I’ve kind of gotten used to the fact that a number of our players usually get ‘rest’ time during the international breaks. We’ve seen other teams in the league see half of their squads go away, but we’ve been able to keep plenty of lads back and have them prepare for the next Premier League game that was in the scheduling. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for international football when it breaks up the domestic season, but there has been times in which it’s come at a good time to get some recuperation in the legs of some of our players.
But that’s because we had players who either weren’t good enough for their national teams, or they were out of form and not looking like they were going to get called up at any stage soon. So whilst seeing plenty of players stay behind at London Colney was greeted by relief for me personally, the fact that it happened actually meant we weren’t really performing and therefore it’s not a good thing in itself that we had so many absentees.
So when the announcements yesterday that Gabriel had been called up to the Brazil national team, then that ESR had been called up to the English national team due to injury/withdrawal of a couple of players, whilst my initial reaction was “oh, here we go, expect the broken pieces of players to be handed back to us next week then”, upon reflection maybe I should take the positive from it. The positive is of course that these players in particular have been in great form; Gabriel has hands down been our best defender and Smith Rowe has scored in his last three appearances. With good form comes being noticed and these boys are being noticed for all the right reasons. That, in itself, is positive.
And seeing as I’m in a ‘glass half full’ mode this morning, the other hope from these two actions in particular is that it gives those lads the confidence boost that will only help to elevate their game when they return to training and matches with us. IF they feel a few inches taller because of their respective national team call ups, then that can hopefully only be beneficial for us in terms of their form. Let’s face it, we’ve got Liverpool in just under two week’s time and we need every player to be feeling good and feeling confident ahead of that one, because we won’t be expected to pick up anything, that’s for sure.
Liverpool will be one heck of a test for these players and so having them all feeling good will at least allow us to go in to this game with our confidence cup brimming to the top. And with the defence having kept more clean sheets since the first international break in September, we have that solid basis to build on, which is positive given the opponents we are up against.
Do you know what’s weird though? I actually have some kind of weird hope that is building already ahead of that game. I think deep down I know this is a free hit and that the probability of us winning at Anfield is probably like one in 20 of something crazy like that, but the fact this back line has been able to build on its good start, that we’ve been able to look so solid and that all five of them are forming more of a cohesive unit than we’ve seen in years, gives me hope that we can at least keep the goals to a minimum up there. Or at least I hope so. Of course it depends on the ‘in game’ state and if a scenario happens like it did up at City and we’re a man down early on, then it changes everything. But if we manage to build from the solid foundations we have, you never know what might happen.
Back to the internationals though and it feels like London Colney is going to be a quiet place these next few days. According to Arseblog News we’re looking at 17 players going away on international duty, including the under-21s. I’m including Partey in this because I suspect he will go away and if he doesn’t then it has to make him a doubt for Liverpool, which would be massive for us. Maitland-Niles did a fine job against Watford, but the difference between them and Liverpool is night and day, so I wouldn’t be expecting a similar performance against Klopp’s side. But 17 players heading off from the first team is a pretty big number given that first team squads are made up of 25 players and then the youth players. According to the official site we’ve got 27 first team players all-in-all and so with 17 away on loan that’s nearly two-thirds of the squad. That’s not a lot of bodies left for Mikel to run any drills this week.
I wonder if he’ll be using the time to study our next opponents more closely? Probably knowing how obsessive he is. But maybe that’ll not be a bad thing if Arteta has a few more minutes in the analysis room and less on the training ground. He’s going to have to find something that is a master stroke because pound-for-pound they are better than us, more experienced, more likely to get the result unless we do something special.
But hey, we’ve got a good 12 days before the game so that’s plenty of time for us to get wound up into a worried frenzy. For now, we focus on the positivity that our good form has brought, as well as congratulate those young gunners for their first call ups.
Catch you all tomorrow peeps.