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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Art Class An Option

The list of superlatives bestowed on the Spanish national team in the last few years are lengthy in quantity. Lengthy and undeniably well deserved. Remarkably, they have won 41 of their last 45 matches, scoring 103 goals and conceding just 22, and they seem to win at a canter too, toying with the opposition, for want of a better metaphor, like a matador toying with a bull before going in for the kill.

With the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas to call upon in central midfield, not to mention a back-up cast comprising Marcus Senna, Diego Capel and Santi Cazorla, it is unsurprising that a player of the calibre of Mikel Arteta has found his route to the international scene blocked by this succession of prodigious talents.

Arteta has been resident in England now for five years as of January this year, following his move to Goodison from Real Sociedad. Interestingly, due to his failure to receive a call up to the national side of his birth, he is available for Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad should he decide to apply for dual nationality.

It is the man that Vicente Del Bosque has decided to overlook who could prove to be a fruitful wild card for Capello should he risk the wrath of the English footballing public and pick the player born in San Sebastian with no previous links to England prior to his move in January 2005.

That possession is nine tenths of the law at international level is a given, and it is something the English have always struggled with. Paul Scholes aside, there has never been an English midfielder in the past decade or so who has looked as accomplished on the ball as a Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Redondo or Pavel Nedved. David Beckham, perhaps but English midfielders just don’t seem to realise that the frenetic nature of the Premier League allows for Steven Gerrard to spray a 50 yard pass into touch because odds are, Liverpool will be back in possession within 20 seconds. This simply does not happen against the best sides in the world on the international scene, and the likes of Spain, Brazil and Argentina will make England pay for squandered possession, of that there is little doubt.

Arteta is as accomplished on the ball as anyone in the Premier League. At 27, he has become a mainstay in the centre of Everton’s midfield, excelling with his short and long range passing and displaying a vision sadly lacking from a lot of English players’ games. It is exactly this type of player who could fit nicely into the midfield four favoured by Capello in June. Arteta is arguably better than Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry in possession and as controversial as his inclusion would be, would it not be worth the risk if England are to live up to their (in my opinion) frankly ludicrous tag of second favourites with the British bookmakers? Adam Bushby

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