Gunners fans might be eagerly awaiting the new season – and the start of Unai Emery’s Emirates reign – but the World Cup offers a feast of football to satisfy our appetite until that comes around.
This summer, eight Arsenal players will take to the field in Russia. Here’s our guide to how they might get on:
Arsenal’s sole representative in the England squad for this tournament is Danny Welbeck. The 27-year-old actually has a much better record in a Three Lions shirt than he does for the Gunners, with 16 goals in 39 caps for England compared to 15 goals in 80 league games for Arsenal. He scored England’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in the final friendly before the squad flew out to Russia but he’s likely to be a back-up choice for Gareth Southgate, with Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford ahead of him in the pecking order.
The German international arrives at the tournament on the back of a spat with Martin Keown. The ex-Gunners centre half accused Ozil of not being ‘fit to wear the shirt’ on occasions last season – a comment that caused his agent to brand Keown ‘envious and stupid and boring’. He remains a favourite for Joachim Low, however, and will be a key part of Germany’s bid to retain the trophy. If the World Cup final odds are anything to go by, we can expect them to have a decent chance of doing just that.
The Spanish defender found his shooting boots this season. After three goals in five seasons previously, the 32-year-old netted six times for the Gunners. Yet, as with Arsenal, it’s his defensive flexibility that attracts him to Julen Lopetegui and helped him secure a place in the squad ahead of the likes of Marcos Alonso at Chelsea. Monreal faces tough competition to get a starting berth in one of the best squads in the tournament.
Ospina is certainly no stranger to cup football, given that he’s behind Petr Cech in the pecking order when it comes to league games, and will head to Russia as Colombia’s first-choice goalkeeper. Manager Jose Pekerman has stood by Ospina despite a dip in form towards the end of the qualifiers – and a mistake in a recent friendly against France. He’ll be out to prove himself worth of a start to Unai Emery in a Colombia side that could well come up against England in the second round.
The Egyptian midfielder has recovered from an injury suffered in the 4-1 win against West Ham to take his place in Hector Cuper’s squad. Elneny, who particularly impressed in the Europa League this season, was part of the Africa Cup of Nations team that finished runners up last year and will be hopeful of progressing from a group that includes Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. The prospects for Elneny and The Pharaohs probably rests in the fitness of talisman Mo Salah, however.
The Nigerian attacker is ‘excited’ to prove himself under Unai Emery, and will get a good chance to shine in Gernot Rohr’s side. Iwobi, a nephew of Super Eagles legend Jay Jay Okocha, scored the goal that secured qualification against Zambia and should feature in the starting line-up. He scored in the warm-up friendly against England and bagged a brace in a 4-2 friendly win over Argentina that was played in Russia last November.
The Swiss veteran makes the move to the Emirates for the start of the season and Gunners fans will get a perfect chance to take a close look at him in group games against Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia. Lichtsteiner, who has won seven straight Serie A titles with Juventus, is captain of Vladimir Petkovic’s team and actually netted three times in a qualifying campaign that saw them reach Russia with a play-off win over Northern Ireland. Switzerland are well-placed to qualify behind Brazil, but are likely to come up against champions Germany in the second round.
Lichtsteiner is joined in the Swiss squad by Granit Xhaka. The 25-year-old had a mixed season in an Arsenal shirt, but is likely to be a key figure at the heart of the Swiss midfield. His keen eye for goal has seen him net nine times already for his country – and you wouldn’t be surprised to see him fire in a ‘goal of the tournament’ thunderbolt.