After 17 days of World Cup football, we’re now staring down the barrel of two days off. When things resume four Gunners will be fighting it out for a place in the semi-finals.
Here’s how our lads got on in the last 16…
🇺🇸 Matt Turner
The USA’s run came to an end despite a spirited display against the Dutch who found Matt in fine fettle. The Arsenal keeper couldn’t do anything about the three goals he conceded but did make a fine double save to keep the score at 2-0 before the deficit was briefly reduced. After the game, former USMNT coach Bruce Arena said Turner had consolidated his credentials as a “very good goalkeeper” and should now leave Arsenal to find regular game time elsewhere. Alright, mate…he’s only just arrived. Jeez.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 360
No one is taking this experience for granted. pic.twitter.com/9HL07227Uv
— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) December 4, 2022
🏴 Bukayo Saka
A fine close-range dink over Edouard Mendy saw Bukayo seal a 3-0 win for England over Senegal. Gareth Southgate’s had to weather an early storm before Jude Bellingham took a grip on the midfield, first assisting Jordan Henderson and then springing the attack that led to ex-Gunner Harry Kane doubling the lead. The Three Lions coasted through the second half after Saka’s goal on 57 minutes. Our man has been so impressive that journalists have been comparing his impact to that made by Kylian Mbappe at Russia 2018. He was quick to park such talk. The two will go head-to-head in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 214
After scoring again last night, @BukayoSaka87 is chatting to the media at the #ThreeLions' training ground: https://t.co/VCjH0lFuAj
— England (@England) December 5, 2022
🏴 Aaron Ramsdale
He may not have played a single minute but every day he’s at the World Cup, Fifa have to pay Arsenal cash. So that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, Sheffield United are getting a cut of the £9,000 / day because FIFA state the cash must go to any club the player has represented in the last couple of years.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 0
🇫🇷 William Saliba
Big Willy was on the bench again as France eased past Poland with a 3-1 win. Olivier Giroud put the reigning champions ahead with a goal that saw him usurp Thierry Henry as Les Bleus’ all-time top scorer. After the break, Kylian Mbappe scored a stunning brace that we imagine Wojciech Szczesny was reaching for the Lucky Strikes in the shower.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 27
🇧🇷 Gabriel Martinelli
Brazil reaffirmed their status as tournament favourites with a breathtaking four-goal salvo as South Korea were blown away before half time. Vinicius Junior opened the scoring on 7 minutes, Neymar returned from injury to tuck home a penalty and Richarlison and Paqueta finished off very tidy moves. Our boy came on for the final 18 minutes by which point the game was being played at a snail’s pace.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 111
Quartas de final 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/NjSNzSZZC4
— Gabriel Martinelli (@gabimartinelli) December 5, 2022
🇯🇵 Takehiro Tomiyasu
Having arrived in Qatar struggling with injury, Japan’s last 16 tie with Croatia was the first time the Arsenal defender was fit enough to start a match. After going out on penalties, Tomi described his performance as “a disaster” and said he needs “time to forget about football”. Hopefully, some time on the beach gives him the headspace he needs before he joins up with Arsenal in Dubai.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 186
After the big win over Serbia and his ball-cupping antics, it felt like Granit had nothing left in the tank as Switzerland were absolutely battered by Portugal. Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo in the starting lineup and helped himself to a hat-trick, old boy Pepe netted a header and Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao competed for goal of the evening. Not good for Xhaka, but good for us. He needs a rest.
Total minutes played (exc. stoppage time): 360
Xhaka and his Swiss mates have ust been manhandled by Portugal!
In the one hand, I felt sorry for him; but then I am glad he is out without injury. It’s time to see how to collectively compensate for Jesus’ absence.
Wow that boy Gonçalo is the proper Giroud replacement we never had. Hope Edu watched that game. With Jesus out he’d slot right in – and would be a perfect complement to Jesus’ abilities going forward.
well he’s certainly got a bit more expensive within the last few hours…
The bright side of the World Cup for us so far is that our midfield duo have retained their fitness due to relatively early elimination. Jesus is the biggest worry. With him out we may be needing to look at business in the transfer window. Unless Eddie is deemed enough or Balogun can be recalled. There may be the option of Martinelli central if Smith Rowe is back in time, but for me he’s better on the left.
I think we need to either get Martinelli to do the work Jesus does up front and sign a winger(because it’s not really the goal contribution that we’ll miss) or buy someone who fits a similar profile of being an aggressive, physical, pressing workhorse up front even if it’s just a temporary fix. There’s no point in signing someone who isn’t going to hit the ground running. I hate panic buying and I’m not advocating for that but if ever there was a time for taking a few risks…it’s now!
The Mudryk links are almost certainly real and exciting. I just wonder if he’s more of a maverick like Grealish at Villa, and will need time to settle into Arteta-ball, the same way Grealish has struggled at City.
I’ve never been fully sold on the Mudryk hype. He’s a great dribbler and shooter. So was Pepe. Highlight reels of someone skinning people don’t always tell the full story. I’m cautious and also surprised we’re signing a left winger – where does that leave Martinelli and Smith Rowe? Does someone change position? Does Arteta see Martinelli becoming a 9? Has he decided Smith-Rowe can’t be relied upon? This might make sense as the “sprinkle of quality” signing but looking at the team surely highest priority is a striker/right winger and a central midfielder, not Mudryk.
Hoping that Saka and Martinelli stay fit. I want them both available for the first Prem match after the World Cup. Sure, they might be knackered if either make it to the final, but they are Arsenal players and we can’t challenge for top spot without them.
What has impressed me is that every Arsenal player given game minutes has been value added for their team. Other clubs have mixed results but I think all our lads have done themselves proud.