By YW for A Cultured Left Foot
It's the first day of the international break and already I can’t wait for it to be over. Even with competitive matches, this is going to be a long fortnight.
Gareth Southgate is England’s reluctant hero, wary no doubt of the reaction the performances against Malta and Slovenia will receive. Let’s be honest, anything less than half a dozen in the first game will see Southgate damned, and probably Theo Walcott as well. It’s the England way.
Arsenal go into the break in winning form. Tired but happy, I should think, especially with the recovery from the opening day defeat against Liverpool. Unusually, the fixture list is benevolent when club football returns. Four consecutive home games is almost unheard of. I genuinely can’t remember when that was last the case and more importantly, how ‘straightforward’ the fixtures appear on paper.
Football cliches aside, not winning those four will undermine the title credentials which have sprung up around the place and leave us trailing the leading pack; if you think we’ve got it easy, City’s is even more so. Their next ‘big’ game is in December against Chelsea.
And that’s the danger with these international breaks - situations get over-thought:
'If we take three points here, City and Tottenham will drop them there so with a goal difference swing of + / – 7, which is achievable by the four we score here and the three they concede there and there, we’ll be top by virtue of goals scored and alphabetical order.'
Convoluted; the football equivalent of water divining.
Instead, I think I’ll enjoy the moment.
A tired but winning squad, not helped by injuries but with a stability in the line-up brought on by injuries. I suspect we’ll see a bit of rotation with the Champions League and EFL Cup games but Arsene Wenger will try to keep a winning line-up together for the Premier League, particularly in the run up to the north London derby at the start of next month.
Whether he’ll be able to is another matter, but the beauty of this fortnight is that he can give the players who aren’t away on international duty a break. A few days off to recharge the batteries or continue their return to full fitness. That will be the key to the success being aimed for.
There was definitely an element of tiredness in some individual performances at Turf Moor but with a relatively unchanged line-up, that is to be expected. Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla were the two who looked most in need of a rest but German’s will come through a change of scenery and not a proper rest.
Whether there will be options to change the situation against Ludogorets or Middlesbrough – I’m assuming the XI which started at Burnley will do so against Swansea if fit – is the question. Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Lucas are all expected to be fit by then although with Ramsey, that seems a bit optimistic.
These are tweaks more than anything, although Giroud offers the prospect of a more direct route to goal than with Alexis. Of course, those three sides will have taken notice of Burnley’s success in stifling Arsenal’s attack and it won’t be any surprise to see them all line up with similarly defensive set-ups. Giroud’s return may prove the most beneficial in that respect; ‘Plan B’ and all that.
But we’ve seen from past experience that planning anything before the internationals are over can be a fool’s errand.
Time to recharge the batteries and see what the next fortnight leaves us with.
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