The Under-21 fallacy

So we are to believe that going to the under 21 finals next year is a necessary step in the education of young Jack Wilshere. Those who disagree with Wenger will point to a number of reasons why that’s the case. The most used refrain is to cite the current under-21 champions and how that was a stepping stone for their great performance in South Africa 2010.



As with all things in this media led football administration it seems that the solution for England’s woes are to copy who or what ever is doing well now with no thought for long term strategy. As such the main thrust for Wilshere’s inclusion in the U21 finals is to better prepare him for next year Uefa 2012 competition, this in itself shows some strategic thinking but is it the correct strategy?

If you’re on the starting 11 for a team that is competing for a premier league title, playing champions league football, and your national senior team what can you learn playing in an under 21 tournament? How can you learn—other than, maybe humility—when you’re the best on the pitch?

Instead of taking a deep and long look at the success/failures of others we look at the end result and try to emulate what they are doing currently instead of what they have done in the long term build up to their success.

Germany winning the U21 was a step towards the success of 2010.

Not true. For all the talk of young players in the German World Cup
Squad, the fact remains that only 2 of those U21 players were in the world cup squad, Ozil and Neuer. It’s not like those U21 stars stepped up to the next level because of the tournament. They would have anyway, U21 or not. As did Thomas Muller.

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Another convenient omission is that none of those at the U21 championship was an, and this is important, integral part of the senior squad. In fact the only person who had more than one cap at senior level before that tournament was Gonzalo Castro.

In the case of Castro, I would not be surprised if those caps were just to tie the player to Germany before Spain could get their hands on him. He has never featured for the senior squad since

Once moved on to the senior squad none moved back down. Which is exactly the opposite of what the Wilshere-to-U21-tournament-campaigners would have you believe.

Another presented as an example of a player who used the U21 to move up was Iniesta, who famously represented Spain at every level in international football.

How did Iniesta situation compare to Wilshere’s? It does not. Iniesta was nowhere near Jack’s level at 19/20 years old. Iniesta had not represented the seniors before he was 20. And was never asked to revert to U21 once representing the Seniors.

And to exacerbate the delusional thinking of the FA, Stuart Pearce, and some in the media. The idea that playing in the U21 will be good for Jack is based on the assumption that England will win the tournament.

The arrogance of English football knows no bounds, every argument made for Wilshere going to that tournament is accompanied by the experience he will gain when, not if, England wins the tournament

Think about that, Wilshere should play because his development will be hastened when England wins a tournament that they almost failed to qualify for? Remember they had to depend on other results in the last round of matches in order to qualify for second place playoffs in a group that contained powerhouses such as Greece (group winners), Lithuania and Macedonia.

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Amazingly no thought is given to what will happen to his development when they get knocked out in the first round.

I just can’t see what is to be gained by the inclusion of Wilshere. The experience can’t be better than playing a full premier league season, it can’t be better than testing yourself against Barcelona, and to say winning it will give him a taste of lifting any trophy hadn’t he done that at U18?

Sending Wilshere cannot be more beneficial to Wilshere than a good rest after a gruelling Premier league campaign, it will be beneficial to England but not to Wilshere, anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.

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