As expected, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice both started England’s game against North Macedonia last night. The former played 84 minutes of the 1-1 draw, the latter the whole 90. I didn’t see any of it, but did notice people talking about the referee. The good thing from an Arsenal perspective is that our lads have the rest of the week to recover from the playing time and the travel, and as England had already won the group, not much else about it merits comment this morning.
The other game in the group saw Arsenal involvement as Oleksandr Zinchenko played 86 minutes for Ukraine, with Jorginho getting 71 minutes for Italy in a 0-0 draw. A result which sees Italy qualify via a better head to head record. However, Ukraine can feel hard done by as what looks like a very obvious injury-time penalty on Mykhaylo Mudryk was not given. They still have a chance to qualify via the play-offs in March, but you have to imagine they’ll be frustrated at the officiating.
In terms of today’s games and who might be involved: France play Greece and given they have already qualified, William Saliba might get a start there. For some reason, he’s not as highly-rated by his national side as he is here, thus his international minutes aren’t as high as they ought to be. Which is good for us but he could well start this one.
Austria take on Germany in a friendly, and we all wait with bated breath to see where Kai Havertz will start. Will be at left-back again? Maybe this time he fancies a go at centre-half, channeling his inner-Beckenbauer as a marauding sweeper? Could Julian Naglesmann envisage him as an inverted-trequartista, or a semi-visible regista? Or just stick the lanky lad in nets. We’ll have to just wait and see.
There’s also a friendly between Poland and Latvia in which Jakub Kiwior could feature. I’ve seen some spurious chat about how clubs in Italy might try and take him on loan in January, but there’s surely no chance that can happen. With Jurrien Timber still sidelined, and Takehiro Tomiyasu off the Asian Cup, we’d be way too light at the back to let anyone leave. As it is, January is probably already giving Mikel Arteta some headaches. As well as Tomiyasu, AFCON takes place too, so it’s entirely possible that a just-fit-again Thomas Partey makes his comeback for Ghana, rather than Arsenal.
These absences are relatively short-term, of course, but still represent a bit of a challenge. You could probably make a very good case for an addition to the squad that month, but it would be very difficult to say the same for any kind of departure. Not to mention that even if Kiwior is probably the defender most on the fringes due to Gabriel’s consistency, he has still made 13 appearances this season – albeit some of them late in games so the minutes aren’t as substantial as others.
Meanwhile, news from Brazil suggests that Gabriel Jesus is in full training and could well play tomorrow’s big game against Argentina (which is today there but tomorrow here due to kick-off time).
Gabriel Jesus has been able to take part in full training for Brazil ahead of tomorrow night's clash with Argentina.
— Simon Collings (@sr_collings) November 20, 2023
At this point, all we can do is hope the decision has been made for the right reasons, i.e he’s actually fully fit and ready, and not because the importance of the game has led them to take a risk. When you see some of the injuries that have occurred during this Interlull, it’s hard not to worry, so fingers crossed. Everything crossed.
Finally for today, there was a lot discussion a couple of weeks ago when Arsenal Women’s team photo was released. The team, as it stands, doesn’t represent the diversity of the club in general, or the wider community in which Arsenal exists. But why? To find out, please take the time to read this outstanding piece Tim Stillman has put together for Arseblog News which unpacks so much of that, and what the club are trying to do to address this imbalance.
It’s an important topic, and with the people he has spoken to for the piece, and the subject matter covered, it’s presented to you in a fair, sensitive, and accessible way. It’s well worth your time.
Ok, that’s it for now. Have a good one.