There was concern among many clubs, especially among Arsenal fans, in how much having a World Cup bang in the middle of a season would impact on domestic campaigns.
Would it disrupt momentum?
Will players come back impacted physically and mentally?
The likes of Jürgen Klopp are actually not correct when they complain about the hectic schedule.
Premiership players playing every few days in Qatar would only have been doing exactly the same in England.
If anything, it’s allowed those that are not on international duty to get a mini break they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
What have some sides done with that break?
Chosen to play friendlies around the world.?
I’m sure Arsenal facing Lyon and AC Milan in Dubai is to help fitness and nothing to do with commercial revenue?
Arsenal have been unlucky regarding Jesus’ injury but that could have happened just as much in the Premier League.
Not many Gunners who have exited the World Cup have done so in a manner where emotionally you would worry about there being a knock of effect, carrying over to our League fixtures?
Xhaka, Turner and Partey didn’t disgrace themselves, Martinelli, Ramsdale, White and Tomiyasu didn’t play enough to be judged either way, while Saliba might still yet return to North London a World Champion.
There is one player though who’s experience In the last month could yet benefit the Gunners and help our title bid… in the form of Bukayo Saka.
Saka hasn’t faced any turmoil like Harry Kane missing a penalty, where Spurs might wonder if their captain will be in the right frame of mind for Boxing Day?
He hasn’t had to deal with criticism from the media like KDB.
The opposite, Saka’s reputation has only increased thanks to his time away with the Three Lions.
Next to Jude Bellingham you could argue the 21-year-old was Southgate’s best player?
He played with a smile on his face and was fearless against France, constantly taking on his man.
English men and women of a certain age won’t take that for granted. For decades England have struggled to see their talent play at the same level they do for their club.
We have seen famous names crippled by the shirt, weighted down by a fear of failure.
Here was an England player going toe to toe with the World Champions.
Saka’s presence on social media shows how laid back he has been about the occasion. More concerned at beating his teammates at spelling then doubting himself.
Some have made a big deal about him being subbed on Saturday, but I can understand, regarding the options his manager has, why you would try a fresh Jack Grealish and Sterling.
I would rather focus on the names Saka is keeping out and consider the consistency he has to maintain in order to do so.
He’s been just as good, if not better, in the last month, than at any point this season, with his end product and decision making was more clinical.
What’s exciting is that he’s at an age where he’s only going to get better. With the intelligence to avoid the pitfalls that impact other youngsters, we may only be getting a glimpse of how good Saka could be.
That’s why we need to do something about his contract because the whole world would have noticed him now.
As things stand rivals know that, come the summer, they can offer a take it or leave it cut price fee or wait for the player to become a free agent 12 months later.
We were promised players wouldn’t hold us to ransom once they entered the last 24 months of their contract
If Arsenal fail to tie down their best assets to long term deals this ‘process’ will just be the same as before.
In the short term though, Saka may have caught fire at the perfect time, which could decide how much our title bid is genuine, and if we can last the distance.
I can’t imagine him asking Arteta for a rest. Instead, I assume he will be excited to play during the festive period, wanting to increase our gap over Man City.
Saka went to the Qatar World Cup and stole the show, captured imaginations, and won new hearts.
No, he didn’t lift the World Cup and the manner of that defeat to France will be hard to shrug off.
You sense for England and Saka though; we might look back on the tournament as the start of something.
That he can’t wait to start the process for Euro 2024 and that he reckons that’s his to win.
Saka returns to Arsenal, wiser, better, hungrier …….all grown up
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Mikel Arteta discusses our improving youngsters, Ben White, Xhaka and returning World Cup players and, of course, the transfer window
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