Making the transition from World Cup content to Arsenal content, I would like to write about Arsenal’s players in Brazil. The Gunners sent nine players to Brazil for the World Cup. Three of those players got knocked out in the group, three exited in the quarterfinals and three come back to London as world champions. Here, I would like to assess each of those players individually. And for the record, I am not including new signing Alexis Sanchez in this list. And as far as Joel Campbell, I left him off this list as he has yet to train even once with the club. However, I’ve had extensive coverage about Campbell over the past month which you can search for if you want to see that. Here is a link one of those pieces.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England) – Having overcome injury concerns late in the season to make the final roster for Brazil, the Ox was terribly unlucky to pick up another injury in England’s final preparation friendlies. The hope was that he’d make it back in time for the final group game, but by then, England was already out, and Oxlade-Chamberlain never saw the field. It was a huge blow to the youngster, but one that might ultimately be beneficial. The added rest will hopefully mean he’s fit and firing by the opener, and he shouldn’t have to miss much of preseason. With other players in his position coming back from extended breaks and injuries, the Ox should be in line to start a few games early on, giving him a chance to show his continued development.
Jack Wilshere (England) – Wilshere was a frustrated figure for England in Brazil. He came off the bench to mild success in the opening loss to Italy, was an unused substitute against Uruguay, and started the meaningless game against Costa Rica. At times it looked as if Wilshere felt sorry for himself, but mostly it looked like he thought he should be the first name on the teamsheet. That was seen as confidence a year or two ago, but with mixed results lately, it looks a lot more like arrogance. As the young midfielder might be looking at a lot of time on the bench this year, he’ll need to channel all of those negative feelings into making himself better. Going out and smoking cigarettes on his holiday isn’t a good way to show everyone that he’s working hard.
Santi Cazorla (Spain) – While Spain was generally terrible in Brazil, Cazorla looked one of their better players when he was on the field in the final two games. He created a number of chances, and he was one of the few Spaniards to show any sort of urgency when they were down against Chile. Arsenal would seem to benefit from Spain’s exit, as Cazorla could be ready for preseason. And as he gets older, more rest can only be a good thing for the veteran midfielder. It’ll be nice to have him fit for the Crystal Palace game. And as he’s already won a European Championship, Cazorla still carries the winner’s mentality.
Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium) – This was a thoroughly disappointing World Cup for the Arsenal captain. Even though his team made the quarterfinals, he made only one start, and had to come off with an injury. A year away from the first team at Arsenal saw him lose his place with the national team, and he had to watch his team struggle all tournament. This World Cup disaster will surely cause Vermaelen to reconsider his future as a Gunner. I expect him to leave the club by the end of the window.
Laurent Koscielny (France) – The Arsenal center back surely would have wanted to start for his country, and he will be massively disappointed in his place on the bench for much of the tournament. Especially against Germany, when he could have been on the field against a few of his Arsenal teammates, he was quite unlucky to have been on the bench. I certainly feel he’s better than Mamadou Sakho, so it made little sense to me. Being a defender, he won’t need much of a preseason to be ready, so there shouldn’t be too much of a worry there. But overall, Koscielny won’t look back on this World Cup with particular fondness.
Olivier Giroud (France) – Giroud’s World Cup was a mixed bag. In the group stage, he played his way into the lineup with a series of impressive displays alongside Karim Benzema. Against Switzerland, the big frontman grabbed an assist and a goal. But when France took on Germany in the quarterfinal, Giroud was back to the bench. From an Arsenal standpoint, it would have been nice to have seen him score a big goal in the knockout round, but alas, he once again failed to make much of an impact against the very best teams. However, Giroud did force his way into a very talented team for a few games, and that should be good for his confidence going forward.
Lukas Podolski (Germany) – While Podolski didn’t see much of the field, totaling zero minutes in the knockout round, he leaves Brazil a world champion. And watching him on the field in the postgame celebrations, you could see how much it meant to him. Although he didn’t play a whole lot, this summer should still do wonders for his confidence. Nobody can take away the fact that he is a world champion footballer. And hopefully he was playing up Arsenal to Sami Khedira for the last month. While he’ll miss much of preseason, Arsenal should be able to deal with his absence until he’s fit.
Per Mertesacker (Germany) – The big German center back started for much of the tournament, but lost his place in the final three games when Germany moved Philipp Lahm to right back. However, that decision was not a reflection on Mertesacker’s play. He was solid in the back, and represented Arsenal well with every header won. And of course, he comes back to the club a World Cup champion. He is already held in a high status in the dressing room and this should only further that reputation. I expect a fully fit Mertesacker to be ready for the opener, and he’ll be in a great mental state going in to the new campaign.
Mesut Özil (Germany) – Arsenal’s record signing received a ton of flak throughout the tournament for a perceived lack of effort. Compared to Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and many of his other world-beating teammates, his work rate wasn’t the best. However, despite being pushed out wide, Özil did play a lot of telling balls in the final third, and was unlucky only to garner a single goal and an assist. And he played his best game in the final, which should do wonders for his confidence. Being a World Cup winner could do more for Özil than anyone else, as he should now be of the mindset that he can be among the very best. Hopefully this means we will see Özil live up to his potential. While the Arsenal playmaker will miss much of preseason, this World Cup should do wonders for him for next season.