Well, it was always going to happen but yesterday it was confirmed: An Arsenal player has contracted COVID-19 and will now need to self isolate for two weeks.
Mohammed Elneny is the victim of the virus and once again what this has done is highlight to me at least that these internationals are even worse now than they’ve ever been. Not only do I generally detest them when we’re outside of a pandemic, but now they are actively costing us players through having to self isolate for two week’s. It is an utter joke.
There will be people who might argue that players get injured on international duty, so what is the difference? Well, yes they do indeed, but I guess you’d put injury down to ‘occupational hazard’. You cannot say the same about the Coronavirus because, simply, it is avoidable in terms of international travel. Arsenal – and all of the top clubs in Europe – have strict protocols and whilst I appreciate that some will say you can contract Coronavirus anywhere, I fail to believe that Arsenal have minimised that to essentially just Arteta right at the start of the pandemic. That has been beacuase the football clubs are a little more controlling, can be a little more precise with their players. When they go away on international duty who knows where they are off to. Mo Salah went to a Wedding, Aubameyang is pictured at a Gabon airport with a load of people and Elneny has contracted the virus. I doubt he contracted it from his teammates or sitting in a hotel room waiting for a match to start.
Nope, to me, this is yet another example of why now, whilst we are still in the midst of this global pandemic, the international football is a joke. Why are they doing it? People can’t travel overseas, so why are we risking footballers for meaningless friendlies? Or these stupid qualifiers? It is mental. And what’s more mental is that the federations are exacerbating the situation by cramming extra games in during these windows. England, for example, have three matches within a week. THREE! Even if that was The Arsenal we’d be worried about fatigue of the players. Yet the international federations are trying to line their coffers as much as they possibly can and it is to the detriment of the clubs that pay their wages.
We have the same problem with Saka and England. The kid has played a couple of games in which it looks like he’s nursing a knock. Yet tomorrow night I think it is (I’m not bothering to check because simply I do not care about England and the ‘UEFA Nations League’) he’ll most likely be starting at left-wing back for England because Ben Chilwell is injured. So we have a player who has had three games for his national side and then will have to play on Sunday. Do you honestly think we’re going to get the best from him when we travel up to Elland Road to play Leeds on Sunday?
We won’t. He’ll possibly start but Arteta may also be forced in to bringing him on as a sub to try to manage the player and keep him the right side of a muscular injury. And this is where it irks me even more here, because all of these players going down with muscular injuries is because of over playing. How do you counter act that? Bring in the ability to rotate players more ‘in game’. What does that mean? Have bigger match day squads and more subs. That helps to manages players, bring them on, as well as ensuring you can still stand a good chance of giving your best players at least some minutes on the pitch. But this was voted down by Premier League managers. Why? Because they felt it favoured the ‘bigger’ teams with the bigger squads. Well yes, of course that is true. But what is also true is that Burnley, Southampton, West Ham and Leeds don’t play in midweek European competition. They also don’t have many of their players going away on international duty. If my estimations are right, Arsenal have around 13 players away on international duty. Burnley have seven. And in their last game four of those seven were on the bench i.e. they are not regulars. Leeds had seven players. One of which wasn’t in the squad for their last game. A reminder of the 13 that Arsenal have sent away, I would guess that the following players will be in the first team – or at least close to it – for Sunday:
- Bernd Leno
- Hector Bellerin
- Bukayo Saka
- Kieran Tierney
- Granit Xhaka
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Nicolas Pepe
You could argue Pepe, but the rest will probably play. That’s eight from a possible XI. So, after most managers voted against the five subs rule to stop an advantage for the bigger clubs, what we actually have is the bigger clubs now at a DISADVANTAGE because of the volume of games our players have to play in. It is an utter joke and with every passing week that decision not to allow more subs looks not just silly, but reckless, in my opinion.
But we just have to sit here and take it. It is frustrating, it is annoying, but we are powerless to stop it. We just have to cross everything that we get no more unwelcome news.
The good news out of all of this is that after these pointless collective of games, we have no internationals until March next year. Let’s just hope things are back to a bit more normality by then.
Catch you all tomorrow.