Could this weekend hold the key to Arsenal’s chances?

Arsene Wenger

The international break is hardly ever welcomed. It’s an exercise in something that doesn’t really matter. Sure, people stick on their patriotic hats and let loose all manner of monstrosities that bear the England flag, but deep down do any of them really care? Would they trade it for a weekend of Premier League football?

But ironically, this international break is welcome for Arsenal. Yes, there is always the risk that players will be lost to injury, but at the same time, there are players who are sidelined who will be that much closer to returning once the two-week break is over.

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Mikel Arteta will be closer to returning, and bar the forgettable opening day against Aston Villa, the team have coped well with Aaron Ramsey deputising for the Spaniard. Arteta will add further depth, but there will be questions as to whether he merits a place in the starting XI upon his return, such has been the form of Ramsey and the likelihood of wanting to get Jack Wilshere on the pitch.

Jose Mourinho has made the point that the focus is always on November and that pile up of fixtures, and that many are quick to look past the congested fixture list of September. There are international games, Champions League, League Cup, and, of course, Premier League games. Maybe it’s the spill over of the transfer window that forces us to forget. But in spite of that, it’s very difficult to categorically say that these two weeks will shape Arsenal’s season.

The depth isn’t great, whereas at Manchester United, they appear to have depth right across the board. Though what happens to that depth and its effectiveness if Robin van Persie picks up an injury? Doesn’t it go out the window? Who in that team can do what he does, without question? Depth is contrasting up and down the league, but every team is just one injury to an important player away from collapsing.

The cruelty of football also offers the possibility of injuries occurring after international duty and during the first domestic game back. We bemoan the needlessness of internationals, especially friendlies, and yet why is there little, or less questioning of the pile up of domestic games? Is it really necessary for this country to have a League Cup and FA Cup? None of the other three big leagues need it. But it’s driven by financial gain, and any of those could play as much a part in an injury as an international game.

The worry from an Arsenal perspective is that there isn’t very much going on in the reserves. Gedion Zelalem is still too far away from being considered anything above a League Cup player, and while Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld may have the talent, there are no guarantees that they’ll be good enough fill-ins for long spells at this time.

The other thing is that a lot is being made of Arsenal’s apparently disastrous backline. Ok, nothing big has changed, but did it really need major surgery? This is still the best defence in the league this calendar year, and in a way, the addition of Mathieu Flamini to act as an emergency full-back offers the centre-back addition that was needed via Bacary Sagna. When Thomas Vermaelen returns, there shouldn’t be too many pokes towards Arsenal’s “wafer thin” backline.

A lot is placed on the negative impact of internationals, but that probably just amplifies the general feeling about how ridiculously pointless they are. Anything can happen on international duty, but let’s not assume that the evils of football don’t take place during domestic meetings too.

Will this international break greatly impact Arsenal’s season?

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