From 10 involved to one left: William Saliba is the last man to feature for Arsenal at the World Cup.
As his club-mates returned to action from a 2-0 defeat against Juventus, Saliba, who has played just 27 minutes in Qatar, was preparing for the final against Argentina. Given the disease that has ravaged the French countryside, he may even get a late call.
Arsenal’s other nine players who went to Doha had varying degrees of success, but it is the injury to Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus that could have the biggest consequences.
The 25-year-old was injured in Brazil’s final group game against Cameroon and has undergone knee surgery. It is not yet clear how long the Manchester City summer signing, who has scored five Premier League goals and assisted the same number, will last. He has been instrumental in Arsenal’s strong start to the season, which puts them five points clear at the top of the table as the league resumes on Christmas Day.
Thomas Partey’s Ghana were knocked out in the group stage, while Matt Turner (USA), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan) went out in the round of 16.
Bukayo Saka, Aaron Ramsdale (England) and Gabriel Martinelli (Brazil) were the longest (before Saliba), reaching the quarter-finals. Benjamin White left the England team for personal reasons at the end of the group stage.
During summer tournaments, players usually take a three-week break before returning to training, but after this World Cup, it’s been reduced to just one.
This is how this winter World Cup has affected Mikel Arteta’s squad…
William Saliba – France
Make no mistake, Saliba is having the time of his life. The 21-year-old’s experience with the French national team has been a rite of passage.
Those 27 minutes on the field against Tunisia in the third group game matter because there is a form of self-justification in actually playing rather than being an unused squad member, but it’s the bigger picture of belonging to a group of ‘elite and closely linked. the biggest stage that has the deepest impact.
Central Saliba trains with Matteo Guendouzi and Antoine Griezmann ahead of the final (Photo: Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)
The French team, especially under Didier Deschamps, has certain built-in characteristics to prioritize how well a group can coexist. Saliba has become this. Perhaps a little reserved to begin with, he has become increasingly involved in the collective mood of respect, work ethic, camaraderie and fun that underlines the way the Bleus are expected to conduct themselves at a tournament .
What he has seen around him, and the example set by some of the more experienced players such as Olivier Giroud, Hugo Lloris and Antoine Griezmann, can only be positive in his development.
His confidence was already quite exceptional at Arsenal in the early part of the season. It will come back having absorbed so much to make it even stronger.
Aaron Ramsdale – England
The goalkeeper did not play in the World Cup for England, but that should be to his and Arsenal’s advantage. It’s been another tournament for Gareth Southgate’s side that will bode well for future international camps and tournaments, without pushing themselves too hard.
He returned to training during the week and then started the friendly against Juventus. It wasn’t the best preparation for the 24-year-old as he wasn’t busy with his hands or feet. Most of the game saw Arsenal play in Juventus’ half and the goals they conceded came from a deflected cross that went wide of Granit Xhaka and a last-minute shot that went wide of Rob Holding. Other than that, he had just one save the entire game.
Matt Turner — USA
The World Cup was positive for Turner. He played every game for the U.S. as they reached the round of 16 and seemed to grow in confidence as the tournament progressed. His shot-stopping has always been the best aspect of his game, but his distribution has improved with each game, which will encourage Arsenal if Ramsdale misses any games in the second half of the season.
The 28-year-old will return as Ramsdale’s replacement, but establishing himself more internationally can only help.
Turner impressed for the United States at the World Cup (Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Takehiro Tomiyasu – Japan
Like last season, the last few months have been about managing Tomiyasu. The 24-year-old went into World Cup selection with a hamstring injury and was consequently played in Qatar.
He came on as a substitute in the wins over Germany and Spain before playing the entire game in their penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia in the round of 16. He traveled to Dubai after Japan’s elimination without training, but Arteta is hopeful of his chances of returning to boxing. One day meeting with West Ham United.
“Alex (Zinchenko) is progressing well. Tomi is already running on the pitch. Hopefully we’ll get them back,” said the Arsenal manager.
Benjamin White -England
The white World Cup did not go as he would have hoped. When he was selected for the England squad, he was believed to have a good chance of playing, especially if the manager adopted a back three. As it happened, Gareth Southgate opted for a back four and White didn’t turn up at all. Also, he left the camp early for personal reasons.
The FA’s statement on White’s departure from the squad called for the player’s privacy to be respected. Although White had a falling out with England training camp Steve Holland, the main factors that contributed to White’s departure remain personal and private.
After a short break, White joined Arsenal’s winter training camp in Dubai. He quickly resumed training and played the first half of Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Milan in the Dubai Super Cup. The Arsenal staff made sure he was physically fit and played an hour of the defeat to Juventus.
“Everyone has given him a lot of support and love, which is what he needed,” Arteta said. “We’re excited to have him back and have him in really good shape.”
Having gone to two international tournaments without playing, Los Blancos will no doubt be relieved to be back in club football where he is a much-appreciated part of Arteta’s squad.
Granit Xhaka – Swiss
Of all the players at the World Cup, Xhaka was the most vocal about his plans. The 30-year-old was proud to reach the last 16 with Switzerland, but stated he would be traveling straight to Dubai from Qatar to start training with Arsenal.
“The Premier League is waiting and of course I wanted to be here longer than that,” he said after losing to Portugal. “But we lost the game today and I’m happy to be back with the team now.
“I have something to get over there…”
He trained individually in Dubai before joining the squad at London Colney and playing 63 minutes against Juventus. His influence was felt immediately, getting into the most advanced pockets of possession and winning duels to help Arsenal control the early exchanges.
His own goal (an attempted header) came when Arsenal were beginning to struggle, but his return will be crucial for Arsenal’s midfield.
Granit Xhaka celebrates Breel Embolo’s goal against Cameroon at the World Cup (Photo: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Thomas Partey – Ghana
Like White, Thomas Partey’s World Cup did not go as expected. Ghana’s elimination in the group stage meant he managed to return to Arteta’s starting eleven for the mid-season friendlies against AC Milan and Juventus.
The 29-year-old showed good form in his touches in the first half to get away from challenges and was able to combine well with White to give Arsenal time to breathe with the ball.
Bukayo Saka – England
Bukayo Saka was Arsenal’s star representative at the World Cup. What a surprise.
England’s top scorer at the tournament (three goals) and a constant threat down the right, he took what he has shown at the Emirates Stadium for years to the world stage and was outstanding against France in the quarter-finals.
Considering he played a much more instrumental role in his country’s progress, it’s understandable that the winger has a longer rest period.
Gabriel Martinelli – Brazil
Gabriel Martinelli also reached the quarter-finals, but only had a bit of a role for Brazil, so he should be renewed for Arsenal. The wides (Martinelli and Saka) have been key figures in Arsenal’s attack this season and are set to resume training next week.
“They immediately get back into the rhythm, shape and mood of the team,” Arteta said. “We are waiting for them and they are also desperate to return. I spoke to both of them, Gabi was here today (with) a big smile, lots of energy and ready to go again. It will be a big boost for the team.”
Gabriel Jesus – Brazil
Gabriel Jesus is the big long-term concern for Arsenal after the events in Qatar and there is still no timeline on when he will return from the knee injury he picked up with Brazil at the World Cup.
Like Martinelli, Jesus did not travel to Qatar as Brazil’s starting striker. He did not play in the first game against Serbia and came off the bench for the last 17 minutes against Switzerland. Jesus started the final group game against Cameroon, but was withdrawn after 64 minutes after picking up a knee injury.
Eddie Nketiah has stepped up as deputy, as expected. The forward showed he could be relied on for a stretch of games at the end of last season.
The 23-year-old scored in Arsenal’s first mid-season friendly against Lyon and continued to shine against AC Milan.
He had a goal disallowed against Juventus moments before hitting the post, but had a tough task against a team that sat back for most of the game.
(Top photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)