Tag Archives: international break

Big Gabi’s been injured? FFS…

First, there were the rumours of interest from the Saudi vacuum cleaner, hoovering up players from hither and yon. Our own Gabriel Magalhães was almost caught up in it all, and Arteta may or may not have disciplined the Brazilian by omitting him from the XI. Alternately, Arteta may have just been experimenting with different lineups, and the exclusion of Magalhães may have just been a temporary symptom rather than a disease in and of itself. During this international break, Magalhães picked up a knock because that’s what international breaks are for. How serious it is? Let’s kick the tyres…

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For one, Magalhães walked off the pitch on his own with Brazil winning 4-1 and was later seen icing his quadricep, so it seems like he may have cramped up or pulled a muscle. There’s a silver lining to this international break: having come up lame this early, Magalhães can now rest for the remainder. As the picture I chose to lead into this piece suggests, the Brazilian is already back in training. This is not—I repeat, this is not—Gabriel Jesus 2.0, whereby we lose a key player due to an injury incurred on international duty. From all outward appearances, Magalhães will be fit as a fiddle after a few days of icing and isometrics.

In an odd twist of events, this little knock is but a speedbump in a larger soap opera. Magalhães, despite being a rock-solid CB, has played just 114 minutes of the 360 minutes of our young season. This includes just four minutes against Nottingham Forest, 20 minutes against Palace, and zero minutes against Fulham. He played a full 90 against Man U in what was, perhaps by no coincidence, our best performance to date. Now that the transfer window has closed, it seems that Magalhães may have been restored to the XI, and his partnership with Saliba is back in full effect.

Was Arteta exiling Magalhães due to flirtations with the Saudi league? It’s possible. We’re left reading tea leaves over here. The Saudi league’s transfer window closed on 7 September. We played Man U on 3 September. This suggests that something else was afoot. If Magalhães’s exclusion from the squad was related to a possible transfer to Al-Ittihad or some other Saudi club, we wouldn’t have seen Magalhães playing a full 90 just a few days before. He’d have been rested in order to avoid an injury ahead of a potentially lucrative transfer away.

If the demotion had been disciplinary, we probably would have gotten wind of it by hook or by crook, for as tight a ship as Arteta steers. The absence of rumours is not in and of itself evidence of anything, for, again, we’re reading tea leaves.

Occam’s Razor suggests that the simplest solution is that Arteta was experimenting with tactics and formation against inferior opponents before restoring Magalhães to the XI against Man U.

This ostensibly innocous injury may not be put to the test for a few weeks, maybe not until the North London Derby two weeks hence. That’s surely enough time for a dead leg, muscle cramp, or strain to heal all by its pretty little self. For now, we can sleep a little more soundly knowing that one of our own won’t be subjected to any more trials or tribulations.

The peril, promise, and proxy that is international duty…

It is as best a double-edged sword to be calle up for one’s country. On one hand, it is one of the penultimate compliments a player can receive to be summoned. On the other, it exposes the player to possible callumny if not catastrophe. It was just a season ago that we lost Gabriel Jesus to injury while he played for the Seleção in the winter World Cup as an example of how perilous international duty can be. At another extreme, Saka’s penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final arguably fueled his fire. He’s now a Ballon D’Or nominee and deservedly so. International duty,, double-edged sword though it may be, signals the rise of this squad.

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Thomas Partey and the scare that wasn’t…

International breaks are always fraught with danger. Many players, especially those who play for smaller ctountries, frequently find themselves as the biggest and best player in the squad, exposing them to larger responsiibilties and roles, not to mention greater risks. It’s one thing to be among the best in your club’s squad; you can still count on having teammates of a similar quality. That drop-off at the country level, though, puts a player like Thomas Partey in dicey territory. For as much as we depend on him, Ghana may depend on him ten times as much, if not more. It was therefore a terrifying moment when we learned that Partey was not in the starting lineup against Angola this weekend. As it turns out, though, it all sounds like another chapter of the age-old story of making a mountain out of a molehill.

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In Jesus's absence, Portugal offer Arsenal a chilling vision of what was and what could be…

Thanks to the inimitable David Squires…

Ronaldo has not only been squeezed out of Man U’s life, down the drain like molten toothpaste; he must also feel like he’s been used and spit out (and if you can recognize those lyrics without Googling, you’ve got good taste). Exiled—I’m sorry—having parted ways with Man U by “mutual consent”, Ronaldo has also been dropped from the Portugal for the forseeable future after his petulant reaction to being subbed off against South Korea. In his absence, Portugal have offered a certain section of the Arsenal fanbase two blood-chilling visions of what could be. One is the future of a Ronaldo-less Man U; the other is of a Ronaldo-ridden Arsenal.

The news regarding Gabriel Jesus is about as bad as any of had feared: he’s undergone surgery to repair damage to his meniscus and MCL. At least it’s not his ACL. At any rate, he’ll be out for about 12 weeks, missing 11 Prem matches. In his absence, many of us are casting about like blind men in a room with the lights off. Whom should we sign? Depay on loan, Gakpo at any price, Locatelli because Juve are in dire straits? Some of the less-stable among us are keen on bringing in Ronaldo, as if he’d swallow his pride to play for whatever pittance we’d pay him (“this weekly cheque has just one comma? What’s the deal, Edu?”)
To those who for some reason covet Cristian, look no further than the Ronaldo-free Portgual’s 6-1 demolition of Switzerland. His replacement, 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos had a hat-trick and added an assist in what was originally a toss-up but that turned into a massacre. Portugal’s manager Fernando Santos explained:

We wanted a team that played with a lot of fluidity. Cristiano is more fixed, he stays in a more determined role towards the box. Gonçalo has different characteristics: he is very dynamic and that’s what he ended up showing us.

If that’s not damning by faint praise, I don’t know what is. To say Ronaldo is “more fixed” is the kind of praise late-stage Mertesacker or Gerrard might aspire to. It’s a euphemism for “immobile”. Freed of the black hole that Ronaldo has become in the dwindling twilight of his career, this youthful Portugal were rampant, fluid, confident, dynamic, and Switzerland had no answers. 

That should curdle some Gooner blood.

For one, Man U are now free of that black hole of an albatross of a white elephant (pity that Coleridge hadn’t deigned to mention the albatross’s colour). The considerable attacking and pressing talent that Ten Hag has in Rashford, Sancho, Fernandes, Eriksen, and Antony, among others, is now freed from the shackles of Ronaldo’s still-considerable talent but also of his even-weightier ego and drag on tactics. None of these players will have to defer to or cater to him anymore. They will each be free to express themselves, much as Portugal were on Tuesday.

LIke a black hole, Ronaldo has an event-horizon, a boundary beyond which an entity cannot affect anything else beyond that boundary. Piers Morgan of all people did us the favor of exposing Ronaldo’s event-horizon as it pertained to Man U. It was in short order that they parted ways with the man by way of that ever-convenient “mutual consent”. 

Santos showed that this kind of cold-eyed calculation can extend beyond the financial ties to the familial. By his own admission, he has known Ronaldo since the player’s days back at Sporting…way back in 2003. 

It’s with all of this in mind that those among us who might pine for the panache of the Portuguese player should take pause. Imposing him on our young, vibrant squad—even for as nervous as we are given Jesus’s prolonged absence—would be foolish and countrerproductive. He’s a drag on a squad, a pox on a manager, a headache and a half who would cost an arm and a leg. To those pointing to his individual achievements a season ago, when he scored 24 goals across all competitions in what appeared to be a gilt-edged season in which he flirted with winning the Golden Boot, consider this: in the season prior to his return, Man U scored 116 goals across all competions, finished second in the Prem and narrowly lost the Europa League final. In Ronaldo’s first season, the squad scored just 67 goals (a drop of 46) finished sixth in the Prem, and didn’t get past the Champions League knockout stage.

Ronaldo is now a full season removed from having tanked Man U’s season. His only offer at this point is to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr FC. No legitimate, competitive club wants him. Why is that so many of our fans still do?

Those Gunners be nicking a living at this World Cup…

…and that is an unqualified Good Thing, at least in my book. In any normal, sane World Cup that happens in the summer instead of disrupting everything and that leads to the deaths of more than 6,000 “workers” in the host nation, we’d want the lads to all get their time on the pitch, making meaningful contributions and pushing their respective national teams towards glory. To a degree, I want that this year, but, given the timing of this Cup and our ambitions in the Prem, I don’t think I’m wrong when I look at the minutes our boys have played compared to the minutes of our rivals’ players. Our squad is still on the thin side. Fewer minutes equals fresher legs.

 After Thursday’s matches, then, here’s how the minutes add up for outfield players:

  • Man City: 2,562
  • Man U: 1,790
  • Topspur: 1,714
  • Chelsea: 1,699
  • Liverpool: 771
  • AFC: 633

While a very good case should be made for adding in Brighton and Newcastle, I found this on Twitter and am far too, um, busy to look those up. That said, we and Liverpool look likely to emerge from this travesty—um, I mean glorious testament to the spirit of the game—with relatively fresh players. For us, most of these minutes are from Saka (149), Partey (180), and Xhaka (180), who are three of our most-instrumental players. These numbers will change, what with Ghana, Switzerland, South Korea, Brazil, and Portugal all playing today, but the broad trend will remain the same.

Still, there’s something to be said about the confidence and inspiration of representing one’s national team, and that can carry over to the club. We’ve seen a vital version of that after Saka was called up on to take a penalty for England at Euro 2020 only to have Donnarumma save. Since then, Saka has been imperious, insisting on taking pens—and doing so with aplomb—ever since.

Along similar lines, then, I see a nice, shiny, silver lining along the edges of our players’ exclusion from their respective squads. Not only will they come back to the Arsenal fresh and, for the most part, rested; they’ll come back feisty and fighty (okay, so not really a word, but I craved some alliteration and you know what I mean). Jesus, Big Gabi, Saliba, Martinelli, Ramsdale, and Tomiyasu will come back to the club bound and determined to fight and fresh as daisies as well because we all know how, um feisty daisies are? 

What’s more, those are some heavy, heavy minutes for Man City, Man U, Tottenham, and Chelsea. Even going into this World Cup, there were concerns around Kane’s fitness, de Bruyne’s motivation, Ronaldo’s presence, and, well, all of Chelsea. Emerging from this not-at-all controversy of a World Cup, it looks like we’ll have a leg up on our competitors due to those fresh legs. While I’m sure that I’m not alone in hoping that England, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Japan, and the US all find a way to win the World Cup this year, bringing untold glory to each of our lads from each of those national teams, let’s just admit that this is a bit of a pipe-dream. Six teams winning the World Cup in one season? Madness. Four? It’s possible. Two? Stranger things have happened.

More realisitc is to think that our lads will come back ready to hit the ground running while most of our opponents’s players will come back with rubber legs and weary spirits. I can live with that.