On recent records and recent injuries sustained during the international break, this one has been quite kind on us considering how many players we have had out with their respective nations over the last two weeks.
We had 6 players on duty for England, with Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Kieran Gibbs all starting at least one of the two games England played. Calum Chambers and Theo Walcott, returning to the England squad, did not feature in either game but would have benefited from training with the host of talent on offer in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
The important one for England, on paper, was the Slovenia clash. With Kieran Gibbs, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere all starting, the Arsenal contingent had a real chance to lay down a marker that they were the new great provider for English talent. And they did deliver, more or less. In a dire first half, no one could really impose themselves on the game. Including the Arsenal stars, Gibbs struggled a bit against the pace of the Slovenian right side, but it was not that disastrous that Hodgson had to pull him off at half time (not that he could, England had no other option there). Wilshere and Welbeck both struggled but everyone in that England team was as bad as the next guy during the first half so it was really not a situation that just concerned the Arsenal players when Gary Neville and Roy Hodgson were lambasting them for a lacklustre first half. The second half was much the same for the first 10 or so minutes then Slovenia – well, Henderson – scored and England really had to come out of the blocks. A minute after this unfortunate own goal England were right back in to it thanks to a sublime Wilshere pass to set up Rooney who subsequently won the spot kick. A few minutes after that, Welbeck made it 2-1 with a scruffy finish – they all count – Adam Lallana’s cut back. Well done to Welbeck for being in the right place at the right time. Welbeck then grabbed his second and England’s third after a neat little interchange with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling to finish of the Slovenian’s and keep England well on course for a Euro 2016 place. Oxlade-Chamberlain also made an appearance with 5 minutes to go and nearly managed to get himself on the score sheet but couldn’t manage to add to his three goals for England, already.
With the qualifier done and dusted it was time for the Arsenal and England lads to head up to Glasgow for the Auld Enemy clash. A fiery encounter where, let’s be honest, we all wanted Scott Brown to be kept on a dog lead away from Jack Wilshere, we don’t need any more injuries, thank you, Scott. The game started off at a fast tempo and became like a classic 1980’s-1990’s clash with tackles flying in everywhere but the players got up after these brutal tackles, from both sides. It was a relief to see Wilshere and Welbeck back on their feet in one piece after heavy tackles from Brown and Maloney, respectively. With Wilshere and Welbeck both starting their second game in 4 days, it was slightly worrying to see what a fast tempo the game was being played at, but they managed with it well. Oxlade-Chamberlain, also starting, grabbed the first goal after a truly sumptuous Jack Wilshere pass, it caught out Grant Hanley and Oxlade-Chamberlain duly followed by heading in the Beckham-esque pass. 1-0. With Jack Wilshere controlling the tempo of the game England went into half time with a precious 1-0 lead. After the break the tempo was no different to the tempo that had ended the game. Wilshere was still controlling it and was winning his dual Brown. Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both working tirelessly for the side with Welbeck following his usual protocol of closing down anyone on the opposition with the ball and Chamberlain was continuously helping out Nathaniel Clyne with the ever increasingly difficult and terrier like Scottish left back, Andy Robertson. Danny Welbeck looked to have a slightly tight hamstring, unsurprising considering the work he puts in and was brought off by Hodgson, much to the relief of many Arsenal fans watching across the globe. Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought off for Raheem Sterling and Kieran Gibbs was brought on for Manchester United’s Luke Shaw. Gibbs completed about 20-25 minutes. Wilshere managed to complete a whole game, again, which is very good news for all fans that he concerns. It would be good if the England players can carry their country form into the titanic clash against Manchester United this weekend.
Alexis Sanchez completed 90 minutes in both of Chile’s fixtures over the past two weeks with Chile losing out narrowly to Uruguay 2-1 and then beating Venezuela by 5 goals to 0. Sanchez, someone who you can tell does not like starting or finishing on the bench, is showing why he doesn’t like to do this and did again in both of these fixtures. He scored against Uruguay and then again against Venezuela, he appears to be as much as a talismanic figure for country as he is for club. Well done to him and Chile for their hammering of Venezuela. Uruguay isn’t a bad side to lose against, just ask some of the English lads, Alexis.
Santi Cazorla, representing Spain against Belarus and Germany managed to complete 69 minutes against Belarus and then was an unused substitute in the narrow loss to a strong Germany side. In the European qualifier Spain triumphed 3-0 with Cazorla presumably playing a part in some of the beautiful intricate passing play that this Spanish side are so renowned for. Against Germany he did not play a part and was unused so there is really not much point going into that game in great depth – Toni Kroos, a scourge of Arsenal over the past few years in the Champions League gave Germany a 1-0 victory with a nice finish.
Lukas Podolski, our only German representative in this international break after Mertersacker’s retirement from international football and Mesut Ozil’s injury. Podolski completed 90 minutes in the European qualifier against Gibraltar. He also claimed an assist as the world champions ran out 4-0 winners. He was, as was Cazorla, an unused substitute in Germany’s 1-0 victory over Spain and will be pleased that he has returned fit enough to try and stake a claim to regain his place in the Arsenal side.
Wojciech Szczesny managed to keep a clean sheet in Poland’s European qualifier against the Georgians. With clean sheets recently quite hard to come by in the week leading up to the international break for Arsenal it would have done him the world of good to keep one here. Szczesny, receiver of some quite harsh criticism in recent weeks from quite a few Arsenal fans would have been very pleased to not let anything pass him. Wojciech was also an unused substitute in Poland’s 2-2 friendly draw with one of England’s group rivals, Switzerland.
Yaya Sanogo, for the France under 21 side, played 90 minutes against England and scored twice as the French ran out 3-2 winners in an exciting match which spelled the end of England’s under 21’s unbeaten run. Well done to Sanogo, who can gain confidence from his two goals against a very good England side.
Carl Jenkinson, on loan at West Ham, scored in the England under 21’s victory over the Portuguese under 21 side. He completed the full 90 minutes and his capped a very solid performance from a right back who has been in good form for West Ham this season. He was also a 42nd minute substitute in the under 21’s narrow 3-2 loss to the French under 21’s. We all agree that it would be great to see Jenkinson in an Arsenal shirt next season as a regular player.
Tomas Rosicky, someone who has not featured very often for us this season, was influential in a very important win for the Czech Republic over a very strong Icelandic team containing the likes of Gylfi Sigurrdson. Rosicky was substituted in injury time as the Czech’s managed to hold out for a very important 2-1 win.
Joel Campbell completed 86 minutes as Costa Rica drew 3-3 with Uruguay. Campbell, who will hope for a few more chances to prove himself after the international break, set up Bryan Ruiz’s goal and although the game eventually went to penalties, Campbell was unable to take one as he had been taken off prior to this. Costa Rica eventually won the shootout.