By Bulldog Drummond
Ahead of Arsenal’s game which kicks off shortly we now have the first league table to emerge out of the ICC tournament thus far and it reminds us of the special arrangements being made in this competition.
Indeed it makes rather interesting, if occasionally bemusing, reading . For what it brings home is the fact that different teams have been persuaded to run on totally different schedules, in order to make the whole thing last for as long as possible.
As you will note above there is a slew of teams that like Arsenal have not played but we do have the interesting sight of Manchester City having two straight defeats at the foot of the table. They have lost to Dortmund and to Liverpool.
In the Tottenham v Roma game I can see that Roma made at least eight substitutes so it looks like there is pretty much a free for all on that level. That was a very strange game with Roma scoring first and having almost twice as many shots as Tottenham, more possession, more passes, and a higher pass accuracy, and yet they lost 4-1. It is also interesting that Tottenham committed over six times as many fouls as Roma (19 by Tottenham to three by Roma).
As for our game today, for Atletico, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez and Sime Vrsaljko are, I am told, not available after the WC.
For Arsenal on the other hand only Lucas Torreira and Danny Welbeck are still skiving off from proper footballing duties. I don’t have details of when Danny comes back but I have been told that Torreira will be joining the club at the start of August and will obviously be undergoing intensive language training and jet lag adjustment.
Mesut Ozil has been receiving warm praise and support all round for his stand against racist comments from a few idiots in Germany, and it is good to see that many have been pointing out just what sterling service Mesut has given his country in recent years.
It would be good if as a result of this experience a few officials realise that playing for your country is not an obligation but something given voluntarily by players. The players have every right to say no, and the worse they are treated by racists, the less likely they are ever to want to play.
But back to today. We know that Bernd Leno, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Matteo Guendouzi are in the squad along with our new young superkid, Emile Smith Rowe, who has been talked up no end. Eddie Nketiah, whom we saw earlier in the summer with an incredible display in the Toulon tournament for England is also in the squad.
Atletico Madrid have suffered more from unwarranted Fifa interference in their team selection with Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Saul Niguez, Koke, Diego Godin, Jose Giminez and Sime Vrsaljko all still being in the WC or thereabouts.
It would be foolish in the extreme to do the normal pre-match team prediction as there is nothing to go on other than the squad. So here is the squad.
Petr Cech, Bernd Leno, Emiliano Martinez,
At the back:
Hector Bellerin, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Jordi Osei-Tutu,
In the midst of it all:
Mohamed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Matteo Guendouzi, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock, Aaron Ramsey,
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Eddie Nketiah, Lucas Perez, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
So the simple question is do you play a first team squad and then bring on back up players as the first teamers tire, or do you mix them up from the start?
There is a benefit in each approach for if you mix them you see how the kiddies fit in with the big boys. You do it the other way and you risk being over run in the latter parts of the game but you get much more insight how ready young men like Smith Rowe, Willock and Osei-Tuto are to play on the big stage.
We shall see.
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