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Author Topic: Get them while you can  (Read 896 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Get them while you can
« on: March 23, 2021, 11:08:22 PM »
At the beginning of the season I asked the question of whether Villa players really needed international football; more specifically whether our English players needed to play for England after Jack Grealish had yet again been overlooked by Gareth Southgate. This was really me ranting about the most obviously in-form attacking player in the country seemingly being deliberately excluded from the stage he obviously deserved by a manager who apparently had a personal beef with him. To my mind Southgate, among other things, was yet another example of a player who made his name in B6 forgetting the club who got him to the stage which he was denying a current Villa player. Among others in this series see also Platt, David.

Almost as soon that piece had been published it was completely out of date. Grealish was called into the England squad after some injuries and went on to give a man of the match performance on his first start but now the first squad of 2021 has been announced Grealish isn’t in it. You won’t find me moaning this time though, at least not about Jack’s omission after his recent injury.

With our main creative threat missing our goals have dried up somewhat so it was a bit of surprise to see Ollie Watkins’ name listed under the strikers section of the new England squad list. After scoring more goals in his first three-quarters of a season of top flight action than Gabby Agbonlahor managed in his final three it is deserved recognition for a player who was in League Two four years ago. In common with his previous lack of acknowledgement of Jack Grealish in favour of Mason Mount, Southgate though felt the need to mention that Ollie was only narrowly ahead of the perpetually falling oak that is Patrick Bamford. Bamford has admittedly also done well this season, actually outscoring Watkins, but Southgate’s comments were the cue for Leeds fans to again showcase their apparent eternal inferiority complex on social media.

With Ollie’s inclusion being a bit of a surprise Tyrone Mings’ place in the squad was expected even if he is the target of some largely unwarranted criticism at times. That there was no place for any of our other three regular defenders however did raise an eyebrow or two. With Grealish missing the spotlight has been turned on to the back four as our best performers and, unusually for a Premier League defence, all of them are eligible for England. It is that eligibility which may become a topic for debate in the longer term as only Matt Targett, unrecognisable from the unsure and timid player of last season and tipped in some quarters to make the current squad, of the other three does not qualify to represent at least one other nation.

When Matty Cash arrived from Nottingham Forest in the summer one of things highlighted about him, almost jokingly at the time, was that he has a Polish grandparent. After his impressive first season in the top flight Cash was also mentioned by Southgate in his press conference for his squad announcement but right back is possibly the position where England have the most abundance of talent. That a Southgate favourite, Trent Alexander-Arnold, is not in the latest squad illustrates this fact. By mentioning Cash at all shows that the FA must be aware of the possibility of losing a player to another country’s set-up, particularly one who England are about to face in the upcoming set of fixtures.

The player who wasn’t spoken about, by the media or Southgate, was Ezri Konsa, who along with Grealish and Emi Martinez has been one of our most consistent performers this season. After his sojourn at right back in the opening weeks of what only Dean Smith seems to persist in calling ‘Project Restart’ Konsa is now settled and established in the centre of defence. The former Charlton and Brentford player has demonstrated a defensive grace reminiscent at times of the best of Ugo Ehiogu (but not yet Paul McGrath as suggested by Chris Dolan on The Villa View’s preview to the Spurs game which I am listening to while typing this). As we toiled in recent weeks against Sheffield United, Wolves and Newcastle Konsa was able to bring a calmness to Villa’s defence to complement Mings’ organisational skills. A number of times he has come up with the ball from tackles on the edge of the penalty area which it appeared he was never going to win.

On the current squad selection Konsa appears to be behind the inconsistency of John Stones and Eric Dier, who is struggling to get a game for Tottenham, as well as Harry Maguire, Wolves’ Conor Coady and Konsa’s Villa team-mate Tyrone Mings. With his path blocked by this congestion to a place in the England squad Konsa may well look to other avenues open to him for international football.

There are three other countries for whom he qualifies; Angola, through his mother, Democratic Republic of Congo, through his father, and Portugal. Despite Angola appearing at the World Cup Finals as recently as 2006 it seems unlikely Konsa would opt to go in that direction. DR Congo are currently 60th in FIFA’s rankings (for perspective this is two places above Slovenia, a place below Bertand Traore’s Burkina Faso and only five below EURO 2020 qualifiers Finland) and are one of the major nations in African football despite being perennial bridesmaids since their only World Cup appearance as Zaïre in 1974.

Ezri would not be the first Villa player represent them (for anyone interested that was Yannick Bolasie) and a Leopards shirt bearing the name Konsa is a more realistic possibility from the point of view of the player wanting to be part a competitive squad than Angola, who are 125th in those rankings. From a purely sporting angle though Portugal may interest Konsa the most as they currently have ageing defensive options with 38 year old Pepe still getting a game alongside 37 year old Jose Fonte in the centre of defence.

It seems strange that the FA is so inconsistent when attempting to tie players down to represent the England national when you consider the stories of how Jack Grealish was courted to opt for the nation of his birth rather than take up an invitation to make his senior international debut for Ireland. With Villa having one of the best defensive units in the Premier League, incorporating a nominally all English back four, it is strange for only one of them to actually be recognised at senior international level. It is particularly odd given the risk that two of the other three could potentially line up against the national team, possibly even in a tournament, at some point in the future. It could be just another chapter in the ongoing saga of overlooked Villa players at international level. It is a topic some may have noticed with which I could, and, given even less than half a chance, would, bore you for hours.

A point Gareth Southgate and the FA should think about is that at international level, as has forever been the case in club football, times have changed and not picking a player while you can means they can come and bite you when playing for someone else.

Offline tony scott

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Re: Get them while you can
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2021, 12:05:27 AM »
Good pos ,could you imagine the grief the media would dish out if Ezri lined up for Portugal.

Offline DYWTBAU?

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Re: Get them while you can
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2021, 04:02:51 PM »
It did seem strange how Konsa missed out on this squad but Southgate has shown, whether inadvertently or not, that Villa players need to wait, above and beyond, for their call-ups. There's a clear bias towards the supposedly bigger clubs who make up the 'Top 6', where squad players with limited game time are picked ahead of in-form players from the 'lesser' clubs. Hopefully Ezri, like Jack, Tyrone and now Ollie will take his chance when it eventually comes for England, can't see him choosing one of the other nations just yet.


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