Arsenal: How did the Gunners fare at the World Cup?

As the World Cup slowly draws to a close, RealSport look at how the Gunners fared on international duty.

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REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

After a relatively grim season for Arsenal which saw them stoop to their lowest Premier League finish in 23 years and brought to an end the longest ever tenure of a British football manager, the World Cup would have represented a welcome release from the mundanity of Europa League for their weary-eyed players.

But even those hopes hit an early stumbling block when, in early June, it was confirmed that Russia 2018 would be the first major tournament for 22 years in which the French national side would not have a single Arsenal player named in their 23-man squad.

Perhaps this was a fitting end to an era. The Gunners have a long and deep association with France, coinciding with Arsene Wenger’s long-lasting stewardship in which he bought some of the best starlets Ligue 1 could offer to British shores.

It now appears, the north-Londoners stock is coming from further afield than merely across the English Channel (maybe not all that much further) but let us take a look at how those picked to serve their respective countries fared in Russia.

David Ospina (Colombia) 

REUTERS/John Sibley

Five appearances (480 minutes total)

Made an important save against Japan to keep the score 1-1 but ultimately poor defending and an extra man ensured Japan got a winner through no fault of Ospina’s. His side were reduced to ten men after just three minutes when Carlos Sanchez deliberately hand-balled to prevent a goal scoring opportunity.

The keeper was resolute in the 3-0 win over Poland. As ever with goalies, confidence is key and he demonstrated it in abundance when darting quickly off his line to deny Robert Lewandowski an equaliser with the score at 1-0 after centre-back pairing (Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina) were caught out with a long ball. Made an acrobatic save from Lewandowski again at 3-0 to ensure no nervy ending.

Fortunate that he didn’t have to face an early penalty after Sanchez’s foul on Mane was overturned by VAR in the narrow 1-0 win over Senegal. Made a vital save towards the end strong-arming M’Baye Niang’s shot but not troubled beyond that.

In the 1-1 draw with England, poor positioning for a cross nearly allowed Harry Kane a simple header but the striker couldn’t hit the target. Made a remarkable penalty save from Jordan Henderson to give Colombia a 3-2 advantage in the shoot-out despite the Englishman having already converted one against the keeper for Liverpool in 2015.

Overall rating: 8/10

Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Five appearances (450 minutes total)

Relatively absent in 1-1 draw with Brazil, caught ball watching as Philippe Coutinho hit a long-range beauty.

Played a pivotal role in 2-1 win over bitter rivals Serbia, scoring the equaliser shortly after half time which reignited Swiss hopes. It was a classic Xhaka goal; a stinging left-footed shot from outside the box, curling away from the keeper and bulging the net. Caused controversy for his celebration which exacerbated political tension between Serbia and Xhaka’s ethnic Kosovo. Faced no disciplinary charges from Fifa.

Allowed Emil Forsberg to shoot too easily and the ball went in via a deflection from a Swiss defender. Lost 1-0.

The midfielder played every minute of his countries World Cup campaign.

Overall rating: 8/10

Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland)

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Three appearances (267 minutes total)

Showed the best of his attacking aptitude in the 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, dribbling forward then finding a yard of space and swinging in a dangerous cross to the back post. One resulted in a knock-down by team-mate Breel Embolo into the path of Blerim Dzemaili who fired it home to put Switzerland in front.

However, the 34-year-old also demonstrated his worst trait – ill-discipline – as he picked up his tenth yellow card of the season (club and country) and his second of the tournament, therefore making him unavailable for his nations Round of 16 tie with Sweden.

Overall rating: 7/10

Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)

REUTERS/Darren Staples

Three appearances (244 minutes total) 

Beaten to a header by Jose Gimenez in 1-0 defeat to Uruguay which the defender nodded into the net to score the games only goal.

Failed to track his man effectively in the 3-1 defeat by Russia and left it too late to put in a block to prevent the hosts’ second goal.

Overall rating: 5/10

Joel Campbell (Costa Rica)

REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Two appearances (113 minutes total)

Put in a man of the match performance in the thrilling 2-2 draw with Switzerland causing Swiss defenders constant problems with complex link-up play in-between the lines. Also tested Yann Sommer multiple times with long shots that the keeper could only parry into more danger.

Won the penalty that led to their equaliser (and thus his teams one and only point of the tournament). Using his pace to exploit space down the left, he did well to stay strong and keep possession into the opposition penalty area where he was eventually fouled.

Overall rating: 8/10

Mesut Ozil (Germany)

REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Two appearances (180 minutes total)

The midfielder played in both of his sides’ defeats to Mexico and South Korea but was left out for their only victory against Sweden.

Came to characterise what was bad about the lack-lustre German team especially given they failed to get out of the group stage. Criticised for “having the handbrake on” by former manager Arsene Wenger.

Totally absent in their opener against Mexico. More useful against South Korea when he acted as the central pivot. Made accurate and purposeful forward passes and crosses but ultimately his team could not muster a goal in either game he featured in.

Overall rating: 5/10

Lucas Torreira (Uruguay)

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Five appearances (335 minutes total)

He has been referred to in his native Uruguay as ‘Tres hombre pulmon’ or ‘the man with three lungs’, because of his dogged running and bullying of opposition attackers.

While he may not particularly stand out, he acts as the defensive engine of the team; his number of interceptions (12) outdone only by Diego Godin and Gimenez.

Didn’t allow Cristiano Ronaldo time or space in the 2-1 victory over Portugal.

However, he may have been suffering from fatigue by the quarter-finals as he allowed Antoine Griezmann space to shoot from long-range but ultimately let down by keeper, Fernando Muslera, who made a howler by not keeping it out.

Overall rating: 7/10

Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)

REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

One appearance (62 minutes total)

Largely absent in his only appearance of the tournament making just one dribble (which came to nothing). Substituted on one hour and left out of the side following matches thereafter. His team scored three times without him in those two other games.

Overall Rating: 3/10

Danny Welbeck (England)

 REUTERS/Lee Smith

One appearance (11 minutes total)

Only appearing was in 1-0 defeat to Belgium. Coming on as a substitute on 79 minutes, he mustered his sides only shot on target of the game when the ball fell loose to him on the edge of the box after a corner. He hit it on his unfavoured left foot but it was blocked by Marouane Fellaini and went behind for another corner. 

In hindsight, he may have offered more than Rashford as a late substitute in the Croatia defeat given his experience.

Overall rating: 6/10

What takeaways about the Arsenal players do you have from this World Cup? Let us know by commenting below.

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