Academy manager Per Mertesacker says he’s shocked that there are no Arsenal players in the England senior setup, and he thinks that’s something that needs to change.
When the most recent England squad was announced, it was notable that not a single Arsenal player was involved. The Gunners had players in the u21s, the u19s, the u18s and the u17s, but at the top level, they didn’t have one call-up.
There were some mitigating factors, such as Rob Holding’s injury, but for the most part, it just emphasises how few experienced English players Arsenal have. There isn’t one English player over the age of 25 in the squad, and only four between 21 and 25.
Perhaps with a run of games Holding and Calum Chambers could make it into the selection, or Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock if their spell in the team continues. Mertesacker admitted the lack of Arsenal players in contention for England right now is unacceptable though.
“I was shocked,” Mertesacker told The Athletic. “No senior England players. That’s unacceptable. That’s a failure.
“When you look at the England squad, you see players from Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea… They all have players there – and not one. Two or three. That’s what we need.
“We used to joke about having a ‘British core’ – Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey – but that’s essentially what we need.
“It’s for everyone. It’s for the club. It helps create the energy and the bigger belief in what we do. It allows the fans to connect with the team. The British core ensures the English language is first, it creates the culture. It’s important.”
As mentioned, there are English players in the next generation of the Arsenal academy pushing towards the first team. Willock, Reiss Nelson and Maitland-Niles are already there and just trying to nail down their spots, whilst Nketiah is doing well on loan.
Emile Smith Rowe should be around the Arsenal first team again soon, whilst youth players Tyreece John-Jules, Bukayo Saka and Folarin Balogun have made it up to u19 level with England.
They all have to become regulars in the Arsenal senior side before they’ll have a chance with England though. There’s still a lot of progress to be made on that front.