Ah, the international break. Just as we were all starting to love football again, it has to be curtailed by pointless fixtures which match-up completely different-level sides. That’s what I usually think anyway. This break, however, could have a huge positive impact on Arsenal’s season, and be instrumental in returning the club to the top four. In this article, I will be outlining three reasons that Arsenal fans should actually be looking forward to this international break, and how it will help our season going forward.
Big names rested
In years gone by, the international break has not been kind to Arsenal in terms of injuries. Far too often, key men such as Alexis Sanchez or Olivier Giroud have left for duty and returned injured. On this occasion though, Arsenal fans can rest easier. Key players Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are remaining at the club (the latter inexplicably overlooked by Didier Deschamps for the France squad), whilst Mesut Ozil has retired from international obligations.
This means that they will be remaining at London Colney for the duration of the break. It also means that they will be raring to go for the next club fixture. Add to this the fact that Nicolas Pepe has returned from International duty with the Ivory Coast early in order to continue to gel with his new team-mates, and the international break is starting to look more like a blessing than a curse.
Shoring up the defence
The first four games of the season have not really taught Arsenal fans anything that they didn’t know already. The attack is world-class, the defence non-league standard. Even without traditional scapegoat Shkodran Mustafi, far too many individual errors have cost Arsenal dearly, specifically against Liverpool and Tottenham.
The good news for Arsenal fans is that the defence will soon be immeasurably strengthened by the return from injury of full-backs Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney. Perhaps more importantly, centre-half Rob Holding is set to return after the international break also, giving Emery far more options to call upon to strengthen his defence. Rob is perhaps the only centre-back at the club who is not consistently error-prone and showed glimpses of huge promise before his injury last season.
Both he and Tierney have played 90 minutes for the U23’s and look set to return imminently, with Bellerin maybe a couple of weeks away from joining them. All three provide major upgrades on Arsenal’s suspect defence, which is all that is really holding the side back from cementing a top-four spot. David Luiz and Sokratis are too similar to be played together, both very impulsive. A level-headed Holding could easily hold down a place in Emery’s side. For all three returning players, the international break could not have come at a better time, and their return to full-fitness benefits the Arsenal side.
Unai Emery’s vision
I have, on many occasions, questioned what Unai Emery‘s “vision” for the club and the current Arsenal side is. Even at the end of last season, I could not see it. Emery has now had three transfer windows to build his side, and with the number of players remaining at the club during this break, there is a real opportunity for him to implement his tactical ideology without match preparation curtailing it.
As the image above shows, very few first-team players are missing, and hence Unai can really use this time to work closely with his side. As a result of this, new signings Nicolas Pepe and Kieran Tierney will be able to gel with their new team-mates as well as working towards full fitness. All of this is a huge positive for Arsenal.
In short then, Arsenal fans should enjoy this international break more than most as it gives new players a chance to acclimatise to the club, our defence a chance to return to full strength, and the manager an opportunity to continue implementing his ethos onto the side. Whilst other top four challenging sides such as Tottenham or Chelsea are losing their star players to their national sides, Arsenal have been fortunate enough to be able to keep their powder dry, which may come in handy later in the season. All-in-all, the future looks positive for Arsenal.