Maybe it was the “lack of guaranteed call ups”, but in the lead up to the World Cup, no Arsenal player took their foot off the gas.
Whilst other clubs saw players guaranteed of their spot in Qatar “picking up injuries” in the last couple of weeks, Arsenal players kept giving it 100%.
Spurs were big victims of this, with the likes of Richarlison and Cristian Romero no-where to be seen in the last few weeks. Both clearly putting club over country.
Son Hueng-Min also missed the last few games with a fractured eye socket, but will risk further longer term damage by declaring himself fit to play for South Korea.
Mystery illnesses (Raheem Sterling) and minor knocks saw a whole host of players miss out on the last game week. Bar a spate of food poisoning (Granit Xhaka and 4 unnamed others) and long term injuries (Emile Smith Rowe, Mohamed Elneny), we have not had anyone cry off.
The key reason is due to how few of our stars were guaranteed a seat on the plane, let alone a starting place.
Richarlison, Romero, Son and Sterling knew their spots were secure, even if they went missing for a month.
Meanwhile the likes of Ben White, Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba and Aaron Ramsdale had to fight to the end to for their spot on the plane.
Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Xhaka were all guaranteed to be starting for their country. But all 3 kept up their high performance levels.
Xhaka and Partey realistically know that Arsenal, and not their country, is their best root to glory this season. It is the same for Matt Turner and Takehiro Tomiyasu (the Japanese star has struggled for fitness since joining Arsenal).
Whilst Gabriel Jesus was probably on the plane, it was certainly not guaranteed having been left out of Brazil’s squad.
Jesus is also fighting for a starting spot, so needed to keep pushing (whereas Richarlison seems happy to just be there!)
That leaves Saka.
He will start for England, but is clearly an ultra professional. He would not let his team or teammates down and has got better as the World Cup closed in.
So whilst Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City players had one eye on Qatar, Arsenal extended the lead at the head of the table and will be top on Christmas Day.
During his early days as manager, Mikel Arteta spoke extensively on having players of the “right mentality”. He has achieved his goal and we now have a squad where “playing for yourself” is not accepted.
Hopefully the players out in Qatar get through without injury, and come Boxing Day we are ready to go again!