Our rivals have no problem convincing players to pull out of international duty if need be, so why don’t Arsenal play the game?
The England national team is never too far away from farce, but it was especially laughable seeing no less than six players all drop out of the squad at the same time for the same reason.
Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Fabian Delph, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson all pulled out of England’s friendlies with Germany and Brazil with injury “niggles”.
Despite England’s need to prepare for the World Cup in the summer and put up a decent fight against high-class opponents, manager Gareth Southgate was happy to give them all a break. Never mind that four of them were fit enough to start for their clubs in the Premier League a week before – and most have been declared fit for the Premier League when it returns.
This is a problem England have faced for years, as Premier League managers have prioritised their players’ fitness for the league games to come.
It’s easy to see why.
Few of them have any interest in the success of the national team, and will want their best players as fit as can be for the more high stakes league matches to come. Nobody wants to see their star players injured in a friendly match mid-season.
It’s something that Arsenal tend not to do.
In most cases, Arsenal will allow all their internationals to fly out and play however many games as they want.
Where other clubs clearly have a word with managers and players, Arsenal seem content to place their faith in both and hope for the best, despite the fact that its their players that tend to return injured.
The last international break saw Shkodran Mustafi pull his hamstring and Sead Kolasinac hurt his hip. During this one, Olivier Giroud has already picked up a thigh problem.
So you have to wonder if the likes of Laurent Koscielny or Mesut Ozil wouldn’t be better served taking a break than playing in a friendly.
Koscielny has to manage an Achilles problem and can’t play too many games in a short space of time yet he still played 90 minutes for France in a meaningless friendly against Wales.
Ozil has never been the most robust athlete around and he played the full 90 against England.
Neither have to worry too much about their place in their national teams, and the games had nothing at stake.
Yet, they played and will not be 100% for the Tottenham game coming up, while Spurs’ stars will be fit and fresh.
It’s understandable why Arsenal don’t do it.
Unlike England players, whose desire to play for their national team has long been questioned, other players take pride in playing for their countries no matter what.
Aaron Ramsey clearly loves playing for Wales and being a part of their rise on the international stage, while Olivier Giroud is a valued member of the France team under Didier Deschamps.
Alex Iwobi recently spoke about the passion of the Nigeria supporters and the emotion of qualifying for the World Cup.
Then there’s Alexis Sanchez, who would quite happily play every day for Chile if the option existed.
It’s not easy to convince these players to do the international equivalent of a forged sick note and feign or play up injury problems.
If several players come back jaded and injured, it’s not Arsenal’s fault.
They shouldn’t have to stoop to such cynical tactics to protect their own players.
Yet with no viable solutions coming from FIFA or UEFA, they may just have to, if only to level the playing field against their rivals.