If you were to describe the state of Arsenal’s squad after the weekend draw with Spurs, the collective adjective would be tired. Alternatively you could by jaded. After a few beers you would certainly say f**ked.
Despite it only being November, the side looked exhausted.
For a start, you have Santi Cazorla. Off the pace in the first half. He was substituted at half time complaining of dizziness. He was clearly ill. Now whether it was an illness that went through the squad, we will never know. But it is unusual just for one person in a place of work to get ill. Currently in my office over half of the staff have had man flu in the last week.
Alexis Sanchez has looked off the pace all season. Whether it is second season syndrome, that he has now been found out, or the summer jaunt in Chile where he carried his side to the title. He has just not looked 100%. In fact, his tiredness go’s beyond this season. He has not looked 100% since March.
So that brings us to the next 2 weeks.
Usually I dread an international break. The majority of the squad flying to far flung corners of the planet to represent their country. Either in competitive internationals on plastic pitch’s in Eastern Europe or pointless friendlies to anywhere in the globe.
How often the domestic season is broken up for an international break needs to be looked at. This is the 3rd break this season, and they would have played 6 games. when you consider thus far we only played 12 league games, that ratio is not correct.
However, this time round, I am pleased for the break.
Firstly we have our current injury record. It is shocking. Although a quick look at PhysioRoom.com shows that we are down to just 7 players injured.
The break will allow the medical and fitness staff to focus solely on the injured players rehabilitation. No other distractions.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey & Hector Bellerin are all expected to be fully fit come our next game, WBA away. Theo Walcott has an outside chance of making it, although Norwich away is more likely.
These players returning will be key to our title challenge.
The other positive aspect of the international break is the rest our players will get.
Usually, it is easier to say who is not going on international duty than saying who is. It is usually Mikel Arteta & Mathieu Flamini playing with eachother.
This time, however, the list is long. Partly to do with injuries, partly to do with retirement, mainly due to players not being selected:
Now some of these do not need the break (Flamini & Arteta again). However, 2 weeks off for the likes of Mertesacker, Ozil, Monreal & Coquelin could be priceless.
Another benefit is the majority of the lads going away on international are mainly playing friendlies and not having to travel too far.
Kieran Gibbs – Spain & England (to play France)
Laurent Koscielny – France (to play Germany) & England
Santi Cazorla – Spain (to play England) & Belgium
Olivier Giroud – France (to play Germany) & England
Calum Chambers – Bosnia & England (to play Switzerland)
Petr Cech – Czech Republic (to play Serbia) & Poland
Alexis Sanchez – Chile (to play Columbia) & Uruguay
David Ospina – Chile & Columbia (to play Argentina)
Joel Campbell – – Costa Rica (to play Haiti) & Panama
Only the South American lads are travelling any distance, and they are also the only ones to be playing full internationals.
It is unlikely the European lads will play over 90 minutes in the two games combined. And with them being friendlies, the training and the games themselves will lack the intensity that competitive matches have.
The fact that after the first round of games, only two of the European lads will be back in England – with another in Belgium – is another positive. Not much travel time. They will be back home, in the comfort of their own home, within 24 hours of the game finishing. I would be surprised if all of them do not turn up for training at Arsenal the day after their international game.
The only worry is poor Alexis Sanchez. He is running on empty. And has two World Qualifiers coming up against Columnia & Uruguay. Neither an easy game. Both sides who play a physical game.
I am concerned at the state he will return in. He will play every minute. He needs a rest. But with 2 key away games in the Premier League coming up, and an important European tie at home to Zargreb, where he gets that rest is not clear.
Maybe if we can manage him through WBA & Zargreb, if Walcott, Ramsey & Chamberlain are back for Norwich, he could get that rest. Alternatively we need to nurse him through November and he could get that rest against Sunderland at home in the league (followed by Olympiakos in the Champions League if results do not go our way).
What we do with him is not clear. But we could have done with him picking up a slight strain to give us an excuse to pull him out of playing for Chile. But with his mentality and loyalty to his country, that would have been impossible.
This international break will be as good as a rest for most of our players. And early season break.
It should give the majority of key players a chance to recharge their batteries and strengthen our title challenge.
For once, I am pleased for the break.