10th October 2015: In-form forwards and flowers

Evening all. So Theo Walcott continued his fine goalscoring form this season by grabbing England’s opener in the 2-0 win over Estonia at Wembley last night, despite playing from the right of the attack to accommodate Arsenal fan and Freddie Ljungberg wannabe, Harry Kane, as the central striker.

After the game, Theo spoke about wanting to help the Three Lions complete qualification with a tenth straight win against Lithuania on Monday night, the harder tests that lie in wait for the national team and scoring for his country. He said:

We have to be proud of ourselves. Having nine wins after the disappointment from the World Cup and bouncing back the way the players have done – the backroom staff have changed things and things are working for us. This team is definitely hungry and eager to do well. We want to make it 10 on Monday night. It is a nice little thing to have – we want to win every game but we will be more tested in these friendlies coming up [against France and Spain next month] and everyone wants to win competitions and make this country proud. There are some young, eager faces in that dressing room who are keen to do well but we are only going to be judged when it comes to tournament football. It’s a dream come true to score for your country. I’d like to score more goals, but the most important thing I want to play for this team and for us to do well.

I only saw the first half of the game last night and Theo looked every bit as ‘buzzing’ as he’d declared himself at his pre-match press conference. Unfortunately, Adam Lallana, who played just behind him on the right of a three-man midfield, wasn’t really on the same wavelength as Theo, which to be fair, is far from surprising given they’ve only had a few days to train together.

But what that meant was some of Theo’s intelligent runs were wasted, as he hovered on the shoulder of the visitors’ back-line waiting to be released on goal. England’s other midfield playmaker on the night however, Ross Barkley, did eventually reward one of Walcott’s dangerous darts on the stroke of half time, threading a nut-megged through ball into the path of the Arsenal striker as he made a superb run from wide right to the far post, before taking two cool, clinical touches in opening himself up and placing the ball into the net.

People will say it was only Estonia, and it was, but it was still fine movement and top-class finishing from a man at the very top of his game. He’s certainly enjoying a very consistent patch at the moment. Now if he can turn ‘patch’ into ‘season’, who knows how far Theo’s goals can carry Arsenal and England between now and the end of the Euros next summer.

Elsewhere, both Santi Cazorla and Alexis scored for their countries last night and several other Gunners are in action over Cloid so, as always, for a comprehensive round-up of minutes played, goals scored etc, head over to the official site here.

In fact, just scrolling down that page I noticed Hector Bellerin was an unused substitute for Spain’s under 21s on Wednesday night which suggests he’s either carrying a knock, was rested, or Spain has even greater strength in depth than I imagined. Because it would take a cross between Cafu, Lillian Thuram and Superman to keep our Cockney Catalan out of any team on current form.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has gone all Swiss Toni, likening team spirit to flowers, saying you have to continually work on fostering it amongst a squad because it is vital for success. Asked about it’s importance, he said:

You can ask the question the other way around: can you be successful without team spirit? If I asked you that question, straight away you would say no. That just shows you how important it is. It’s difficult to put a percentage on it, but you know without it you have no chance. Afterwards, what is interesting is to know how big the team spirit is. You can have different degrees of team spirit, because without it you have no football at all – everybody would just do what he wants. But how far can you go in cultivating and developing that team spirit? That’s our target. We know that to have a chance of being successful, we want to be more of a team than any other side in the Premier League. Therefore, I believe it’s a little bit like a flower. You have to take care of it and look after it every day, or else it will slowly die. But as well, you can make the flower bigger, better and prettier if you care for it. We believe that part of the responsibility of the players and the staff is to take care of team spirit.

Jokes aside, high morale is unarguably a vital ingredient for any successful team endeavour, no matter what the setting, and I think it’s telling that Arsene has been all-too willing to rid the club of players who’ve reportedly been far from the most pleasant of characters, shall we say, in years gone by.

On the other hand though, in top-level professional football, I think I little nastiness can be a good thing. Some of the best players have had dark moods and providing it’s not too destabilizing for a squad, having one or two more temperamental characters can give you the perfect blend. I mean, as much as I love our current squad and rave about their ability, I find myself agreeing sometimes with critics who say we’re ‘too nice’.

Anyway, ever the idealist, Arsene may beg to differ and argue that quality of football can overcome the meanest of opposition mindsets, but the next time we’re left feeling like we’ve been bullied in a big game, perhaps he’ll revisit the subject. Or maybe he won’t.

Right, I’m off. See you in a bit.

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