HFB saves France, Interlull round-up and more

So that’s it, the Interlull is over!

Except wait. It’s not. Due to heavy rain in Warsaw the Poland v England game was postponed and will take place today. If only they’d had a roof on that stadium to keep the water off the pitch. Thankfully it won’t affect as many of our squad as it might have. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is away, injuries have prevented the likes of Gibbs, Walcott, Szczesny and Fabianski taking part and it’s unlikely we’ll see any of them this weekend when the real football begins again.

It was something of a crazy night for national sides last night. Germany, fresh from their 6-1 spanking of Ireland, went 4-0 up against Sweden with Per Mertesacker on the score-sheet. They then went and did an Arsenal, allowing Sweden to score four goals in the last half an hour to draw the game. Some comeback you have to say. Lukas Podolski came on in in the 88th minute, meaning his Interlull playing time was barely over 20 minutes, so travel aside he should fresh enough for the weekend.

Meanwhile, Spain looked be heading for their 854th consecutive win in qualifying games as they led France 1-0 at the Vicente Calderón. Spain scored through Sergio Ramos before Laurent Koscielny conceded a penalty. Cesc Fabregas obviously felt for his former teammate and didn’t want to knock his confidence any further, thus allowed Lloris to save it. Spain, with Santi Cazorla coming on as early substitute for David Silva, hung on right until injury time when the Handsome French Bloke’s excellent injury time header grabbed a point for the French.

Other than that I don’t know much about how anyone else did. Thomas Vermaelen played the full 90 minutes for Belgium as they beat Scotland 2-0, Johan Djourou did likewise for Switzerland in their 2-0 win over Iceland while Aaron Ramsey’s suspension meant he wasn’t part of another Welsh defeat (Eduardo scoring Croatia’s second). The players, bar the The Ox, will return to the club today and the manager can get on with the business of getting things right for Norwich at the weekend.

Just before we get off the subject of international football I should correct something from yesterday. I was under the misguided belief that these were the last fixtures of 2012. I really should have known better. There are a series of midweek friendlies scheduled for next month which will deprive us, and others, of players once again, so there’s something to look forward to. Or not. I really do wonder why they insist on these games, their pointlessness is irksome in the extreme. Anyway, not much we can do about it beyond that most constructive facet of modern life – complain online.

Today will see Jack Wilshere take part in a ‘secret’ behind closed doors friendly against a Chelsea XI at the training ground. It’s part of his recuperation and others like Sagna and Frimpong are likely to be involved too. With some injury doubts ahead of the weekend it’s unlikely we’ll see any other first team involvement like we did at the last U21 game when Coquelin and Instagram addict Andre Santos took part, but fingers crossed for Jack, Bac and Frimpong who should add some real depth to the squad sooner rather than later.

Elsewhere, Don Vito has been talking about Arsenal’s start to the season and he says a title challenge isn’t in doubt:

We have a good solid squad and I think we can go for it. I have no doubt that if we keep our focus and we keep our mentality, it’s not a doubt that we are going to challenge for the title.

Fine words indeed, and the key part is maintaining the focus he speaks about. He mentions having already played big games so if there’s a worry at all it’s that when we face the so-called smaller teams there might be a subconscious assumption that it’s a game we can win without the same effort or application. It’s something that has been an intermittent problem over the last few seasons, we turn up thinking the three points are as good as in the bag.

However, I think it’s fair to say that this is a team, and a squad, that is probably more mature than any we’ve had in the last few seasons. Experience counts a lot and with players like Arteta, Cazorla, Podolski, Mertesacker and even Vermaelen to an extent, there should be more than enough leadership on the pitch to make sure we don’t switch off for any game, regardless of the opposition. The acid test will be the late evening trip on Saturday, one which we need to win to get the momentum going again.

Other than that not a great deal happening just yet although as the week goes on there’ll be more Arsenal and less nothing. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has sent nice messages about the version of So Paddy Got Up which has been arriving inside the Arsenal membership pack this season. It’s an abridged version of the full book which contains a further 14 excellent chapters about the club, players, support and more.

There are still some copies of the full, hardback version left (although stocks are now quite low), so if you fancy one you can purchase directly from here and read more about the book itself here.

Right, let’s keep fingers crossed that everyone comes back strain, ache and niggle free and we can start concentrating on the football that matters from now on. Till tomorrow.

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