|This is cute.|
Well, the international friendlies are here, but no one knows quite why. It’s like Waiting for Godot in reverse (what, too literary?); instead of waiting and looking pointlessly for someone who will never arrive, friendlies arrive pointlessly without anyone waiting or looking for them. Even the name is irksome–a “friendly” has all of the intensity and drama of the dregs of yesterday’s leftover coffee. Are players meant to just knock it around, smiling to each other and offering hearty congratulations? (“Nice move,Steve, you spun me right round on that!”). I prefer my footy with a bit more of an edge to it. So it goes.
Anyway, from the looks of it, Walcott, Wilshere, and Ox will travel all the way to Wembley as England hosts Brazil, Podolski and Mertesacker will travel to France to face Sagna, Giroud, and Koscielny, among others, but not Diaby, who seems to have been left out. Belgium hosts Slovakia, pulling Vermaelen home. Spain hosts Uruguay, and the news there is more mixed. del Bosque seems to have left Michu and Fernando Torres out, opting apparently to leave out strikers who know how to score as well as those who don’t (anymore). Xabi Alonso is also out due to injury. At least indirectly, this might open up more playing time for Cazorla (Arteta having not been called up), especially if del Bosque reprises his Euro 2012 strategy of playing Fabregas as a striker. As an aside, if we were to pick up David Villa, we’d have the 3rd-highest number of Spanish nationals playing for us–Arteta, Cazorla, Villa, Monreal–behind Barca and Real. So that’s something. Or something. Closer to home, there are a number of English players unavailable or whatever–Sturridge, Gerrard, Defoe, Carrick–which might increase pressure on Hodgson to play some of our aforementioned boys, and none of Sunderland’s English nationals appear to have been called up. I don’t know Hodgson’s thinking (does he?). Elsewhere, Simon Mignolet will most likely start. Meh.
This is all a bit of folderol, in the end. Many of our boys will not see any playing time, and those who do will likely take it easy. I won’t even express any worries for fear of jinxing the whole thing. We got through the cluster of eight matches in January at 4-3-2, which, while not exactly bathed in glory, was enough to keep us from falling apart. After Saturday’s match against Sunderland, we have a full week break before facing Blackburn, so there will be time to rest.
We’ll look at the rest of the year’s schedule later. Until then, I leave you with this: