I’ve decided that I’ll forget the rest of the squad review for this season as it’s so long ago now I can’t really say I’m that bothered. Arsenal were poor for most of the season and that’s pretty much the story for almost every player. A few youngsters got their chance and Maitland-Niles took his, now rewarded with a new contract and a squad number of 15 from Unai Emery. Let’s move on.
I wrote the first piece on this blog on the eve of the World Cup in South Africa back in 2010. It was the day Philippe Senderos left Arsenal and I was lamenting a woeful England squad but looking forward to the tournament and seeing how the Arsenal players get on. Here I am on the night before the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and I find myself having the same view of an England squad totally devoid of midfield creativity and wholly reliant on Harry Kane to nick a goal if he possibly can. Arsenal interest in the England squad is limited to Danny Welbeck who will probably only really get a game if they’re losing and desperate for anyone to try and find them a goal. Even away from England our interest is limited. This has positives for me ahead of Emery’s first season as virtually the entire squad will be back in training right from the start - expect a stronger than usual line-up at Borehamwood this year. The negative means there is less interest in what might be termed “neutral” fixtures out in Russia but as I have no more than a passing interest in England in any case then every game is neutral for me.
Switzerland will grab my attention this year with Granit Xhaka and new signing Stefan Lichsteiner set to be key figures for them. I’ve never really paid any attention to Lichsteiner so I’m very keen to watch him play. I had expected to be interested in watching Japan to get a look at Takuma Asano but he has been the one to pay the price as they’ve selected only three strikers and didn’t make the cut for the final 23. Egypt have Mohammed Elneny in their squad but of course he finished the season here with a nasty injury so I’m not that sure how much he will feature. The Egyptians should fancy their chances of getting out of the group if Salah can keep his shoulder attached to where it should be.
Mesut Ozil, assuming he isn’t still sick, will be a key player for Germany as they look to defend their status as World Champions but I can’t see him setting the tournament alight - I’d like to be proved wrong. Spain were among my favourites as possible winners up until a few hours ago when they sacked their boss! I hope Nacho Monreal can show the planet what a decent player he’s become at Arsenal. Our usual bankers for Arsenal, France, have the grand total of zero Arsenal players in their squad thanks to Koscielny being injured, Lacazette left out, and Giroud playing for Chelsea.
David Ospina will be in goal for Columbia and they are fancied to do well, especially if James Rodriguez can rediscover his form of Brazil four years ago. Joel Campbell plays for Costa Rica and he also made a huge impression at the last World Cup - he will no doubt want to grab the eye of Unai Emery if he possibly can. The last Arsenal man involved is the much maligned Alex Iwobi who scored a good goal against England a couple of weeks ago for Nigeria. As well as having the best kit at the tournament the Nigerians ought to really fancy their chances of doing something special out in Russia. It would great to see Iwobi, an Arsenal youth product, sparkle at the World Cup and come back to Arsenal and become a fine player under the new regime.
On top of those I’ll be looking out for players we are heavily linked to such as the Uruguayan midfielder Torreira - if he is what my nephew says he is then he could be just the player Arsenal need. I’ll try to write some posts throughout the World Cup with an obvious Arsenal bias to them. It should be fun to watch.