So, they’re done. England qualified for the World Cup, so did lots of other teams, and now we can get back to proper football again. For a little while, at least.
There is, of course, a worry this morning after Mesut Ozil was taken off last night against Sweden. Apparently he just sat down, pointed at his knee and got substituted. It might have been precautionary, some reports say that it’s just bruising, but until he gets back to London and gets a proper check it’s going to be a bit of a nail biter.
That said, there don’t appear to be any other casualties. Aaron Ramsey scored late for Wales, Giroud scored according to UEFA’s website but most other places have it down as an own goal as Laurent Koscielny returned to the France side that beat Finland 3-0, and hopefully everyone else involved for their country is fit and ready to pick up where we left off from a domestic point of view.
It’s not the end of it though. France are one of the teams who will take part in a two-legged qualification play-off on November 15th and 19th which means a 13 day gap in fixtures after the United game on the 10th of that month. Something to look forward to, eh?
Still, the one good thing you can say about internationals these days is that they take place on Fridays and Tuesdays, meaning clubs have got more time to assess and work their players ahead of the weekend fixtures. When the games took place on a Wednesday, players might not return until late Thursday, leaving only Friday to check their fitness and work on the plans for the next game.
You might actually wonder if it’s easier for Arsenal to cope than some other clubs. Wenger’s philosophy has always focused on his own team. The ‘plan’ such as it is, is to play the kind of football he wants them to play rather than the opposition. We rarely, if ever, set up in a way designed to counter the strengths of our opponents, choosing instead to concentrate on our own, so even if there are some stragglers it’s not as if they’re missing important dossiers about who we’re playing.
There’s also the hope that after this particular Interlull we’ll have some good news regarding some of the injured players. Santi Cazorla is closest to a return and if there’s bad news about Ozil it’ll be offset, hopefully, by the return of the magical Spaniard. All going well though, we’ll see both Cazorla and Ozil together at some point this weekend, and anyone who isn’t drooling at that prospect needs to check their drool settings. They might be set to ‘Never drool’.
When you look at what’s to come in the next few weeks: Borussia Dortmund twice, Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, Liverpool and United in the league, we’re going to need as many players fit and healthy as possible. The schedule really starts to get interesting and having those extra legs and options will be hugely important I think. As well as Cazorla, we’ve got Podolski and Walcott nearing comebacks too, bolstering the forward area in a big way. So let’s hope they’re back sooner rather than later.
Not a lot else happening really. Young goalkeeper Damian Martinez has gone on loan to Sheffield Wednesday for a month, at least. The arrival of Emiliano Viviano has pretty much blocked his path to first team football, but even without the Italian you’d have to have huge doubts over his readiness to play at this level yet. Like many before him the loan is a chance to develop as a player, providing he plays enough, but whether it’s enough to convince anyone at Arsenal his long-term future is here remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Viviano himself has spoken again at his happiness to be here, despite the fact he’s yet to play. Arsene Wenger preferred Lukasz Fabianski in the Capital One Cup game at West Brom, and you have to think he’ll stick with him for the Chelsea tie. That means Viviano is waiting on injury to provide him with a chance, and after playing week in, week out for Fiorentina last season you have to wonder how long that happy feeling will last.
Finally for today, an interesting read from Vital Arsenal about supporter’s groups in the wake of yet more headlines about Stan Kroenke refusing to meet with them. It seems a tired issue now, especially as some of the groups have fantastic access to the Chief Executive and other officials, as well as specially arranged Q&A events, drinks parties and so on. Does any other club give that kind of attention to supporter’s groups?
Kroenke is hands-off, for the most part, choosing to leave the running of the club to Gazidis and Arsene Wenger. His recent interviews with the press weren’t much more than PR, and there were certainly tougher questions that could have been asked of him, but I just wonder if there’s too much focus on a meeting that’s hardly essential. Especially as it seems to obscure the more important and relevant work (to fans anyway) that supporters groups do.