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Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain says England '100 per cent united' ahead of next Euro 2016 qualifier


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Big groups from Arsenal and Liverpool contribute to an England side that is '100 per cent united', says Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain




For 21 second-half minutes at Wembley on Thursday night, the statisticians who follow the England team were left scrambling for the record books. The half-time introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Jordan Henderson had swollen the number of Arsenal players on the pitch to five and it was soon confirmed that you had to go back to the days of Herbert Chapman in the 1930s for when the club were last responsible for half of England’s outfield team.

Yet the instinct to dismiss all this as a once-in-a-generation quirk quickly subsides when you recall that Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck are all aged between 19 and 25. Add in Theo Walcott, then also consider that Liverpool have their own half-dozen (Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson and Adam Lallana) mostly at a similar stage in their careers and you can see why some ambitious comparisons are being made.

For it all follows a definite trend in the composition of the previous two World Cup-winning squads. The Spanish in 2010 had seven players from Barcelona and five from Real Madrid while Germany’s triumphant squad from Brazil comprised seven from Bayern Munich and four from Borussia Dortmund.

It would clearly be premature to equate the quality of Arsenal or Liverpool’s current English contingent to the recent domestic cores of Barcelona or Bayern Munich, but the players are convinced by the potential benefits over what could be the next three international tournaments.

“Just knowing each other, off the pitch and on it, does really help in gelling the team together,†said Oxlade-Chamberlain. “The Germans and the Spanish have been able to do that. When you go to watch Spain play, it’s almost like watching Barcelona or Real Madrid play at times, with the number of players on the pitch. It is a nice thing to have that with Arsenal at the moment. Liverpool have got a good number of players as well - they’ve been a strong force in this England squad for a while.

“When you train day in, day out with these lads, you get to know the way they play and their characteristics: where they’re going to pass the ball and where they like the ball to be passed. It definitely does help.â€

An example was Welbeck’s 49th-minute goal on Thursday. “When I got that ball down the line I knew Calum was going to be able to find me and I knew that Danny likes to make that run to the front post,†said Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Welbeck added: “I knew once Alex got to the byline that he was going to cut it back there. There is a good understanding on the pitch. It’s going to be a massive positive for us. We’ll be seeing each other every day and you obviously develop a much better understanding if you’re working with one another on a consistent basis.â€

One flipside, though, is the potential development of any cliques. Paul Scholes described suspicion between the Manchester United and Liverpool players when he went on international duty while Rio Ferdinand revealed how players from different clubs would sit separately for dinner. “You would have a table for United players, another for the Liverpool lads and one for Alan Shearer and his mob,†said Ferdinand. “I didn’t know where to sit for fear I would upset one group or another and be marked down as in a particular gang.â€

The fireworks that have been let off this week from within the England cricket team’s dressing room have underlined the extent to which success and team spirit can be intertwined in sport. One advantage for this England football squad is how so many of the team have known each other from past clubs or at various representative age-groups. Welbeck, for example, was at United with Wayne Rooney and then on loan at Sunderland with Henderson. He also counts Sturridge among his best friends. Southampton links Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Rickie Lambert, Chambers, Fraser Forster and Nathaniel Clyne.

“It’s not just those two clubs - everyone who comes away really does gel in well with the team,†said Oxlade-Chamberlain. “We are 100 per cent united. There’s a really nice feel to the squad and a really nice comforting feel. It’s quite a young squad and we’re being led by senior pros as well.â€

It is an environment that has seemed conducive for Chambers to continue what he calls a “whirlwind†year by graduating from second-choice right-back at Southampton to Arsenal regular and now England debutant. Roy Hodgson is expected to make few changes against Estonia on Sunday, with Fabian Delph perhaps coming into the midfield but Chambers retaining his full-back place as England continue their look to the future.

“It’s been pretty mad - amazing,†said Chambers. “It’s an exciting team, exciting times for everyone.â€

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