Arsenal attacker Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has claimed that Arsenal could be as important to the England national team as Barcelona are to Spain, according to the Daily Mirror.
Fresh from a 5-0 thumping of minnows San Marino in the European qualifiers with England, the Ox believes that the Gunners are following in the footsteps of Catalan giants Barcelona in providing the backbone for their country's national team.
England manager Roy Hodgson fielded five Arsenal players in the Three Lions' victory prior to their win over Estonia. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs and Danny Welbeck were all on the pitch at the start of the second half which created a little bit of history as this was the first time since 1934 that England had five Arsenal players on at the same time.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who had been under constant criticism for his predilection for foreign imports, has now built a strong English core at the Emirates. Incidentally, Wenger was the first manager in top flight history to field an all foreign XI in Arsenal's win over Crystal Palace in February 2005.
But times have changed since then as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Chambers, Gibbs and Welbeck featured against San Marino, and the Gunners still have Theo Walcott, currently out injured, who is expected to feature for England in the Euro 2016 tournament.
Chamberlain has subsequently pointed out the importance of the Arsenal spine, saying: “Spain have a big influence from Real Madrid and Barcelona. When you go and watch Spain play it’s almost like watching Barca or Real at times, with the number of players they have on the pitch.
“It is a nice thing to have that with Arsenal at the moment. You do notice a lot more of an English presence around the club, it’s hard not to. It’s a nice thing as an English lad myself.
“You know all the foreign boys in our team are really good, but it’s really nice to see a lot of great English players in our team and then coming away for the internationals."
Chamberlain also laid the importance of knowing each other on and off the pitch and how it affects the understanding among the players.
"Just knowing each other, off the pitch and on it, does really help in gelling the team together.
“The Germans and the Spanish have been able to do that. Liverpool have got a good number of players as well.
“It’s not just those two clubs, everyone who comes away really does integrate well with the team and helps us to hopefully be successful," he added.
The Arsenal connection
The Ox further went on to reveal his delight of playing alongside his Arsenal teammates. He also said that training with his club mates has made it a lot easier for them to connect on the pitch for England. The 21-year-old describes his relationship with his club-mates as almost intuitive.
“When they’re all on the pitch with you, you do know their characteristics and where they’re going to pass the ball and where they like the ball to be passed. It definitely helps," he said.
“When I got that ball down the line I knew Calum was going to be able to find me first and foremost, and I knew Danny likes to make that run to the front post.
“It’s the same for the Liverpool lads. They’ve been a strong force in this England squad for a while.
“The training we’ve been doing. It’s not just the lads that train together for clubs, we’ve been working hard all week to get patterns of play together, we’re going to work on and try and implement them in the games and I think we did that.”
Togetherness at the England camp
Chamberlain believes there is a real togetherness in the England camp and the spirit of the dressing room has never been better.
“There’s a really nice feel to the squad and a really nice comforting feel. When you come away, you know everyone,” the 21-year-old added.
“It’s quite a young squad and we’re being led by senior pros as well and there’s a lot of boys in the squad who I personally have played with coming up through the youth ranks.
“That does help as well and obviously the manager makes the unity, and the back-room staff makes sure we’re all gelling together, and I just think it’s a really nice feel around the squad at the moment.
“Ever since I’ve been around the squad, I’ve been able to say the same thing.”
The victory against San Marino puts England top of group E in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.