Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: England can benefit from Arsenal connections

• Five Arsenal players were on pitch during San Marino game
• Oxlade-Chamberlain: it really does help knowing the players
• Match report: England 5-0 San Marino
• Five talking points from England’s victory

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said he knew Danny Welbeck would make his break towards the near post. Welbeck said he knew Oxlade-Chamberlain would cut the ball back there. And so Oxlade-Chamberlain crossed and Welbeck swept home before the San Marino defence could react. England had the third goal of their 5-0 Euro 2014 qualifying win at Wembley on Thursday night and it was an extremely slick moment.

Any article that contains the words “San” and “Marino” is duty-bound to feature a disclaimer. So here it is: it was only San Marino. And yet there was encouragement for England in how the two Arsenal players had transferred their understanding from the club training ground on to the international stage.

It went deeper than that. Behind Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on as a half-time substitute, there was club-mate Calum Chambers at right-back; at left-back, there was Kieran Gibbs and in midfield, Jack Wilshere.

Until Welbeck’s substitution in the 66th minute, Arsenal had five England players on the field with each other for the first time since 1936, when they had six in the 2-1 defeat against Austria in Vienna. There were no substitutes in those days so George Male, Eddie Hapgood, Jack Crayston, Wilf Copping, Ray Bowden and Cliff Bastin played the 90 minutes. In 1934, Arsenal had provided seven of the England team that beat Italy 3-2 at Highbury, which remains a record.

If top-level football is a game of fine details, it can surely only help England and the manager, Roy Hodgson, that he can call on a bloc of team-mates from the same club, who sense, instinctively, what the other is about to do on the field. Liverpool also routinely supply a strong posse to Hodgson’s squad and from an Arsenal perspective, there is Theo Walcott to return as well. Walcott has not played in nine months because of knee ligament surgery but he is back in full training.

“The Germans and the Spanish have been able to do this,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “Spain have got a big influence from Real Madrid and Barcelona and when you watch Spain play, it’s almost like watching Barcelona or Real Madrid at times. It’s a nice thing to have that with Arsenal at the moment. Liverpool have got a good number of players as well.”

There has been what amounts to a sea change at Arsenal in recent years. Arsène Wenger was the manager that made history in February 2005 when he named a Premier League match-day squad consisting entirely of foreign players in the 5-1 win over Crystal Palace at Highbury. But these days, Arsenal not only have a solid British core, they are pushing it in marketing terms.

In the summer of last year, the club put up a giant banner at the Emirates Stadium of their six British players. For about four weeks, Wilshere, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and the Wales international, Aaron Ramsey, loomed large as part of a kit launch campaign. Jenkinson, who has been capped once by England, was loaned to West Ham United in July but Wenger has bolstered the home-grown contingent with the signings of Welbeck and Chambers from Manchester United and Southampton respectively.

“I hope, in the future, that we have a core of the England team,” Wenger has said. “Spain won the World Cup with six players from Barcelona and Germany won it with six from Bayern Munich. I hope England can win it with six players from Arsenal.”

“You do notice,” Oxlade-Chamberlain added, “that there is a lot more of an English presence at Arsenal. 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 talking on an England front, it’s really nice to see a lot of great English players in our team and then coming away in the international break.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke about the camaraderie within the England squad and how there was a “really nice feel” to it all. But it is on the pitch where he believes the relationships at club level can make the difference.

“When you train day in, day out with these lads you get to know the way they play and you can’t help but take that into the international break,” he said. “You do know their characteristics, where they’re going to pass the ball and where they like the ball to be passed. It definitely does help. When I got that ball down the line, I knew that Danny likes to make that run to the near post.”Welbeck added: “I knew that once Alex got to the byline, he was going to cut it back there. There is a good understanding on the pitch.”