14 October 2015

What new devilry is this? Gunners dominate the international break...

It's become a bit of a tradition if not a curse for Gooners to see an international break as a mixed blessing; on one hand, the mix of friendlies, World Cup qualifiers, and Euro qualifiers can confirm the arrival of another Gunner cultivated from relative obscurity. Players who had long lingered on the fringes of their country's squads seem to get call-ups. On the other, our players suffer even more wear and tear in service to their countries. It's rare then that we can celebrate without reservation an international break marked by as much success and so few asterisks as the one that just came to a close. There's even a delicious dollop of schadenfreude waiting for those willing to plow through the folderol that follows...

Something is rotten in the state of DenmarkNetherlands...
First, the youngsters. Alex Iwobi earned his first international call-up for Nigeria, coming on in the 57th minute in an 0-2 friendly defeat to Congo, followed by a 79th minute appearance in the Super Eagle's 3-0 demolition of Cameroon in another friendly. He didn't score, but he got two caps. These performances come fresh on the heels of having signed a new long-term contract late last week.

Serge Gnabry reminded us all (perhaps even Piers Morgan) of his prowess, scoring for Germany's u21 squad after coming on at halftime against the Faroe Islands. He also impressed for the Germans' 4-0 win over Finland in a Euro Under-21 qualifier.

Calum Chambers and Chuba Akpom both played a full 90 in England's u21 3-0 win over Kazakhstan. Chuba marked his debut by scoring England's third goal

Joel Campbell (remember him?) played 90' in a 1-0 friendly loss to South Africa before stunning the U.S. by scoring the only goal in another friendly that has to have Jürgen Klinsmann more than a bit worried.

From them, we move to the first-teamers...

Héctor Bellerín played 90' in Spain's u21 1-1 Championship qualifier against Sweden and was an unused substitute against Georgia. By all accounts, he continued to impress, much as he has for Arsenal.

David Ospina kept a clean sheet in Colombia's 2-0 win over Peru in a World Cup qualifier, but Uruguay did put three past him to preserve its perfect start to World Cup qualifiying.

Despite suffering a groin-pull against Manchester United, Alexis scored in the 90th minute to close out Chile's 2-0 win over Brazil in World Cup qualifying, marking manager Jorge Sampaoli as persona non grata among Gooners. Alexis would go on to bag a brace and an assist in Chile's pulsating 4-2 win over Peru, also in World Cup qualifying.

Closer to home, Theo scored in England's 2-0 win over Estonia in a Euro 2016 qualifier but was an unused sub in a 3-0 win over Lithuania. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on in the 73rd minute against Estonia to little effect, but he did score the third in that 3-0 win. Kieran Gibbs (remember him?) played the full 90' against Lithuania.

Santi Cazorla bagged a brace in Spain's 4-0 win over Luxembourg but was an unused sub against Ukraine (Spain had won Group C after the Luxembourg result).

Mesut Özil had a goal disallowed in Germany's 1-0 loss to Germany but scintillated against Georgia, offering 10 key passes, including an assist and drawing a key penalty in a 2-1 win.

Speaking of scintillating, Olivier Giroud scored twice in a 2-1 friendly win over Denmark. Not bad.

Petr Čech helped Czech Republic to a 2-3 win in Amsterdam, finishing top of their Euro 2016 group. More on that result later...

Aaron Ramsey scored to lead Wales to victory over Andorra, capping a successful run to Euro 2016 qualifying despite losing on Saturday 0-2 to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

If you've read this far, you should notice two trends. One, a fair number of Gunners did well by their respective clubs, and that's due in some small part to their development under Arsène. Two, no one suffered any injuries. While it's possible that Alexis needs a rest, that's more Sampaoli's fault than Arsène's.

In the larger scheme of things, this was one interlull in which we could end up enjoying the performances of our lads, relaxing in the rests that Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, and Coquelin, among others, enjoyed while enjoying the performances of those above-named. If only every international break could go so smoothly...

I did mention schadenfreude. For those whose grudges last long, please do wallow a bit in the knowledge that a certain Robin van Persie notched an own-goal in the Netherlands' 2-3 loss to ten-man Czech Republic (Suchy having seen red just before half-time). Cake, meet icing.

While it might be a bit much to have our cake and eat it too, it's enticing indeed to wonder whether the confidence each of the aforementioned Gunners might enjoy going forward. We do have a trip to Vicarage Road on Saturday to face Watford. Can we buid on the successes of the last two weeks to climb to the top of the Prem (however briefly)?