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Final Roundup of International Fixtures Featuring Gunners

Tomi Japan

The international break is well and truly over with Arsenal having their contingent play the final fixtures of the year, with all focus shifting to the Premier League and its grueling fixtures over the festive period. 

I had touched on the earlier set of international games that took place last week Thursday and Friday, so here’s a quick roundup on the rest of the games featuring Arsenal contingent.


France 14-0 Gibraltar: William Saliba came on as a sub with nine minutes to spare as France sent minnows, Gibraltar, to the cleaners with 14 unreplied goals. It was a fun fest for the French fans at the Allianz Riviera, with ex-Gunner, Olivier Giroud, scoring a spectacular scissors kick late on which made it 14-0, and celebrating the goal like it was 1-0.

Germany 2-3 Turkiye: Kai Havertz was featured in an unorthodox left back position for Germany, but still managed to get on the scoring early, then suffered the ignominy of conceding the penalty via a handball that allowed Turkiye instill Julien Nagelsmann with his first defeat in Germany colors.  


Spain 3-1 Georgia: David Raya was an unused substitute in Spain’s victory over Georgia. One would have thought that with Spain already securing qualification to the European Championships, Raya would get a run out, but it was the main man, Unai Simon, taking his spot between the sticks.

Belgium 5-0 Azerbaijan: Leandro Trossard played all 90 minutes and scored the final goal in the Red Devils thrashing of Azerbaijan. Romelu Lukaku stole the show with four goals on the night, but Trossard took his goal well, blasting a cut back from the dangerous Jeremy Doku from the byline.


North Macedonia 1-1 England: England had sealed qualification to the Euros and Arsenal fans were hopeful that Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice would sit this one out, but Saka played 84 minutes before leaving the pitch for the in-form Cole Palmer, while Rice played all 90. Enis Bardhi opened the scoring for the home side with a well-taken penalty, while Jack Grealish’s equalizer was chalked off by VAR but England earned a point off an own goal from Jani Atanasov.

Ukraine 0-0 Italy: In what was undoubtedly that biggest match in the group for both sides, the shares were spoiled as Italy edged out Ukraine to qualify automatically to the Euros in a tense affair. Arsenal contingent, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Jorginho, started the game but were both substituted in the course of the game.


Greece 2-2 France: Saliba played all 90 minutes in France’s 2-2 draw with Greece. Randall Kolo Muani opened the scoring for the visitors after receiving a neat pass from Giroud, but quick-fire goals from Tasos Bakasetas and Fotis Ioannidis set Greece up for an unlikely win. Youssef Fofana equalized for France and that goal settled the contest.

Syria 0-5 Japan: Takehiro Tomiyasu played 76 minutes for Japan as the Blue Samurai ran riot past Syria. Takefusa Kubo opened the scoring, Ayase Ueda scored a brace, Yukinari Sugawara scored the fourth and substitute, Mao Hosoya, completed the rout.

Poland 2-0 Latvia: Jakub Kiwior was part of the back three for Poland that beat Latvia in a routine friendly. Przemyslaw Frankowski opened the scoring, before talisman, Robert Lewandowski, made his presence felt with a goal of his own.

Austria 2-0 Germany: Havertz continued his experiment as a left back, as Germany suffered back to back defeats in international friendlies, taking their losing toll to six defeats in their last nine matches. For a nation hosting the Euros, these set of results will not inspire any confidence and Nagelsmann certainly has his work cut out to uplift the spirits of everyone associated with the nation.

Marcel Sabitzer and Christoph Baumgartner scored the goals that put Germany to the sword. Leroy Sane also saw red.


Brazil 0-1 Argentina: Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes all started in the standout fixture of the international window, Brazil taking on Argentina. It was a very feisty affair that saw red cards dished out and police even get involved due to crowd unrest. However, Nicolas Otamendi scored the only goal of the game, while Jesus played 90.

Thankfully there were no additional injuries and all plans will be in place for the away clash against a very good Brentford side that has been a thorn in the flesh of top six sides in the Premier League.


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A Tale of the Kai “Left Wing Back” Havertz Experiment

Kai Havertz Needs To Be Part Of The Solution For Germany

Kai Havertz has been part of the German national team for the best part of the last five years, scoring 14 goals in 41 caps for the national team. In this duration, Havertz has featured in two major tournaments, scoring twice in Euro 2020 that saw Germany crash out to eventual finalists, England, as well as goal in the disastrous 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign. 

After elimination from the World Cup, Germany remained in the trenches, as Hansi Flick lost four of his last five games, which caused him his job. Julian Nagelsmann came into the fray and changed the fortunes of the nation that is scheduled to host the forthcoming European Championship next summer. Nagelsmann began his German adventure with a huge win over France, and followed up with a tour across the Atlantic that saw Germany defeat USA and draw with Mexico. 

Yesterday, Germany hosted Turkiye in the Olympia Stadion, and Nagelsmann made the decision to deploy Kai Havertz as a left wing back,

“Kai won’t always be in this position. I have a great idea, he’s an exceptionally good footballer. This is a very good option. He won’t always play as a classic left-back.”

I have seen Havertz deployed in multiple positions in the course of his fledgling football career, but starting at left back was quite an interesting preposition. Havertz started the game well, scoring after just three minutes, when he latched onto Leroy Sane’s drilled pass in a crowded box to put it past Altay Bayindir. 

Havertz locked horns against Turkiye’s right winger, Irfan Kahveci, making strong defensive contributions – 100 percent tackles won, five clearances, three headed clearances, three interceptions and one block. It was a largely entertaining game from start to finish with the Turkiye players scoring some incredible goals, but what proved to be the match winner came in rather unfortunate circumstances when Abdulkarim Bardakci’s attempted cross to the danger area hit Havertz’s trailing arm, thereby leading to a penalty after a VAR check. 

Yusuf Sari stepped up and smashed a spot kick that was almost saved by Kevin Trapp but this turned out to be Nagelsmann’s first loss in his fourth game in charge. Germany is a far cry from the nation that used to dominate in the yesteryear and Nagelsmann has his work cut out for him as all of Europe’s finest arrive in Germany next summer to knock Italy off their perch as the defending champions.

As for the Havertz experiment as a left wing back, I don’t think it is something that will be repeated, for his sake and everyone connected with Germany.


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Thoughts on the Concluded International Break

Martin Odegaard playing for Norway

The second international break of the Premier League campaign is well and truly over, and all focus will return to club football, as Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge to take on a resurgent Chelsea that has managed to pick up some form after their rotten start to the season.

Mikel Arteta saw 14 players leave the Arsenal camp to travel to their respective nations to play in several international fixtures – some featuring in friendly matches while some focused on the qualifiers for continental competitions.

With Egypt already confirmed for the forthcoming African Cup of Nations, Mohamed Elneny got 180 minutes under his belt with friendlies against Zambia and Algeria. Elneny isn’t one to feature much in the forthcoming campaign but will likely get minutes as a substitute when we need to see out games. He’s probably going to leave the club this summer on a free transfer, and there will be no ill-will in that regard, as he has been one of the standout professionals in the club from Day 1. He even stated recently that he almost cried when the club offered him a contract extension following his long term injury.

Speaking of injuries, Thomas Partey is another player that has been working his way to full fitness, but unlike Elneny, he’s someone that will be itching to return to first team action to play alongside Declan Rice in the hub of Arsenal’s midfield. Partey made his comeback as a substitute in the narrow win over Manchester City, and I’m quite elated that his national team gaffer, Chris Hughton, managed his minutes in the friendlies. Partey played 45 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Mexico and 64 minutes in the 4-0 thrashing Ghana received from the United States. 

Partey and Elneny will be huge misses in January when they depart for the African Cup of Nations, and Arteta will be hoping that Declan Rice and Jorginho, will stay fit for that period to cushion the absence of the African stars. 

Arsenal’s European contingent had mixed campaigns, with Declan Rice, Aaron Ramsdale and Eddie Nketiah certain of their Euro 2024 qualification status, while Jakub Kiwior, Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko still hopeful of featuring in the mundial. David Raya has all but qualified but it’s clearly going to be a sight-seeing mission for the Arsenal goalie as Unai Simon is clearly the favored one in goal for La Furia Roja. As for Kai Havertz, he amassed just 28 minutes from a possible 180 under the new manager, Julian Nagelsmann, and he will be hoping to be in contention to start in the tournament hosted by his country.

The South American Gabi boys didn’t have a good international window, commencing the round with a draw against Venezuela before suffering a Darwin Nunez inspired defeat to Uruguay. Brazil losing in the CONMEBOL qualifiers is such a rare occurrence, as you’d have to go all the way to October 2015 for their last loss in the qualifiers. The only Asian representative was Takehiro Tomiyasu, playing 45 minutes in the victory over Canada and 90 in the win over Tunisia.

Most importantly, there were no major injury concerns and all hands are on deck for the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Hopefully, we will get some Bukayo Saka good news from the gaffer.


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