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Review of Arsenal Players on International Duty

England player ratings vs Ukraine: Bukayo Saka dazzles as Kyle Walker  dominates Mykhailo Mudryk | Nigeria

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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International Break: Arsenal Players Review

Nicolas Pepe

Speaking of break, apologies for my brief hiatus on the blog for the entirety of March 2022. I was in an offsite location with internet connectivity as good as Alexandre Lacazette’s goal scoring form, so to a certain degree, you could understand my predicament. My last blog post was focused on Arsenal’s Carabao Cup adventure but the Gunners were on fire in the Premier League, grabbing three wins (Watford, Leicester and Aston Villa) from the four the month had to offer. The only defeat came against the juggernauts from Liverpool, but on another day, the result could have been different, especially with the way Gabriel Martinelli made mince meat out of Trent Alexander-Arnold on a consistent basis. 

As expected from a team with players in such great form, with Bukayo Saka nominated for the EPL Player of the Month, as well as Martinelli’s strike at Watford earning him a nomination for the Goal of the Month, several players were called up to represent their respective nations in crucial world cup qualifiers and friendlies. Without further ado, let’s review the performances of the Arsenal players during the international break.

England – With Aaron Ramsdale still nursing a hip injury and Bukayo Saka withdrawing from the England squad after testing positive to COVID, Ben White and Emile Smith-Rowe were the Arsenal contingent that represented the Three Lions in their friendly victories over Switzerland and Ivory Coast. White played the entire match in the victory of the Swiss, and notched up 45 minutes as a right back in the Ivory Coast game. ESR didn’t feature against Switzerland but notched up 30 or so minutes in the win over Ivory Coast. White has grown from strength to strength following his £50m move from Brighton, and he has turned out to be one of the most consistent performers for the Gunners this season. Glad to see him banking those well-deserved minutes for England in the international break.

Portugal – Cedric Soares was an unused substitute in Portugal’s World Cup qualifying matches against Turkey and Macedonia. He would be elated to qualify for the football fiesta in Qatar but with Diogo Dalot and Joao Cancelo playing ahead of him in both games, his place in his nation’s side has to be under some threat.

Scotland – Kieran Tierney played 180 minutes in Scotland friendly draws against Austria and Poland. Playing as a LCB, Tierney got his first Scotland goal after 31 caps with a textbook header from a delicious John McGinn set piece. Tierney and his lads felt hard done by when the ref awarded a penalty in the 93rd minute when Kyzysztof Piatek was scythed to the ground by the veteran goalie, Craig Gordon. The forward picked up himself and sent the goalie the wrong way to salvage a draw for the Poles. Tierney contributed from an attacking standpoint in the draw against Austria with an assist.

Brazil – Gabriel sat at home, while his younger compatriot, Gabriel Martinelli, received his first call up to the Brazil national team. The maverick came off the bench twice in Brazil’s resounding 4-0 victories over Bolivia and Chile. Despite not getting on the score sheet, Martinelli’s confidence continued to soar as he managed to put up some excellent displays on his cameos.

Switzerland – Swiss captain, Granit Xhaka, played in both friendlies against England (which they lost) and Kosovo (where they shared the spoils). As you’d expect from the cultured midfielder, Xhaka was spraying pass after pass for his nation, and will be satisfied with the displays for his nation.

Egypt – Mohamed Elneny and his Egyptian team mates would really hate the sight of the Senegalese national team. It’s bad enough that Senegal captured the African Cup of Nations crown from the hands of Egypt early in the year, but the Senegalese were at it again, eliminating the Egyptians via the lottery of penalty shootouts. Elneny featured in central midfield in both games and sadly, will miss out on the football mundial come November 2022.

Ghana – Thomas Partey turned out to be the national hero of his nation, as his goal in the Jollof Derby against Nigeria turned out to be pivotal, with the Black Stars of Ghana qualifying ahead of their arch-rivals via the away goals rule. The first leg in Kumasi was a goalless stalemate, with both sides having it all to do in the second leg at Abuja, but it was Partey’s goal with Ghana’s first attempt on target that sent his nation into raptures, as they basked in the euphoria of yet another World Cup qualification.

Norway – Martin Odegaard was in very good form for Norway over the international break, as he scored the match clincher in the 2-0 win over Slovakia in the first of two friendlies the Scandinavian side won. The second game was a whitewash as Odegaard bagged two assists in the 9-0 demolition of Armenia. The Gunners will be hopeful he carries this form to the Premier League ahead of a crunch fixture against Crystal Palace on Monday night.

Belgium – Albert Sambi Lokonga was unused substitute in Belgium’s matches against Ireland (draw) and Burkina Faso (win). The young midfielder has been on the periphery in recent months and would probably remain so bar any injuries or suspensions to the core midfield personnel.

Ivory Coast – Nicolas Pepe featured in both friendly defeats for Ivory Coast against France and England. The club’s record signing, received a routine throw-in from Ibrahim Sangare on the right, skipped past the Hernandez brother’s and smacked one in from Hugo Lloris’ near post. We have always know Pepe is capable of coming up with the goods – the challenge has always been his consistency.

The most important bit of news from the international break is that no Arsenal player received any injuries, as Mikel Arteta will have all his guys for the next 10 ‘cup finals’.


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Granit Xhaka on the Losing Side as C. Ronaldo Blitzes Switzerland

Image result for xhaka switzerland portugal

Source: Getty Images

The end of season paves the way for some international football without disruptions which allows nations to feature their best talent in their respective bids to win the competitions they are registered in. It seems like eons ago, but many were skeptical about the UEFA Nations League tournament but following some brilliant matches as well as some good organization I must say, we are down to the last four of the inaugural tourney as Portugal took on Switzerland in front of a capacity crowd with a chance for another European final.

Just three years ago, they went to France and grabbed home the European Championships, even though the hosts were overwhelming favorites to go home with the trophy. Three years on and Fernando Santos side, led by their inspirational captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, locked horns with a Swiss team led by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka. The Swiss might not be world beaters but they have held their own well in recent matches, since their Round of 16 exit in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They left a lot to be desired with their defending when they gave up a shock 3-0 lead against Denmark to draw 3-3, but they were fully aware of the threat Portugal would pose, especially with the likes of Ronaldo in their ranks.

We didn’t wait to long to see the Swiss net bulge as Ronaldo stepped up to dispatch a well taken free kick that left Yann Sommer rooted with no chance in Hell. The usually reliable Manuel Akanji struggled alongside Fabian Schar, as Portugal continued to barrage the Swiss with waves and waves of attack. The Swiss had some good chances of their own with Xherdan Shaqiri clean through on goal but Rui Patricio was on hand to make a point blank save. Haris Seferovic, that plies his trade in Portugal, had a glorious chance as well, but his effort smashed the wrong side of the cross bar and went over.

Our darling VAR wasn’t going to be left out, as it was used to determine a penalty that was awarded to Switzerland when Nelson Semedo was adjudged to have pushed Steven Zubar. Rui Patricio guessed right to dive in the direction of Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty but he was really disappointed to see the ball creep under him to level the contest for the Swiss. It wasn’t against the run of play as Switzerland had been giving Portugal a run for their money in what I’d regard as a balanced game.

We never want to see any of these professionals suffer any injuries but it wasn’t a pleasurable sight for the experienced Pepe, as injury forced the hand of the gaffer to bring on Jose Fonte. Good job by Ruben Neves holding the fort while Pepe was being treated. For such a technical metronome in midfield, he wasn’t half bad in the few moments he served his nation as a make shift center back.

Image result for xhaka yellow caRD PORTUGAL

Source: Getty Images

For a player that picked up 14 yellow cards across four competitions last season, it was no surprise to see Granit Xhaka in the book again, when he tried to swap jerseys with Bernardo Silva. I guess he couldn’t wait till the end of the game.

With extra time looming, I was wondering whether there was going to be a match winner in regulation time but as the saying goes, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man‘ and Portugal’s main man, Cristiano Ronaldo, delivered once again, arriving late in the box to fire in a near post piledriver from B. Silva’s cut back. Sommer was nowhere to be found when Ronaldo’s free kick embarrassed him in the first half but conceding that way in his near post was really questionable. Ronaldo certainly wasn’t done with the proceedings as he rolled back the years with some fancy footwork late on before blasting a trademark drive to the bottom corner.

90 minutes played, one chance created, 91% pass accuracy, 29 accurate passes, 49 touches, 10 duels, three attempted dribbles (all successful), five shots and most importantly, three goals scored. If that’s not a Man of the Match performance from Ronaldo, then I certainly don’t know what that is.

Commiserations to Granit Xhaka and his proud nation that reached the semis of the UEFA Nations League, but it was all about Cristiano Ronaldo, that has guided his nation to yet another final.


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