Another international break is set to be consigned to the history books and the next time there’s a pause in the domestic season, it will be for the 2022 World Cup.
Due to intense heat in host nation Qatar around summertime, there has been a change to the usual June-July slot for football’s biggest tournament as it will instead get underway on November 20. And in a few weeks, national team managers will start announcing their squads which can contain a maximum of 26 players.
With October promising to be a busy month for Arsenal and teams competing in European competitions this season, whilst there are concerns about the volume of fixtures to negotiate, on the other hand, it could benefit those on the periphery of their national teams as there’s a chance to earn a late call-up.
But what is the state of play regarding the Gunners’ senior players? Who are the near certainties to be on the plane to Qatar? Which players still have work to do to earn a call-up and who will be watching the tournament unfold from home? Well, football.london takes a look at Arsenal’s World Cup state of play with seven weeks until it all begins.
As things stand, five senior Arsenal players are confirmed to be missing the 2022 World Cup. This includes young goalkeeper Karl Hein, Kieran Tierney, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Martin Odegaard and Mohamed Elneny simply because Estonia, Scotland, Ukraine, Norway and Egypt respectively all failed to qualify.
Meanwhile, considering Rob Holding is a long way down the pecking order with England, Reiss Nelson not being called up for the UEFA Nations League double-header and Emile Smith Rowe struggling with injury, it’s safe to say the trio won’t be part of Gareth Southgate’s plans.
The same applies to Eddie Nketiah. In fact, his best chance of being involved was by switching his international allegiance to Ghana after representing England at various youth levels. Meanwhile, this tournament probably comes too soon for £3million summer signing Marquinhos who has the likes of Neymar and Vinicius Junior ahead of him with Brazil.
Provided they are fit, it’s safe to assume Matt Turner, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka will all be on the plane to Qatar with USA, Japan, Ghana, England and Switzerland respectively and there’s a good chance they’ll feature heavily throughout the tournament.
Further Arsenal representation at the World Cup could arrive in the shape of Aaron Ramsdale as one of three goalkeeping options for England, William Saliba – despite Didier Deschamps’ comments regarding experience – and Gabriel Jesus who was a surprise omission from the Brazil squad in the international break.
However, there is a scenario where Gabriel Magalhaes and Gabriel Martinelli are left sweating over their spots due to the strength in depth A Selecao have in defence and in attack. But given the Arsenal pair have been regularly called up by Tite since the turn of the year could work in their favour.
Hopeful – but unlikely
Ben White’s omission from the England squad was a huge talking point from the international break given how well he has started the season – albeit playing at right-back. But all hope is not gone as the defender was a late addition to the Euro 2020 squad following an injury to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and he may need a similar situation this time around.
A lack of game time looks set to harm Cedric Soares’ chance of being included in the Portugal squad but the fact his last call-up was as recently as March may suggest he has a glimmer of hope. Compatriot Fabio Vieira is a regular for the U21s and would probably need to score 10 goals and provide 10 assists to earn a late call-up to the seniors.
Albert Sambi Lokonga was left out of Belgium’s most recent squad which could be an indication that this tournament may have come too early in his career. Although, if he can get more minutes under his belt in the next six weeks, then it could force Roberto Martinez into a U-turn.
Ivory Coast and Iceland’s failure to qualify means Nicolas Pepe and Runar Alex Runarsson are two more senior Arsenal players – taking the total to seven – confirmed to miss the World Cup whilst it’s effectively a guarantee that Arthur Okonkwo, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Folarin Balogun and Pablo Mari won’t be called up by England and Spain respectively.
Nuno Tavares is easily the standout player from this season’s Arsenal loan army and is perhaps a potential wildcard option for Portugal if he continues to impress for Marseille. What does go against the 22-year-old is that he has the likes of Nuno Mendes, Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro ahead of him in the left-back pecking order.