Oh dear Jesus, we need you to save us
And so we are nearly there. Most likely France vs Argentina and no Arsenal player gets to play this time in the final. Only one of our boys involved in all the four teams left in William Saliba and he doesn’t look likely to play any part in it. I think it is fair to say that it is not a great World Cup for Arsenal. Saka and Xhaka were probably their team’s best players. Turner did great for the States and has come out with his reputation enhanced, surely? Partey was good but Ghana were not so great.
Our star star boy
Jesus gave us a big setback and here in the Arsenal supporters club there was awful despondency with his exit. Martinelli showed glimpses of his talent but some Brazilians seemed reluctant to give him the ball, seemingly down to rivalry. Once I saw that I got a feeling Brazil would go out. I predicted to several friends that Croatia will give them a hard game and probably win to general scorn from them being convinced it would be a many goal victory for the Samba boys. You need a united team to win a World Cup and, I reckon that Tite felt he no longer had full control and that is why he exited sharply. A manager knows that all players must go through fire for each other despite any personal differences. Brazil, with the most talented squad in the competition, obviously allowed egos to dominate and Tite couldn’t stamp it out. No manager can perform miracles if the players refuse to listen. Brazil deserved to go out.
Saka the great, Southgate not so
Saka has made excellent strides into cementing his place among the elite players of his generation with most observers putting him at the top of England’s players. I have doubts about Bellingham despite the noise being created about him. He did it against weaker teams. Against France he was anonymous. Southgate is still lauded by England but I have reservations about him. Klopp, I feel is right. He lets the media pick his team. Everyone screamed Foden, he played him. The pundits were saying Bellingham was the greatest midfielder in the world, so he played him. Kalvin Philips played very well whenever picked and I think he was the better option against the French. Bellingham is playing in a Dortmund side that has lost six in fifteen in the Bundesliga, and that league is not as competitive as the Premier league. He may well fulfill his potential but he needs time.
Gareth Southgate - does the media pick his beard?
The thing is, Southgate, Ben White apart, seems to have the support of his team. He didn’t have to pander to the media. He could have played what he sees as his best team and would have been supported. Bring Bellingham on if he needed to freshen things up. And don’t take off your most effective player when you were still in with a chance of winning the World Cup. Southgate has been very lucky as a manager, mostly getting weaker teams at major championships and that conflates to a heightening of his reputation. I don’t accept him as a good manager. The Ben White situation is an example of why I feel Southgate is overrated. White has not attracted a reputation of being difficult at anywhere he has been, and a player being sent home, or going home voluntarily from a major championship is an extremely rare occurrence. That is down to Southgate, I feel.
Jude Bellingham - not the finished product yet
Egos are in charge
The contrast with Tite, who is dealing with almighty egos in the Brazilian dressing room, is stark. One example is that our own Unai Emery, when coach at PSG, famously said that Neymar is in charge. Players should never be and as Tite picked Martinelli, the players needed to work with him. Tite believed in him as he played him, but other players decided differently. Those players should never be allowed compete for Brazil again unless they accept the manager is in charge.
Tite was given an impossible job
And what does it all mean for Arsenal? Bring Balogun or Pepe back as backup for Jesus? Can Nketiah step up? Eddie has been training with Jesus and reports suggest that it has improved his game. England’s under 21 all time top scorer, if he reproduces that form, could make it difficult for Jesus to get back in. That is the most optimistic scenario. He does seem a more effective goalscorer than Jesus but Jesus brings an enhanced element of threat with his all round game which has translated into many wins for us. There are rumours of strikers being bought but there always is.
Arsenal should be ready
Turner and Karl Hein have shown they can truly challenge Ramsdale. That has to be good for our season. Ben White’s difficulty could mean he has a mental challenge to overcome but I feel the Arsenal family will rally around him. Saliba should be fresh unless he gets picked for the last (possible) 2 games but that is unlikely. Centrebacks rarely get subbed. Xhaka and Partey, so essential to our side, look fit and well. Martinelli will be raring to go as always. It could be worse.
Olivier just keeps getting better
I predicted France at the start in a previous blog and still feel happy. They have a strong defensive structure and that is essential. Their midfielders and forwards are top class and they surely will stop the Morocco dreadnought that has lit up this World Cup. Morocco have done it without kicking and cheating to anywhere near the extent of other teams ( I am looking at you Argentina) but France will probably be too gamewise to let it slip.
A sporting World Cup?
Argentina have always been thugs without any class and this World cup is no different. Football is a sport and, as such sporting attitudes should prevail. I hope they lose against Croatia. I think that Croatia will more likely lose, though. Argentina will find a way to win. If Croatia does win, even though I have predicted France, I would love to see Morocco go through. I think that only France can stop an unsporting Argentinian team from winning the World Cup, however. Contrast several French players consoling the England ones and the Argentinians sneering at the Dutch. This has been a pretty sporting World Cup, Argentina aside.
I still like Emi
I will finish with a little tiny bit of praise for myself as a forecaster. So far, since I started predicting what we will do in tournaments, I have done pretty well, generally getting to within 3 points of our eventual tally. And I hope I have got this World Cup right. I will do my next prediction next week and as usual, give you all our scores in advance. That part is a bit of fun, but I do get a lot of results right, if not always the scores. Maybe I should start betting, this Arsenal team still look like a good bet to me.