The Arsenal players on the plane to Qatar (and who will be left at the taxi rank?)

With the final international weekend prior to the winter World Cup coming to a close, we thought it would be worthwhile looking at what Arsenal players are on the plane, at the boarding gate and left in the taxi rank.

Aaron Ramsdale – Looked to be Jordan Pickford’s number 2 a few months ago, but Nick Pope now seems to be Gareth Southgate’s 2nd choice. That leaves Ramsdale fighting it out with Dean Henderson for the final goal keeper spot. At the boarding gate.

Matt Turner – The American sides first chocie goal keeper. started the 2-0 defeat against Japan a couple of days ago. Only injury will stop him going. On the plane.

Ben White – A surprise exclusion from Southgate’s latest squad. Whilst he has been impressive this season, he has been playing right back which is England’s most competitive position. In the middle, Harry Maguire and John Stones are shoe-ins, whilst Southgate has a thing for Conor Coady. That leaves White fighting out with Eric Dier, Fikayo Tomori, Tyrone Mings and Marc Guéhi. At the boarding gate.

Gabriel Magalhães – Yet to be capped by Brazil and not in the latest squad. Only injury to others will see him get in. Left at the taxi rank.

William Saliba – Since making his debut for France back in March, Saliba has played in all bar one of their last 7 fixtures. On the plane.

Rob Holding – It is now 4 years since he was called up (and failed to get on the pitch) for a friendly against America. Left at the taxi rank.

Cédric Soares – Portugal’s first choice right back when they won the Euro’s back in 2016, Cedric has played just once for his country since the 2018 World Cup. Left at the taxi rank.

Takehiro Tomiyasu – Only his recent injury struggles will stop being at Qatar for Japan. On the plane.

Thomas Partey – Only his recent injury struggles will stop being at Qatar for Japan. On the plane.

Bukayo Saka – Played out of position by Southgate against Italy. Will be a huge shock if he is not in the squad. On the plane.

Emile Smith Rowe – Made his England debut back in November last year, he was an outside bet to make the squad. Injuries this season has curtailed his chances. Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and James Maddison are all ahead of him. Left at the taxi rank.

Fábio Vieira – Yet to be capped by Portugal. Still finding his way in a new country so lack of game time will deny him the chance of making a late run for the squad. Left at the taxi rank.

Albert Sambi Lokonga – Made his debut for Belgium back in September 2021 and not played since. Not been called him since March this year. Belgium have a lot of good midfielders playing regularly for their clubs. Left at the taxi rank.

Granit Xhaka – Over 100 caps for his country and not yet 30. Switzerland’s captain is the first name on the team sheet. On the plane.

Gabriel Jesus – Brazil manager Tite explained Jesus’ absence from the latest Brazil squad by saying he “wanted to see other players”. That seemed to indicate that Jesus was a shoe-in. But then Jesus spoke about needing to continue working hard to “have the opportunity again” of playing for his country. Could he be left out? At the boarding gate.

Gabriel Martinelli – Was always an outside bet to make the Brazil squad. Despite his scintilating start this season he was left out of the latest Brazil squad. Has to compete with Neymar and Vinicius Junior on the left. Add in Richarlison and Jesus – both of whom have played on the left forclub and country – Martinelli will only make the squad if Tite decides to take him “for the experience”. Left at the taxi rank.

Eddie Nketiah – Yet to be capped by England. Other English strikers are outscoring him and still not getting a look in. Southgate seems obsessed with starting Harry Kane in every game. He wants to be known as the man in charge when Kane breaks the England goal scoring record, even if that does mean others do not get a chance to show what they can do. Left at the taxi rank.

Reiss Nelson – Injured. And even if he was fit he would be no-where near the squad. Left at the taxi rank.

Marquinhos – Maybe in 4 years… Left at the taxi rank.

No need to renew your passport: Karl Hein, Kieran Tierney, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Martin Ødegaard, Mohamed Elneny.

On the plane: 6
At the boarding gate: 3
Left at the taxi rank: 10
No need to renew your passport: 5

Whilst some might look at it negatively that so few players could be in Qatar, we should see it as a positive.

Those players that do not play for their country get a 6-week mid-season break. They will return in December stronger and fitter than the players that did go. And will have less miles on the clock come the business end of the season.

Key first team players Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Martinio Odergaard, Kieran Tierney, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Magalhães missing out will leave them fully energised for the second half of the season.


Study shows Arsenal fixtures have been over 50% tougher than Tottenham and Man City

Top of the league going into the first international break of the season. We all would have taken that at the back end of last season.

But some naysayers – mainly opposing fans, Arsenal-incels and the media – have continually made the point that “Arsenal have not played anyone yet”, rather than give us the credit that we deserve.

Firstly, you can only beat who is in front of you.

As I saw elsewhere, better to lose every game agaunst our “Big 6” opponents and win the other 28 games (84 points) than win every Big 6 games and lose every other (30 points).

But is it really true that Arsenal have not yet played anyone?

To establish who has had the most difficult to easiest start to the season, we have invented the She Wore A Yellow Ribbon Premier League Difficulty Matrix™ (SWAYRPLDM for short),

Our complex algorithm takes into account the current position of the opponent (O), whether the venue (V) (Home = x1, Away = x1.5) and how many games the team has played (G).


The results make interesting reading:

Leicester City have had by far and away the toughest start to the season, followed by Crystal Palace and Fulham.

At the other end of the table are Manchester City, who have had the easiest start to the season according to the SWAYRPLDM. Tottenham and Chelsea have had the 2nd and 3rd easiest starts.

Arsenal sit 14th, Manchester United 9th and Liverpool 7th.

So whilst we have not had it as tough as others, our games 64% harder than Manchester City’s and 53% harder than Tottenham’s.

To take things a step further, we also have xSWAYRPLDM.

xSWAYRPLDM is your SWAYRPLDM mutiplied by your total points (P):


A sides xSWAYRPLDM is important as this measures the total points you have gained against the difficuly rating.

Arsenal top the xSWAYRPLDM table as well as the Premier League table. This would indicate that Arsenal are on par against their difficulty rating.

Meanwhile Manchester City are 2nd in the league but 6th in xSWAYRPLDM. That tells us that they are currently performing below their xSWAYRPLDM – as in they should have taken more points from the games they have played in comparison to how difficult those fixtures were.

Tottenham are also underperforming against the difficulty of their fixtures whilst fulham and Manchester United are overperforming.

So the next time someone tells you “Arsenal have not played anyone yet”, take a moment to explain to them that we have a SWAYRPLDM of 12.14 and are currently hitting our xSWAYRPLDM, whilst our rivals are performing below their xSWAYRPLDM.

Have a good Saturday.


Note: Yes, this is a load of bollocks that I have just made up due to international break boredom. But the math is real!

Bukayo Saka the Prince of Assists

If Kevin de Bruyne is the Premier League King of Assits, then Bukayo Saka is the Prince.

It might have been a quiet start to the season for Arsenal’s Star Boy, but he is starting to come to the boil.

Only de Bruyne has more assists this season than Saka as the Englishman has become a key creative outlet for Arsenal.

After 7 Premier League assists last season, Saka already has 4 this. A clear indication that he is becoming more influential in the build up.

It is crazy to think that he only turned 21-years-old a couple of weeks ago – and only Cesc Fabregas has more goal involvements at the same age.

It is perhaps a sign of how much better we are compared to last year that Saka’s performances have gone unnoticed.

Whilst last season, he was our go-to man. We heavily relied on him to create, score, win games.

Now we have the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odergaard and Fabio Vieira stepping up. The improvement of others makes it appear that Saka has gone backwards.

But a quick look at his WhoScored ranking shows he is performing better this season than last.

Last season he had an average PL rating of 7.06. This season his performances average 7.33.

In 2021/22 his 7.06 was enough for him to be our highest rated player on WhoScored.

This season his 7.33 has him 4th (Jesus, Martinelli and Odergaard ahead of him).

The team improving will force Saka to remain focused and continue improving.

If he finishes with a 7.33 ranking and is our 4th best player, it will mean we have had a very good season.

It won’t be long until the Prince of Assists becomes the King of the Premier League.