get rid of)

    • WafflingWenger says:


  7. Gerry Lennon says:

    I trust the point is, despite Arsenal’s perceived weaknesses, the missing factor for both teams is they are not good enough?

  8. Iain says:

    i agree with Gerry L BUT how about this…if Arsenal played England I reckon Arsenal would win. This English side you seem to rate so highly are serial under achievers and dont have the flair and skill to compete with a fast passing team

  9. james says:

    The problem with the England team apart from jack of course is that the players even though quick tall strong etc their technical level is far to low and they are to lazy in other words in my opinion you should’ve compared us to Spain because they are the benchmark and they have players like ours who are not blessed with great height but no one can beat them in determination and technicality.

    We don’t need height or hard tackles we need determination and to clinically finish our teams off we always create but don’t always score.r ok the set piece thing is a problem but that as you have said yourself is an organisation problem and down to zonal marking rather than getting in a player who 7ft tall.

    We are the best team in the prem at the end of the day because no one can match our technical level as we know in open play we had the best defence in the league last year it was organisation at the back on set piece that cost us sort that out and we won’t be stopped.

  10. Abdullahi adeniji says:

    Good post as always,not seeing them 4 sometimes now,hope u are not contemplating cutting them,please keep them coming as u’re one of the best bloggers arround,gud monin frm nigeria

  11. Abdullahi adeniji says:

    Are u on facebook?if not,can u please get an account 2 make it easier to follow you

  12. ak47 says:

    just read both arts, nice job. the statements in bold are funny.

  13. Kai says:

    I like things to have a point, this does not.

  14. Rejoice says:

    Fantastic submission, even if the biased English people/press would not admit the truths reeled out. As far as the English media is concerned, Arsenal is not their own. Their own is utd, Liverpool and other clubs managed by English managers and dominated by English players. That is why Arsenal is the most negatively talked about club in the UK.

    Desi, maybe you need to do a write-up on the best managed club in world football and lets see if Arsenal won’t come tops.

    Is the British way the only way? The Americans left the British way and devised their own way. Today, they are more successful than the British. Must Arsenal use a style that has brought a trophy since 66-that controversial win against the Germans?

    Desi, I think its unfair to compare Arsenal with the three lions. Compare us to the best footballing nations and clubs and I am sure England won’t be there, except if there are many jack wilsheres. The English way of playing does not interest me-its so boring and unentertaining.

    As soon as Arsenal conquers, their language will change. Lets go and win trophies.

  15. santori says:

    England’s problem in International football is that :

    a) They can’t find a way to use the better attributes of English football as the Germans have with theirs.:D

    b) They lack technical players to compete against teams that play on the deck. This is of course partially being resolved courtesy of Arsenal with players like Jack Wilshere.:)

    c) They are incredibly predictable, more so than Arsenal.:P

  16. Franco says:

    Thanks des. Surely how can they praise their style of football, when they last won a trophy in 1966? Perhaps they think MU is England national team. NO. Look at their referees, they even jump when their MU scores against Arsenal not realising that we are watching them and they are officiating the game. You can forgive them for they are Britons.

    Look at the countries they colonized in African, they are still the list developed, why they took every thing to Britain, all in all they are too selfish.

  17. Franco says:

    Just how many goals did Rooney score at the last world cup and how did Evra perform at the same last world cup? Yes they are luck because. Just how come these players are not influential at national Level. Sad, because I will not compare them with Fabregas and the like at National level not even Ramsey

  18. […] I’d compiled a comprehensive list of weaknesses associated with Arsenal. Then I compared how England fared against the same list. I was wondering how a team with over 40 well-known and oft-repeated issues can stay in the top […]

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