Welcome back. There are a few Arsenal players in action for their countries tonight, but not as many as there might have been, after the match between Belgium and Spain was called off amid security concerns.
The cancellation of the fixture means that Santi Cazorla will have had a full week off since playing competitively when we face West Brom on Saturday, which is obviously welcome news for Arsenal.
I’m writing this with one eye on the television as England host France at Wembley, where Kieran Gibbs has started the match for the hosts and Laurent Koscielny for the visitors. Olivier Giroud has been left on the bench for the right-footed Oliver Giroud – Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Elsewhere this evening, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech and David Ospina could all feature for their respective nations, whilst Gabriel and Joel Campbell will play for Brazil and Costa Rica respectively, if selected tomorrow evening.
With plenty of our international players already in London due to injury and Mesut Ozil given a pass for these internationals by Germany, it means we should be relatively well-rested as a squad for the weekend, which considering how jaded we looked against Tottenham, is just as well. Collectively we needed a breather.
Our one big fear, fatigue-wise, remains Sanchez of course, but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain nearing a return to full fitness, perhaps we can rest the Chilean in some of our upcoming games as some have already suggested. We’ll see.
Moving on and onto some words from Mesut. Our assist king has been discussing the development of the Arsenal team and his own ability to dictate games. He told Arsenal Player:
I think as a team you can see that we’ve become more mature. We’ve learnt from our mistakes and you can see on the pitch that we’re more steady. We’ve had some setbacks this season but we’ve learnt from them and it shows on the pitch that my team-mates are looking for me even more and I’m able to control the game better. You can see that we function well as a team. It doesn’t matter who plays from the start, we’re always there. You need a big squad if you are to be successful and that’s why things are working well. When you look at the past seasons, we’ve always been a technically-strong team but when we played against big teams, we dropped points. In the second half of last season and in this year so far, we’ve proved ourselves against the biggest teams. You learn from your mistakes and we can measure ourselves with the best. That distinguishes us as a team.
He’s right of course, the maturity of this Arsenal team in terms of ‘game-management’ has been very noticeable this term and I think a big reason for that must be the Cech influence.
When I heard him yell “small details” to Per Mertesacker at the end of our Community Shield victory over Chelsea at the start of the season, it was confirmation, for me at least, that Cech would have a hugely positive effect on our squad off the pitch as well as on it.
Yet, another big reason we’re able to control games is the mesmeric ability of Mesut. He’s already produced 10 assists, broken records and generally just been a joy to watch. I said it in a recent post but if he maintains his current form until the end of the season, he’ll take some stopping from being crowned the best player in England this season.