Greetings, fellow Gooners.
Welcome to the AFC Blog Arsenal Squad World Cup Preview. We’ll do some quick hitters on all the Arsenal players involved in the upcoming World Cup to kick things off, and list each player by group and team so you can follow along. As we move through the month-long tournament for the greatest football trophy in the world, remember to check in often for post-match highlight commentary on each player and videos of goals or outstanding performances from the players as well.
Right, lets get started shall we…
Arsenal’s dynamic, yet often absent young striker will be a key component of the Mexican attack in this World Cup. The El Tri qualified for the World Cup through CONCACAF preliminaries against such national sides as USA, Canada, Jamaica and Honduras. Carlos possesses a knack for the important goal at the international level, bagging a beauty against the United States in the finals of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. While most likely coming off the bench as an impact sub, Carlos promises to bring those scoring boots to further his tally of 9 goals from 28 international caps and perhaps impress Arsene Wenger enough to gain valuable minutes in the Gunners’ upcoming season.
A stalwart at right back for The Arsenal, Sagna will seek to cement his name in the starting XI for France during this World Cup. Bringing his intelligent club game to the international level, Bacary has still only been capped 20 times for the national team. With his speed down the flanks in support of the attack, heady closing down of opponents and hopefully some fruitful crosses into the box, this tournament could see the emergence of Sagna as one of France’s great defenders. One could do worse than pip a fiver on Sagna to actually score a goal. I know, I know – it could be a fiver wasted. But what if he does score? I’m just sayin’…
I like Gael Clichy. A lot. A bit of a rough season at The Arsenal with some very uneven performances and nagging injuries, though. However, having recovery time at the end of the just completed Arsenal campaign, Clichy should see significant time at left back for Les Bleus. Still only 24 and with 4 caps to his name, Gael has the opportunity to join his Arsenal brethren Sagna and Gallas as penned into the starting XI for Raymond Domenech’s side.
I’m going to be honest here – I hope Domenech picks ONE midfield position for Diaby and sticks with it. After sometimes blinding, and yes, sometimes infuriating performances this past season for The Arsenal while populating 3 different midfield positions, I’d like Diaby to be able to settle into an attack-minded holding mid role. I might be asking too much, but that’s what I want. Depending on what formation France go with, they do look a little light in midfield with Toulalan, Gourcuff, Malouda and Diarra the othe mids available. France could find themselves caught a bit short as the tournament wears on. If Diaby has his chance, and if he focuses, we could see him explode in the right role. On a side note, it’s recently been reported that the French squad are near riot for the absence of both Thierry Henry and Diaby from the proposed starting lineup. Lets hope this doesn’t affect the mental side for Abou.
Yes, Billy is still an Arsenal player. It might not be a willing manner of employment, but it remains nonetheless. Gallas’ partnership with Thomas Vermaelen this past season was often exhilarating, with both controlling the central defense and finding goal opportunities. But then Cappy turned back into Cappy and was out injured for the run in. Gallas was a question mark on fitness until late into the selection process for France but seems to have made it back to 100%. He seems to have rediscovered his nose around the goal as well, with several shots testing opposing keepers in recent friendlies. However, Gallas also appears to have rediscovered his inner-child and is refusing to speak to the media for the duration of the tournament because he was not selected Captain. And here you thought there was no “I” in team…
Robin van Persie
It’s his time. After suffering the ignominy of having horse placenta rubbed all over his ankle and missing the bulk of the Arsenal season, Robin has returned with a vengeance. We saw glimpses of it in those last few games leading the Arsenal attack. The fire is there. Holland will be the immediate beneficiary of a well-rested Robin van Persie, make no doubt. The Dutch team are firing on all cylinders and have a midfield and defense to make opponents weep bitter tears. I’m calling it right now – Robin van Persie will win the Golden Boot. In fact, take that fiver off Bacary Sagna scoring and lay it on Robin taking home the BIG trophy.
If the return of Nicklas Bendtner to the Arsenal squad after 3 months of injury was any indication we could see a lot of misses – and a lot of goals. It’s just Nick’s way, isn’t it? Miss a few sitters to make you pull your hair out, then score a hat trick. But the lad’s just 22 years old and I have faith in him as he’s already taken 11 goals from 32 caps. Not too shabby. Denmark are in a potentially tricky group here, with Japan and Cameroon looking to secure second behind Netherlands. I don’t know that we’ll see Nick past the group stages in this tournament, but I sure hope so. He likes a big stage, and if he can remain healthy South Africa could be tailor made for launching Nick into the stratosphere. Or the Nickosphere, as it were.
There’s Only One Song. Rightfully so. Perhaps more than any other player this past season for The Arsenal, Alex Song came into his own. How we all cried out for a new defensive midfielder last summer, not yet ready to trust the improvement we were beginning to see from Alex at the end of the 2008/2009 season. How wrong we were not to trust our eyes. Alex Song is the Arsenal defensive midfielder of choice, penciled into Arsenal’s starting XI probably after only Cesc and van Persie. Capped an impressive 23 times already at the tender age of 22, Song will look to continue his imperious ways ahead of the Cameroonian back four. Look out for a strong push from the African team to pip second in Group E.
You Only Came To See Eboue. Admit it. Eboue has taken on cult status at The Emirates over the past year, recovering from “that match”. With hard work and dedication, Eboue has made himself nearly indispensable to The Arsenal, serving as backup to Bacary Sagna, filling in wide right in the midfield, and even on occasion finding himself as a winger up front. A man for all seasons, our Eboue. And a man to fill many roles for Arsenal as needed. Ivory Coast, or Cote d’Ivoire as they like to be called, have a loaded squad. Didier Drogba (if he plays), Keita, Kalu and others up front, Yaya Toure anchoring the midfield and a back four loaded with experienced players such as Kolo Toure, Arthur Boka, Siaka Tiene and Eboue, Cote d’Ivoire will give fellow group members Brazil and Portugal a real run for their money to move on.
I so want Cesc to do well. And I so don’t care about Spain. Like Arsene’s advice to Cesc, I want him just to focus on this World Cup, to play brilliantly and to come back to north London healthy and ready to lead The Arsenal. Having watched a number of Spain’s run-up friendlies, Cesc hasn’t been starting due to injury recovery and I don’t expect that to change. Like the “team that shall not be named”, Spain’s midfield is ridiculous. Cesc will start only the final group stage match (after Spain have secured going through), but will most likely be used as a super-sub for most of the tournament. I just have to ask – What kind of evil football demon puts that much talent in one midfield at one time? Whoever that football demon is, I want to buy him a beer because it will be pure bliss to watch Spain dismantle everyone. Except Holland.
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So there we have it, Gooners. Arsenal from Group A to Group H, from Mexico to Spain. Now, lets get this party started and see who shines in South Africa!
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