This man is usually the man asking the questions, as seen on his popular YouTube channel, Arsenal Fan TV. But don’t be fooled, Robbie is not a man to sit on the fence. He holds pertinent opinions of his own and packs a punch with them too.
Obviously of an Arsenal persuasion, times have changed from when the North London club used to have a plethora of players in the England squad. In 2012, Wenger made a commitment to the national team by pinning down four young English players (and Aaron Ramsey) to long-term contracts. In an era where there was an alarming shortage of home-grown players in the premier league, Karl Jenkinson, Kieron Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere were touted to become the core for both cub and country. Add Theo Walcott to this list too, and you should have a pretty impressive spine.
Four years later, though, and it’s fair to say that we are back to square one. Arsene’s English prodigies haven’t hit the heights expected of them. Out of the quintet, only Jack Wilshere has made Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for this summer’s tournament. A decision that Robbie agrees with.
“My opinion is that he had to go,” says Robbie. I know a lot of non-Arsenal fans have said that he’s hardly played but that could be a good thing with jack because hes fit and by the time the tournament starts and he’s had a few games he’ll be raring to go and be up to full speed.”
While Wilshere missed most of 2015/2016 campaign with injury, supporters and pundits alike felt that other players, such as Leicester City’s title-winning midfielder Danny Drinkwater – who was cut from the 23-man squad – had stronger cases. But Robbie disagrees.
“If it was another footballer I would understand but with him [Wilshere] he had to go.
He’s our only creative force in our midfield, so he’s gotta go. Danny Drinkwater is a ball winner but he’s not gonna create much. He might hit a long ball for Vardy but all round Jack Wilshere what he brings to the table he was excellent in qualification.”
Gibbs was also starter in the early stages of Roy Hodgson’s rein, but a lack of form and persistent injuries saw him quickly displaced. However, the two that the majority of fans are most concerned about are Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, players who are often discussed on Robbie’s You-Tube channel.
Walcott’s career has been plagued with inconsistency and injuries, leading many to claim that his progression since his signing by Arsenal 10 years ago has been fairly limited. Compare that with Gareth Bale who was in the same age group in the Southampton youth sides. While one is a Champions League winner, the other is still trying to get his career out of third gear.
“I thought he’d get moved on,” Robbie says candidly. “Even the crowd kinda turned on him this season. I hear a lot of people have had enough of him. I think he was going to get moved on at the end of the season but because of the [Danny] Welbeck injury – that might give him another chance – ironically because normally he’s the one who’s injured! He ended last season well and started off the season well and then, I dunno, He fell away a bit. Next season he’s under a lot of pressure.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain, 22, has suffered a similar fate and already finds himself at a crossroads in his career despite his tender age.
“I think Oxlade-Chamberlain’s got a future and he’s been unlucky with injuries but he needs to improve. He’s got what it takes but he needs to show it on a consistent basis.”
He adds: “I’m hoping that both of these players are looking at this England side and are really gutted and think to themselves ‘that should be me out there, next season I’m gonna go and put it in.’ They both should be there. Both have the talent but have had poor seasons. He and Oxlade need to have massive seasons or I think it’s time to move them on.
Focusing on squad that have been picked, Hodgson has opted for a youthful containing more players under the age of 23 than any other side at Euro 2016, and with an average age of 25, they have the youngest squad in the tournament. Removing his Arsenal hat, Robbie is happy to admit his happiness for the inclusion of Marcus Rashford – the 18 year-old who sunk Arsenal with a devastating brace on his Premier League debut.
“I’m quite pleased with the squad. I’m worried a bit by the defence but then again who else could you really have brought as a centre half? Unless you go back and bring back a John Terry,” Robbie says with a smile.
“It would be tempting because I still feel he’s an organiser and he’s still got it, but then you’ve gotta go back, and in a team full of young players do you really wanna go back? Apart form that I think the squad is good. I like the fact they’ve gone with Rashford. I think Townsend was unlucky. I’m disappointed that there’s not more Arsenal players there but then again I don’t think they deserved it. Theo Walcott didn’t do enough – he’s not had a good season. Gibbs hasn’t played. Welbeck would have gone but I think that squad is right and it could do alright.”
Just alright? With all the exciting young players at Hodgson’s disposal, Dietmar Hamann told OTPN recently stated that England have the potential to do well, but only if they are allowed to thrive. Something that Robbie echoes.
“I think England can get to the semis,” he says confidently. However, there are two things that worry me about England: Number one: the defence – it’s not solid. Number two: Roy Hodgson. I’m still not 100% on Roy. He’s a very defensive coach. Will be let players express themselves when the tournament starts? If he does that and play without fear then we can go far. But Roy is quite a negative coach that built off defending in the last two tournaments. The team hasn’t come out of shell. The only guy who did that was Raheem Sterling [at World Cup 2014]. He’s got to let them play and express themselves.”
He adds: “Is he gonna be worried about getting the sack? Is he worried about the press? I don’t think they help. When I turn on the radio in the car I hear people like Chris Waddle moaning and over analysing [the recent friendly against Australia]. It’s only a friendly, relax!. These are guys who have failed in the past and I’m hoping that the negativity doesn’t get through to them. Every last mistake is scrutinised in a way not seen with Premier League matches. I hope they lock off the press and they play.
In another reference to the past generations, Robbie continues: “I’m confident, though’ because there’s a nice hunger around the team. There’s not the usual baggage. There’s no Gerrard, no Lampard, no Beckham. Just young, fresh hungry guys.”
The young legion spearheaded by Tottenham starlet, the Premier League’s golden boot winner. But is Robbie shy in expressing his praise for the Tottenham player? Absolutely not. This was evident by the huge smile on he was pictured getting the 22-year-old to sign a football for him.
So, if England aren’t going to win it, who will? Robbie doesn’t hesitate to answer. “I think France will win it,” he declares. “I think they’re gonna be driven. They’re a brilliant team. I dont think their defence is as bad as people say – it’s still better than England’s! They’ve got [N’Golo] Kante, [Blaise] Matuidi and [Paul] Pogba. They’re playing at home, and after all the terrorist attacks they’ll have the whole nation behind them. If they get any kind of momentum going they’re gonna be really hard to stop.”