Have they survived?

Posted by Sam Limbert

I can finally drag myself out from behind the sofa. Not because the latest Doctor Who episode is over, or because Andy Murray managed to serve out the final set against Novak Djokovic at Flushing Meadows, but because the international break is over and, generally, it seems that the Arsenal players have survived.

Part of me is saddened that I don't get excited by international football during the season, especially after the epic British summer of sport where I found myself caught up in the Team GB whirlwind. However the mediocre showing from England against Ukraine just highlighted how international football's reputation in the UK has taken a hit in light of the successes of other sports this summer. I admire people that have the same passion for these qualifying matches as they have for major summer tournaments, but personally I feel that they disrupt the flow of the club season and serve as a way of Arsenal players getting injured.

In theory, there is no reason to say that players are more likely to get injured playing for their countries than when playing for Arsenal, however there's an uneasy feeling of not being responsible for them when the players jet off around the world. We've suffered badly from injuries in international breaks before, but it seems we have got away without any nasty ones this time around.

The only real concern is, unsurprisingly, about Abou Diaby. After I wrote about him last week, it was inevitable that he'd get injured. He played well and scored for France on Friday, but missed out last night with a slight muscle strain. The reports suggest it isn't a serious injury, but it may keep Diaby out of Saturday's match with Southampton. Given the start he's made to the season, if it is a minor problem, we have to err on the side of caution with the Frenchman. A minor problem can easily become a major one for him, so having a week and a half off before the Montpellier match shouldn't do him any harm.

The bigger concern for us should be about who replaces Diaby for Saturday's match. When all of our midfielders are fit, we have some great options, but with Wilshere and Rosicky still unavailable, we look slightly lightweight without Diaby. Aaron Ramsey could come into the team, but he struggled for Wales as they lost 2-0 and 6-1 during the international break. I watched their match with Belgium, and thought Ramsey was trying to play expansive passes too often. He's under pressure in the Welsh team to be their creative force, but against a strong Belgian midfield, he couldn't impose himself on the match. Francis Coquelin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the other options, although the Ox could be needed out wide should Theo Walcott not recover from the illness that kept him out of England's match with Ukraine.

Along with Ramsey, only Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou played two full matches during the international break, so our squad shouldn't dramatically suffer. If anything, the majority should be refreshed ahead of an important period of the season with matches in midweek as well as weekends. Southampton may not have picked up points yet, but they have given Manchester City and Manchester United significant scares this season. The Champions League then begins, with big games with Manchester City and Chelsea following quickly afterwards.

We saw at the start of last season, with the extra Champions League qualifiers as well as international matches, that some players can suffer early on in a campaign. After emerging from behind the sofa after the latest batch of international games, we can relax that this time around, the team look in decent shape. However we only have to wait a month for another international week of fear and worry.

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