Ever since Gabriel Jesus’ injury and subsequent confirmation from Arsenal that he’s undergone surgery in England, my mind has flipped in to “bring our lads home” mode, in terms of this World Cup. So whilst Granit Xhaka will be hurting this morning after the humbling the Swiss  took against Portugal, I can’t help but look at an Arsenal-shaped silver lining in the fact that he’ll be returning to training earlier now. Today is the 7th December and we have 19 days until we play West Ham. That’s just under three weeks and means the club can give him a week and a half to rest post World Cup exploits, then he gets a week of training, so you’d hope he’s ready and raring to go on Boxing Day. Sure, he’ll be upset and sure he’ll be sad, but there’s part of me that hopes he and his Arsenal colleagues will be able to compartmentalise the sadness of going out, but also that they want to get that bitter taste of defeat washed out of their metaphorical mouths, by getting back to winning ways with The Arsenal.

Partey will have got his holiday underway probably from Monday I would have thought, so that means he should be good to go and with Tomiyasu also going home early with Japan, that hope is that he too can put his disappointment behind him. By the sounds of his comments, this has hit him hard, so hopefully he gets a couple of week’s off and then comes back with a new drive about him come the Christmas period. We are probably going to need him. We still don’t really know what Ben White’s situation is, but without wanting to trivialise whatever personal problems he and his family are going through, my hope is that he is ready for that Boxing game too, because I think we’re going to need him as well.

That’s because of the way this tournament is shaping up. William Saliba and Bukayo Saka will both be in respective France and England squads and that means that one of them is going home after Saturday night. For whoever that is, they’ll get a week or two to try to put the heartache behind them, then it will need to be “game face on” because we are going to need them ready for West Ham. I’ve just looked at West Ham’s last game to see how many players they would be missing as a result of the World Cup and guess what? It ain’t many. They lost at home to Leicester in their last game and their team was Fabianski, Kehrer, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Paqueta, Benrahma, Bowen and Scamacca. From that list you’d look at Rice and Paqueta being the only question marks based on their World Cup exploits. The rest of that team will be pretty fresh.

Now let’s look at our team. Ramsdale hasn’t played so I think he’ll be fine. Tomiyasu at right back is an option if Saliba goes deep in the competition with France. He hasn’t played, so perhaps it is better from an Arsenal perspective if Saka comes home with England this weekend, but that will also mean that Rice has the same amount of recovery time too. It’s probably the same with Paqueta and Martinelli, who are in Brazil’s squad, so you’d probably say right now that apart from the Gabriel Jesus injury that has been a massive blow, the two teams might be evenly matched in terms of first team XI players being available. They might miss Paqueta and Rice, but that will mean we miss Saka and Martinelli. Both sets of players are some of the best for their respective clubs.

We hopefully have a back four of at least Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel and Zinchenko/KT, with Partey and Xhaka behind. So from a ‘who’s worse off’ perspective, it feels fairly evenly matched. Which is a relief. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t really looked at how the two sides could line up before today and so that fills me with a little more ease. I did wonder whether West Ham would have a distinct advantage with us missing players, but now that I’ve played that out in my head I feel a little better.

Of course our attacking threat is going to take a hit and when the onus is on us to win a game like West Ham at home, whereas theirs would be to pick up a point and be happy to get themselves back on the bus, perhaps there’s an argument to say that they have a slight advantage based on their objectives. But they will also lose an important screening and defensive player in Rice if England go deeper in to this competition. And I don’t think we can underestimate just how important he is for them. I think he’s their captain too.

If England do progress on Saturday then it means Saliba comes home and I don’t think we have to worry too much about him being ready for that game against the Hammers.  He’s hardly played, he’d of course have the disappointment of going out to contend with, but having not been as integral to the team you’d hope that it would be easier for him to get over and also he’d want to just get back to playing rather than being on the bench. If he’s fit, willing and able, he comes straight in to an Arsenal team that is five points clear at the top of the league. If ever there was a place to come back to and think “do you know what,  every cloud and all that…” it’d be the Arsenal camp right now.

So whilst there is still so many proverbial balls in the air regarding player returns from the World Cup, I’m choosing to see some of the positives in where we are at. We should have a functioning defensively and midfield line ready and raring to go – barring any more injuries – plus we will be playing an opponent on Boxing Day whose players will have had just as many of their important ones with just as little rest time as our important ones have had.

Something to noodle on this Wednesday morning.

Catch you all tomorrow.