Dear reader, you’ll be delighted to know that the object of today’s ‘column’ is to talk about anything other than that glorified training session held at Wembley on Sunday evening. All we really need to know about that is the team wearing red were better than the team wearing white yet somehow the whites won.
Instead, I took the opposite to a Gareth Southgate style decision and have opted to fill this with creativity, with flair and certainly more left-footed players.
We shall take a quick look back at Deadline Day, now we have all had time to reflect, agree that Sky really need to stop selling a bedsit as a mansion and generally giggle at Manchester United.
After all, it was Mr Ed who managed to turn a one-horse race for Porto’s Alex Telles, a player that United have allegedly been tracking since 2016, into a last-minute sprint for the paperwork line. It was Mr Ed, trying his hardest to focus on the fact that United really needed a better central defender than Victor Lindelof, who ended up getting distracted by the shiny thing in the shape of Edinson Cavani, a player that they just do not need. And, it was Mr Ed who, despite being told ‘no’ very clearly in both English and German when enquiring about Jadon Sancho, chose to keep going back for the unobtainable winger in the hope that offering less than market value would fool Borussia Dortmund into making the deal happen.
It is clear, as it has been for years, that if Woodward was in a room with 17 Erling Haalands and Eric Choupa-Mouting that he’d end up walking out with Eric thinking he’d done a good job.
Mind you, Choupa-Mouting’s agent has to be one of the finest salesman in world football. The ex-Stoke substitute has managed to trade PSG’s bench for Bayern Munich’s bench – possibly aided by that miss when the two teams met in the Champions League semis.
Most of the interesting Deadline Day chat circled around Arsenal. It’s easy to judge, but announcing a £45m signing in Thomas Partey the day you’ve laid off Gunnersauras isn’t the finest PR move ever. Fair play to Mesut Ozil, however. The German has offered to pay the mascot’s wages for as long as he is still a player at the club – if I was the dinosaur, I’d probably want the contract worded as ‘employee’ given that we haven’t seen Ozil on the pitch for the Gunners in ages – a fact that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Equally, Jack Wilshere has been released by West Ham so he’s free every other weekend now – he could still do a job for Arsenal. As the mascot, I mean.
Theo Walcott is back at Southampton. I’m not sure how I feel about this move. Walcott has returned after 14 years and it feels a little like someone having to move back in with the parents after a failed relationship.
OK – so to Wembley. You really do have to give credit to Gareth Southgate for finding a way of crowbarring three right-backs into England’s starting XI against Belgium, allegedly ranked #1 in the world right now. And if you weren’t a right-back, the chances are you were a defensive-minded midfielder.
Southgate is super-keen to get this 3-4-3 system working, and lucky wins over teams like Belgium will not help change his mind. Don’t get me wrong, I like Southgate a lot – he handles himself very well given the absolute idiocy of some of his players off the pitch – but I don’t care how often he tries it but a midfield duo of Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice is not going to see us get to the final of a major tournament. Or a combination of Kalvin Phillips and one of the aforementioned. That said, any back three with Eric Dier in the middle is going to struggle too.
Yes, yes, England won – but were they any good? And if England were that bad and yet they beat Belgium, what does that say about Belgium? And really, does any of this matter? Why on Earth are they playing pointless international matches when the world is the way the world is right now anyway?
Jose Mourinho must have been thrilled to see a not-fit-enough-to-start Harry Kane come off the bench – again, why? Jack Grealish must have been chuffed to be man-of-the-match against Wales B and be utterly overlooked against a team where he could have shown he is capable in the big ones.
All in all, it wasn’t a classic. Two daft penalties and the deflected winner did well to gloss over the fact it was nothing more than a half-paced exhibition game that could have ended 0-0 and nobody would have cared.
Thank goodness the Premier League is back next weekend and we can get back into the swing of watching teams we care about ship goals left, right and centre once again.