The international breaks often come at inopportune moments, and can leave people frustrated and bored; praying for the return of club football. This break however, was perhaps a little more exciting for many, as the final World Cup Qualifiers were upon us. With a team full of international stars, Arsenal had a number of players take to the field for their countries, with varied levels of success.
With players such as Walcott and Chamberlain out injured from our British core, and Wilshere still returning to full fitness, it was inevitably going to be quiet on the English front. Jack did come on for the final ten minutes in both games, very sensibly not being pushed too hard. Gibbs also got an England call up in place of the injured Ashley Cole, and although he was an unused substitute, this could be great for his confidence. Given the level he’s been playing at recently, I feel he fully deserves it and hope to see him as a permanent England fixture soon.
Jenkinson was also in action for the under 21s, putting in two good ninety minute shifts. The first as a make shift left back, and the second in his preferred right back position. The final member of our British Core is our in form Welshman, Aaron Ramsey. He put in two fantastic Man of the Match performances against Macedonia and Belgium, regaining the captain’s armband due to Williams’ absence. Although he missed a penalty late in the first game, he performed excellently overall, and even popped up with another goal against a strong Belgium side.
Moving across the Channel, our French contingent also performed extremely well. Giroud netting two goals against Australia, including a sublime chip from some distance, and forcing an own goal in the second game against Finland. Koscielny was unfortunate to miss the first game after being injured in training, but recovered to produce a strong showing in the second.
Nicklas Bendtner played superbly in his first game back after an extended suspension. Scoring two quality headed goals to earn Denmark a draw against Italy. He got himself booked with his celebration unfortunately, ruling himself out of their next game against Malta. Although the two goals against Italy will do him a world of good, I’m sure against Malta he could have doubled his tally at least, which again would have boosted his confidence.
Monreal got into the Spain squad ahead of Jordi Alba for one of their fixtures, and played a very solid game. Santi Cazorla remains injured of course, but is apparently now available for selection against Norwich. Vermaelen also saw some action, captaining his side for the full ninety minutes opposite his teammate in the Belgium Wales game, but didn’t feature at all in their first match.
Our two Polish keepers were unused substitutes in Poland’s loss against Ukraine, with Szczesny coming in for the game against England. Despite losing 2-0, the young keeper produced a fine display, making a number of fantastic saves.
And finally Özil and Mertesacker for Germany. The big defender playing the full ninety in their first fixture and sitting out against Sweden. Özil making appearances in both, scoring one in each, and assisting another in the game in Göteberg. He was taken off with a knock in the second match, but it is suspected not to be too serious. Hopefully he won’t be out of contention for too long, if at all. There was also an appearance and a goal at youth level for Serge Gnabry, who may see less action due to Walcott’s imminent return, but is certainly looking good for the future.
Overall a good showing from our lads, with several goals spread throughout the squad, and a number of superb individual and team performances. With seemingly no new major injury worries, and a few of our international big hitters set for a return from the treatment table, this international break it would appear, has for once come at a good time. Hopefully we can get straight back on track with a win against Norwich, and push on in all competitions. The thought of seeing Cazorla and Özil on the pitch together, feeding Walcott and Giroud really fills me with confidence for our upcoming games.
And I am of course, like many of you, looking forward to the upcoming World Cup. So congratulations to the England boys, and to any of our overseas Gooners whose teams qualified, congratulations as well.