Many football fans went into Tuesday night with the prospect of Messi and Ronaldo not being a part of the 2018 World Cup. A realistic one (although im sure FIFA would have found some sort of loop hole to make sure they went to Russia). To the relief of sponsors and Vladimir Putin himself, the two undisputed best players on the planet got their teams over the line, to a sigh of relief from many.
In the end, perhaps the most high profile name to fail to qualify was Arsenal’s own Alexis Sanchez, giving him yet further reason to be depressed this season. Arsene Wenger would normally be cautious anyway regarding an individual who in the last two weeks has flown half way round the world to feature in two games. The idea that the Chilean would be professional enough to, in a matter of days, get over his country’s failure for the sake of a club he doesn’t want to be at contradicts what we have seen since the summer.
Like Sanchez, Ramsey has spent the last few days not just coming to terms with having a free summer next year but being made the scapegoat for Wales’ defeat to the Republic of Ireland, something which often happens at the Emirates. In international break where normally our manager bases team selection on what day players return from various continents and how fit they are, he may have to factor in their mindsets into his thinking as well.
Not that of course we are in a position to mollycoddle anyone. Watford away is not an ideal game to be talking about resting some of our first team stars. The Hornets are only a point below us and on a day where we can either make ground on Man United or open a gap between ourselves and Liverpool, we will lose if we show complacency on Saturday evening.
Bear in mind Mustafi and Kolasinac picked up knocks this week at a time when Koscielny, Ozil and Welbeck are trying to find match fitness. It was seen as a positive that those three could have a couple of weeks in London to recuperate instead of flying to different parts of the globe (although it’s unlikely all three would start). Remember Mertesacker and Cech are long retired from international football while Bellerin and Holding were not called up to their senior sides. So there are alternatives if our manager wanted to base his line up on those who have had a rest.
Perhaps this is the moment for Jack Wilshire to start in the Premiership if Ramsey needs more time to shake his Cardiff misery. As crazy as it sounds Wilshire is only a couple of good performances away from being right back in Gareth Southgate’s plans, with his prospects helped by England boring us to death in the last fortnight.
If Sanchez is indeed on the bench then Walcott might argue that he is fresher then our other attacking options. However while some players might not play due to their personal disappointments others might jump the pecking order because of it. We remain in this bizarre situation where Oliver Giroud is preferred to Lacazette by Deschamp, with our record signing still 4th choice striker for France. Could this be the time for both to make a claim for a permanent partnership?
After Chile’s drubbing to Brazil it seems this weekend we will be given yet another reason that despite being in the middle of October Sanchez and Ozil still together haven’t linked up with our 45 million pound striker. That’s a crazy statistic and surely wasn’t the plan back in July?