Friday, May 24, 2024

Who did what, and where, as the Interlull ends

Morning all.

We inch ever closer to proper football returning and all the games are now done and dusted, it’s about the players returning and starting preparation for Chelsea. Let’s look at who was in action over the last couple of days.

Uruguay 2-0 Brazil: Big Gabi and Gabriel Jesus started and finished this World Cup qualifier in Montevideo. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help Brazil avoid defeat, Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez with a goal and an assist for the home side. I assume they’ll fly back home, then return to London from there.

England 3-1 Italy: Declan Rice with the full 90 for England’s win which confirms their place at the European Championships next summer. He did have to play alongside Kalvin Phillips for 70 minutes, and then the clapped out Jordan Henderson for the next 20, so he was basically doing the work of two men all night.

Eddie Nketiah was not included in the 23 man squad, while Aaron Ramsdale was on the bench.

Malta 1-3 Ukraine: Just the 87 minutes of action for Oleksandr Zinchenko as Ukraine came from behind to go above Italy and into second place in the same group that England qualified for.

Japan 2-0 Tunisia: 90 minutes for Takehiro Tomiyasu in this friendly win.

Mexico 2-2 Germany: From what I can see, Kai Havertz didn’t get off the bench for this friendly which took place in Philadelphia – home of brotherly love, Rocky Balboa, and soft cheese. Assuming everyone is fit and ready for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea, I’m not sure he’d be in my starting line-up anyway, but bar the air travel, he should be fairly fresh as an option from the bench should we need him. Stick a cheeky fiver on him scoring the winner against his old club? I’d say you’d get decent odds, if you were a betting person.

USA 4-0 Ghaha: Thomas Partey played 64 minutes of this friendly which saw his former teammate Flo Balogun on the scoresheet as Ghaha got a paddlin’ in Nashville. Hopefully – in spite of all the travel – these minutes will have been useful for him, and with seven games in the Premier League, Champions League, and the EFL Cup before the next Interlull, having him available would be very useful indeed. Especially for something like the trip to Newcastle in a couple of weeks time, where the Partey, Rice, Odegaard midfield trio feels like the best we’ve got on paper.

And earlier in the week, Mohamed Elneny played 90 minutes for Egpyt in a 1-1 friendly draw with Algeria. Again, useful minutes. The more hands we have on deck the better. Now, the players will come back, be assessed for any aches/strains they might have picked up, and the manager can get them focused on a trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.

Elsewhere, David Raya spoke a bit about how what he does on the ball is entirely what Mikel Arteta wants him to do. Not the wayward passing we saw in the early stages of the win over Man City, but keeping the ball at feet until the opposition engage, and he can then start the passing moves around them. You could feel sections of the crowd get a bit uneasy at that during the City game, but he says that’s what he’s got to do, even if at some point it might lead to a mistake. He told The Athletic (£):

What he doesn’t want is for us to start hitting balls — we have to invite a player to come out a little bit. I’m the free man, and once a striker or someone jumps me, that leaves a free man on the pitch, and we have to look for superiority. That’s the way the coach tells me to play.

The fans aren’t used to us goalkeepers having the ball for a long time and if the opposition don’t press, you have to wait for the moment to pass the ball. It’s a risk that we take, but I take the responsibility that if, one day, there’s a mistake I’ll raise my hand. There’s no way around it.

It will be interesting to see how this works on Saturday. When you tell the world you’re going to hold onto the ball then tempt the opponent in to basically bypass him and give your team an overload, do Chelsea do what we want or just sit off and let us have it. A bit like the way we approached the Community Shield with Man City? We refused to play into their hands, and I’m curious to see if other teams replicate that against us. Time will tell, I suppose.

Right, that’s it for now. Have a good Wednesday.

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