Review of Arsenal Players on International Duty
I actually had the option of blogging everyday throughout the international break, giving updates of how our lads were faring, but I decided to take a little break, reflect on how the season has panned out so far, and recharge my batteries for what will prove to be one hell of a ride between now and May 2023.
Without further ado, lets have a look on how our boys fared for their respective nations.
The Starboy, Bukayo Saka, featured heavily in England’s victories over Italy and Ukraine while Aaron Ramsdale stayed on the bench in both games, with Jordon Pickford between the sticks. Saka had a good game in the repeat of the previous Euro 2020 final, with England banishing the ghosts of that painful night. Goals from future Arsenal signing, Declan Rice, and England’s goal predator, Harry Kane, was enough to defeat Roberto Mancini’s side on their home turf.
Saka was the cream of the crop in the home game against Ukraine, creating a lovely assist for Kane before scoring a peach of a goal as England ran out as 2-0 winners on the day. Saka, who has already achieved talismanic status at Arsenal has also become a growing influence in the England national team.
Granit Xhaka took his goalscoring form to the international scene, scoring and assisting in Switzerland’s 5-0 demolition of Belarus. With five goals already on the scoreboard after 66 minutes, Xhaka earned himself a rest, and ovation from the away crowd when he was substituted for Fabian Rieder. He led the team out in the 3-0 win over Israel, playing 90 minutes and leaving the pitch unscathed.
Leandro Trossard featured for an hour in Belgium’s away victory over Sweden, in a game remembered for the goalscoring exploits of Romelu Lukaku, with the Inter man bagging a hattrick. With Yannick Carrasco and Dodi Lukebaklo playing on the flanks, Trossard played in attacking midfield alongside Kevin de Bruyne to provide support for Lukaku. His versatility has always been one of his strong points and it was on show for his nation.
Trossard came on as a sub in the 58th minute and provided an assist for de Bruyne in Belgium’s 3-2 friendly victory over Germany. It was quite an interesting match with a lot of talent on show, but the Red Devils had enough in the tank to see out the hosts of Euro 2024.
Thomas Partey was on the news with reports surfacing that Arsenal sent one of the club’s physios to accompany the midfielder to Ghana for their AFCON qualifying clash with Angola. Partey had a great game, dominating the midfield and strutting his stuff, with Ghana winning 1-0. Partey travelled with his teammates to Luanda to take on Angola, but the Ghana gaffer, Chris Hughton, left him on the bench for 90 minutes, despite the fact that his presence was needed in the game that ended in a draw.
When the coach was asked about Partey afterwards,
“Thomas [Partey] has some small issues. We felt it was too big of a risk to start him [against Angola].”
Hearing this doesn’t fill me with confidence, and the potential exists that we might be without Partey for the home clash against Leeds on Saturday. I can only hope it was precautionary but Arteta’s press conference in the coming days will throw more light on the matter.
Martin Odegaard led his nation out in both clashes against Spain and Georgia. The Viking nation was without their lethal goalscoring machine, Erling Haaland, who was nursing a groin injury, so they had to bank on Alex Sorloth, who had an ineffectual time in front of goal against Spain, despite being presented with good chances. Sorloth made amends, scoring the opening goal against Georgia, but the spoils were shared.
There was a scary moment for Odegaard when he was scythed down by Rodri in the box, with the Manchester City defensive midfielder stamping on the Arsenal captain’s ankle, but Odegaard shrugged it off and went about his business. I thought that the aftermath of that tackle would see him miss the Georgia game but he coasted through 90 minutes without hassle.
Jorginho played 69 minutes against England and struggled badly in midfield, as Declan Rice, Calvin Philips and Jude Bellingham running circles around him and his partners, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella. All three Italian midfielders were replaced in the win over Malta with Sandro Tonali, Matteo Pessina and Bryan Cristante coming into the side.
Jorginho getting a rest in the second game should be beneficial to Arsenal, especially with the fact that we are sweating over the fitness status of Thomas Partey.
Kieran Tierney has found games hard to come by for Arsenal and with the Gunners crashing out of all competitions and all hands on deck for the Premier League, he might spend quite some time playing second fiddle to Oleksandr Zinchenko.
On the international scene, Tierney is an ever present for Scotland and he played 90 minutes as a left center back, with Andrew Robertson playing on the LWB slot in Scotland’s comfortable 3-0 win over Cyprus before playing 76 minutes in the shock win over Spain. Tierney was substituted for Liam Cooper after he got on the end of a disgusting challenge from Rodri – the same Terminator that was sent to take out Sam Connodegaard a few days ago.
Tierney has had his issue with fitness and that has been a challenge this season. I just hope nothing got damaged after the tackle, but we will hear more from the gaffer in the coming days.
Oleksandr Zinchenko played 90 minutes for Ukraine in the loss to England. With Vitaly Mykolenko playing left back, Zinchenko started in central midfield alongside Taras Stepanenko. Zinc in CM is a natural occurrence for the folks at Emirates, and we sure love what he has been doing this season. The fact that he’s a back-to-back winner of the Player of the Month award at the club is a testament of how amazing he has been for Arsenal this season.
With Tierney still having some fitness issues like Takehiro Tomiyasu out injured on the other flank, the Gunners are desperately short in the back and will be hoping for no further injury setbacks.
Jakub Kiwior got his first taste of Premier League football last game week but he played both games for Poland against Czech Republic and Albania. His versatility was on show, as he was a center back alongside Jan Bednarek in the loss to the Czechs, but he played as a left back in the narrow win over Albania with Bednarek playing alongside Bartosz Salamon in the heart of the Polish defense.
Kiwior remains a backup option for Arsenal this season, and if William Saliba isn’t fit enough to start against Leeds, I’d reckon that Rob Holding will get the nod ahead of the Pole.
Matt Turner played both games for the United State in the qualifiers against Granada and El Salvador. Turner is not expected to play any more games between now and the end of the season, unless some form of calamity befalls Aaron Ramsdale.
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