The way I see it – Arsenal v Watford

Last updated : 13 October 2006 By Jason Hogan
The latest round of internationals certainly confirmed to me, as an Englishman, pretty much what I already knew – that England have too many players that are over-hyped, overpaid and over here.

The greatest result England have achieved in recent times is the 5-1 against the Germans in Germany back in 2001 but in all honesty, the last time I saw England put on a truly great display was back in 1996 when we beat the Dutch at Wembley in Euro 96.

Interestingly, Warnock went on to suggest that the only way the standard of English football is to place restrictions on the amount of foreign players in the Premiership and without naming names, he talked about the fact the standard of the English national side isn't helped by some clubs regularly fielding teams in the Premiership without any Englishmen in the ranks.

You don't have to be of a sensitive disposition to deduce that the Arsenal were the club he was referring to specifically. Not that I am too bothered though because deep down, like everyone else, Warnock knows damn well that the reasons as to why England as a nation continue to fall short of being the football force people like to think they are, go way beyond the amount of foreigners that happen to be playing in Arsenal's first team or anyone else's.

Still, I'm not going to waste time wallowing over the shortcomings of the English national side. If any follower of the English national side was to be honest with themselves, the shortcomings were already there a long, long time ago.

What concerns me far more is how many of our players have come back from international duty unscathed. As far as I know, Freddie is the only direct casualty so far though I understand young Eboue and new boy Julio Baptista are on the sidelines due to various injuries.

In light of some of the things Le Boss has been saying over the last few days, he would be actively seeking compensation from the Swedish FA after being deprived of the services of Freddie if he had his way but to a degree, I have to say that I can understand both sides of the argument in the club v country row.

For example, Stuart Pearce came out on record yesterday to say that he couldn't possibly expect his players to turn their backs on their countries given that he never ever did the same whenever England came calling for his services when he was a player. However when I cannot deny that Arsene has a point himself when, in his own unique way, he suggested that international bosses do not show quite the same level of responsibility to the welfare of the players as the clubs and I have to admit that there should be a mechanism in place to compensate clubs in some way for the enforced absence of players as a result of international commitments. Where you draw the lines or boundaries on this issue well, that's another debate entirely.

Still it's with great relief that I can now delight in the fact that the internationals are out of the way for a good while and that we can all get down to the real bread and butter stuff again. This leads me nicely on to our home game against Watford.

Like Sheffield United, the Hornets have found the Premiership to be a rather cruel place to be so far and they have yet to win their first Premiership game. However, if you ask the managers of all the teams they have played so far whether they found it easy going against this lot then I would bet all of them would say no.

I remember for example seeing footage of the game the Hornets played against Bolton up at the Reebok early on in the season and they gave Fat Sam's men all sorts of problems. If I remember correctly, they hit the woodwork twice and had at least one effort cleared off the line. However the reason they lost the game was self inflicted. Defender Danny Shittu had a rush of blood to the head and inexplicably hacked down a Bolton player in the box. Speed put away the penalty and all of Watford's effort and industry went unrewarded.

Having tossed away what would have been a thoroughly deserved point at the Reebok, the Hornets tossed away two more at home to Fulham last time out. The Hornets raced into a 2-0 lead but come injury time they found themselves 3-2 down and staring defeat in the face before Ashley Young volleyed in an equaliser right at the death.

There have been plenty of other "what if" moments for Watford so far this season and the fact that they have just three points to their name so far does not really tell the story in terms of how they have actually played.

The Hornets have one or two players that I really like the look of. Ashley Young is definitely a lad that is destined for pretty big things in the game. The boy has already gained recognition at England Under-21 level and he has been linked with moves to both Arsenal and Manchester United in the not so distant past. Young can play on either flank, is capable of crossing a good ball and he has already proved that he has an eye for goal. Make no mistake, he will be a threat on Saturday.

I also am a fan of Gavin Mahon, the captain. Whilst he could be bracketed as a good old fashioned journeyman pro, he is nevertheless a lad who will sweat blood for any cause and is never afraid to put his foot in when the boots are flying in midfield.

They say that a promoted side needs to have a striker that can score perhaps 10-15 league goals in the Premiership in order to keep them up. Well, I'm no big gambler but I would have a punt on Marlon King to possibly do that for Watford.

King, an Arsenal fan I understand, is no angel. He had a spell inside at Her Majesty's pleasure not so long ago. But the boy appears to have got himself on the straight and narrow. It certainly showed in last year's Championship campaign and he has already shown signs that he can cut it in the top flight as well. He is genuinely two footed and has a turn of pace. He is also no stranger to scoring against the Arsenal either. He scored against us for Gillingham in an FA Cup fifth round two or three years ago, a tie that the Arsenal won 5-2.

It will be a mistake for any Gooner to turn up at The Grove on Saturday thinking that this game will be some sort of walkover for the Arsenal. International breaks such as the one we have just had tend to notoriously work against us.

Cast your minds back to this time four years ago, for example. Having won the double in 2002, we carried on from where we left off the following season and in all we had racked up 35 matches unbeaten in the league. We then had what was effectively a two-week international break just like the one that has just gone and when it was over, Arsenal went to Goodison to play Everton.

I remember it oh so well. Arsenal didn't particularly go around pulling up trees that day if you know what I mean but, just as we seemed to be limping towards a point, up stepped a 16 year old lad going on 17 by the name of Wayne Rooney to crash home the winning goal past a helpless David Seaman off the underside of the bar from 20-odd yards.

There was hardly any time left for us to react to that, our unbeaten record went up in smoke and after that, to be fair, the Arsenal never really quite recovered the same sort of poise and self-assurance that took us to the title the season before.

It's worth remembering that man for man, the Arsenal had a far more experienced side that day up at Goodison than the one we will put out this Saturday. It's also worth remembering what I suggested earlier in the sense that nobody but NOBODY has enjoyed an easy time of it against the Hornets.

Aidy Boothroyd, the Watford manager, strikes me as the kind of guy that is nobody's fool. He has already come out on the record as saying that this may be a good time to play the Arsenal, given the international break. After what I have already said, I cannot deny that Boothroyd's sentiments are groundless.

It probably won't have escaped his attention that we are likely to have a somewhat makeshift defence for starters with Clichy and Senderos yet to gain full match fitness, question marks over Gallas even though he played the full 90 minutes for France in the week and, as I have already mentioned, Eboue missing at right back.

This is a banana skin game for the Arsenal alright. I can't help feeling that avoiding a slip up might not be as easy in the circumstances as people may think.