Monday, 12 March 2018

Five Arsenal players to watch out for at the World Cup this summer

not quite an annus horribilis for Arsenal to date, there is no question that massive pressure rests on the shoulders of Arsene Wenger. For a team, under his tutelage, that has played with such freedom in the past, Arsenal are now being criticised heavily for not just their lack of progress, but their style of play.
When a difficult season does draw to an end, it may well be something of a release for the Arsenal players. And for some, it will be a quick transition into the international set-up, as preparations begin for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Like a coterie of Premier League clubs, Arsenal will be well represented. From Alexandre Lacazette to David Ospina, Wenger will have plenty of current Arsenal players on view when he takes in this summer’s tournament. Whether in doing so he is still the manager of the North London side, remains to be seen.

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE
Didier Deschamps has a plethora of options when it comes to who will lead the line for France this summer. Apart from the Arsenal striker who was signed by Wenger last summer for a club record £46.5M from Lyon, Deschamps can also call on Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappé.
France may well be worth backing in Russia with a free bet available through Oddschecker, with SkyBet offering a bet £10 get £40 deal. But a lot will depend on the end product offered by Lacazette and his cohorts. As they discovered in a 0-0 draw with Luxembourg in Paris last September, despite their wealth of talent, goals don’t always come easily in spite of the fluid look to the team.
Lacazette will be looking to turn that perception on its head. An opening game against Australia will be seen as a good opportunity for the Arsenal striker and his compatriots to illustrate their attacking prowess.

DAVID OSPINA
The Colombian goalkeeper may play second fiddle to Petr Cech at club level, but for his country, the former Nice player is not just the most capped ‘keeper in his country’s history he was pivotal in Colombia’s qualification for Russia.
A shot-stopper of some regard, fused with agility, Ospina should be the solid base on which Colombia build their defensive foundations. A group with Japan, Poland and Senegal, on the surface may not seem like a taxing way to open affairs for José Pekerman’s side. But with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane in attack for Senegal and Shinji Okazaki of Leicester leading Japan’s cause, Ospina will need to be at his sharpest to ensure progression.
With the winners and runners-up of Colombia’s group tied in with England’s group in the second round, a meeting with familiar opposition could happen early on. For Ospina though, his focus will be on continuing on in the same fine form he showed in qualifying.

MESUT OZIL
A semi-final defeat to France in Marseille was not how Germany expected their run in the 2016 European Championships to end. For all the signs of grace in that game, Mesut Ozil could do nothing to stem the French momentum that carried them into the semi-finals. Germany had dominated in the first half, but for all of Ozil’s deft movements and adroit passing, Joachim Low’s side didn’t capitalise.
Ozil fell to the ground on the final whistle that evening and will be looking to make amends in Russia. South Korea will be organised and hard-working, as will Sweden, who showed that and more in their elimination of Italy in their play-off games. In Mexico, who have a coach in Juan Carlos Osorio in whom there is minimal public confidence.
If Germany mistake Mexico’s low expectations in their opening game as a likely three points, they will be dismissing some of the inherent talent in the side. Ozil has seen it all before and will need to be focused and consistent throughout in Russia. At his most attentive and alert, he is a world-beater. But he needs to reach those levels of performance and consistency to help his country retain their title.

GRANIT XHAKA
The Swiss international has been to the fore on many an occasion this season when criticism of Arsenal players has been dished out. In Russia though, Vladimir Petkovic’s side will be looking to the 25-year-old midfielder to be the driving force in midfield.
In a group that contains Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia, combative performances in midfield will be at the epicentre of the possibility of progress in the tournament. In the right environment, Xhaka can flourish and his range of passing will be essential in unlocking defences. With Xherdan Shaqiri and the ever attacking full-back Stephan Lichsteiner in tandem, the Swiss can be intense in attack. For Xhaka though, he will need to be on top of both sides of his game to shine in Russia.

MOHAMED ELNENY
Egypt have qualified for their first World Cup since their underwhelming performance in Italy in 1990. Managed by Hector Cuper, Egypt travel in expectation rather than hope alone, on the basis of a fine showing in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Having lost 2-1 to Cameroon in the 2017 final, it spurred The Pharaohs on to a qualification campaign that culminated in Mo Salah’s penalty ensuring their path to Russia was clear in a 2-1 defeat of Congo.
Mohamed Elneny is the first Egyptian to ever play for Arsenal. A controlled defensive midfielder who has a tidy passing game, his defensive contributions and intelligent use of the ball will be essential if Egypt are to progress from a group also containing Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

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