Saturday, 21 June 2014

An Arsenal World Cup Update

The World Cup is ticking along nicely with half of the group games played and a few teams knowing their fate already. There are 11 Arsenal players at the tournament and I'll try to give an accurate assessment of all of their performances so far.

I'll start at the wrong end of the scale from the players perspective, but maybe not from the club's perspective. With both England and Spain already out of the competition after only two group games there will be three Arsenal players heading home in a few days to get a longer than expected summer holiday. Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla will all be disappointed their countries have lost their opening two games, but there was little they could do about it.

Wilshere got to play the final 20 minutes in England's defeat to Italy and was an unused sub when they were beaten by Uruguay. I don't think Wilshere was helped by his injuries this season and it might not have been a bad thing for him if he had stayed at home and got the break he so badly needs. He has to try to steer clear of injury this coming season if at all possible and hopefully his game can progress for both club and country given the chance.

Chamberlain picked up an injury in a friendly game before the World Cup and he didn't get to play as a result. England had hoped he would be available for the last group game and he still could be, but he might not be risked with England already out regardless of the result of that game against Costa Rica. He's another player who's season was badly affected by injury and he needs as much rest as possible before a season which could see him really make a name for himself.

Cazorla came on as a sub for the last 15 minutes in Spain's 2-0 defeat to Chile and he didn't get a run out in the 5-1 loss to The Netherlands. Spain have a host of quality midfielders and Cazorla got a run out while both Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata kept the bench warm. It's possible that Cazorla will get more game time in the final Spanish group game, but they're only playing for their pride and the opportunity not to finish last in the group.

Cazorla has been reported as saying he will see what the future holds when the tournament is over with interest in him from some Spanish clubs. He has just signed a new deal at Arsenal and I can't imagine the club have any intention of letting him leave after deciding not to take Cesc back. I hope the quotes attributed to him aren't true because it's just not on for players to claim they're considering their options right after signing a contract extension. 

Belgium have only played once so far and Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen didn't play a part in their 2-1 win over Algeria. I wasn't overly impressed with the central defensive pairing in the Belgian team in that game and Vermaelen might still force his way into the team. They look like they should qualify from the group and there are those who feel they have a real chance of winnng the trophy, but I'm not so sure.

There has been some talk of Vermaelen moving this summer to get more game time elsewhere and his name has been mentioned as a possible target for United recently. There had also been some suggestion of Tom Cleverley moving in the other direction, but that has to be pure speculation. I can't believe Arsenal would sign Cleverley in the same summer they opted not to be bring Cesc back to the club. 

Germany have only played once also and they were impressive in their 4-0 win over Portugal with both Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker starting and Lukas Podolski coming off the bench. If any Arsenal players are to win the World Cup those three are certainly the most likely to do so. I thought both Arsenal starters played well without setting the world alight and the game was over as a contest by the time Podolski came on. 

They play their second group game against Ghana on Saturday and I expect both Ozil and Mertesacker to start again. The group stages are all about doing enough to get through to the knock outs and it's only then that we'll see how good this German side are. I'd love to see Ozil shine for them before coming back to take the Premier League by storm next season. 

There are three Arsenal players in the French squad too although Bacary Sagna will no longer be one at the end of the month. He hasn't featured so far in their first two games with Newcastle's Mathieu Debuchey getting the nod at right back despite his suspect temperament and inferior defending abilities. When the going gets tougher France might be better served with Sagna in the team, but it looks like he will remain on the bench.

Neither Olivier Giroud or Laurent Koscielny started in France's opening 3-0 victory over Honduras, but Giroud came on late in the game. He did start in the 5-2 win over Switzerland and he scored the first goal and made the third while playing well. He played up front with Karim Benzema and they could find themselves as Arsenal's two main strikers next season too. I've been impressed with Benzema so far with his three goals and overall play despite the penalty miss and letting the ball go through him in the wall for Switzerland's first goal. If he was to sign for Arsenal the two of them showed they can play up front together or individually too if needed.

Koscielny came on against Switzerland when Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho picked up an injury, but it only looked like Sakho went off as a precaution. If he has recovered I imagine he will keep his place in the team, but I find it hard to understand how he can be chosen ahead of Koscielny. France have looked very good so far, but the real challenges lie ahead of them in the knock out stages and we'll see how good they really are then.

Finally there's Costa Rica's Joel Campbell and he has to be the most impressive Arsenal player in the tournament so far. He was the man of the match when they came from behind to beat Uruguay 3-1 as he scored the equaliser and made the third goal. He played well in the 1-0 win over Italy too and should have had a penalty late in the first half.

He has taken his opportunity to shine on the world stage and Arsene Wenger has confirmed he will return to the club for next season after spending a season on loan with Olimpiacos. He looks like he could have something to add to the team and I'm looking forward to seeing him in an Arsenal shirt next season. With Costa Rica having already won their group he might not feature too much in their final group game against England if they decide to rest him ahead of the last 16 game. I'd like to see how he plays against English defenders though and hopefully he will play in that game.

Overall it hasn't been an overly impressive World Cup from Arsenal players so far, but it looks like eight of the 11 players will make it through to the knockout phase. The French and German players are the ones with the best chance of overall glory, but no European team has won a World Cup in South America. I haven't been overly impressed with the South American teams so far, but again that might change in the last 16. It's been a very good tournament so far and hopefully that will continue right up to the final in just over three weeks time.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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