There’s a somber mood across the globe at the moment, with the Paris attacks leaving the world stunned and appalled. Citizens of France are obviously feeling the impact far more than anyone, and many are in a state of shock in the wake of the devastation – with plenty of them directly effected of course.
We have a number of French stars at Arsenal, and they are likely to be suffering as much as anybody. Several of them have been thrust straight back into action on the international stage, and are likely to be called upon again this weekend.
Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud were involved in France’s 2-0 loss against England, and you’d expect both men to start against West Bromwich Albion too. We also have the likes of Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Debuchy, and Mathieu Flamini among our ranks, who are also likely to play some part against Tony Pulis’ side.
We may not have any of them at their best though, especially if the game against England is anything to go by. Didier Deschamps has an excellent squad on his hands, with a number of truly world class players at his disposal. They understandably lacked sharpness against England though, and were totally outplayed by the Three Lions.
There’s no telling where the players’ heads are at the moment, not to mention our manager, Arsene Wenger. Normally it would seem wise to give our handful of French stars a break if necessary, but that doesn’t seem like an option for the most part. While not ideal, Gabriel Paulista and Per Mertesacker could step up in place of Koscielny, and Flamini was unlikely to start anyway. Coquelin and Giroud are indispensable at the moment though, with Wenger having no replacements available. Debuchy could also start, depending on the status of Hector Bellerin heading into the weekend’s fixtures.
Koscielny spoke after the game against England (via The Evening Standard), and highlighted how the attacks plagued the players’ minds.
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“I know the English and they have great respect for the French,” he said.
“It showed last night. The English have experienced things in London and they know what it’s like to be bruised.
“We had to play. The decision was made on Saturday. We spent 48 hours together at Clairefontaine watching TV and being on the internet. We were just talking about the events and tried to evaluate these tragedies. We tried to clear our heads but Friday’s attack returned all the time. But it was important for us to play for those who have watched us and the victims.”
Giroud also had some comments, revealing that “it wasn’t really us out there”.
“We wanted to play this match for all the people who have stayed in Paris and to honour the families [of the victims],” the French forward said.
“It wasn’t easy for us. There were a lot of emotions after what has happened these last few days, illustrated by the minute’s silence and La Marseillaise.
“Everyone who played are professional players. Even if it wasn’t easy, we had to do our work on the pitch. Despite the circumstances we wanted to do our best to represent the country. We were proud to do it.
“We played against an effective English team and they caused us many problems. It wasn’t really us out there. This [defeat] is not the end of the world but we still wanted to win to make it even more of an honour.”
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Hopefully returning to Arsenal helps them to take their minds off things, and we are able to keep the pressure up on Manchester City with a win over West Bromwich Albion.