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Arsenal players at the World Cup

Cape Town World Cup 2010 Holland v Cameroon (2-1) Match 44 24/06/10 Robin van Persie (NED)  first goal with Rafael van der Vaart Photo Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

By Guest Writer Basil James.

The World Cup has moved in to the quarter final stage’s and we observe that all Arsenal players but two have been eliminated from the tournament at a pretty early stage. The exception’s are a certain Cesc Fabregas, who ensures that the Spanish substitute’s bench never gets too chilly in the South African winter and Robin van Persie who has been throwing tantrums of late. The rest have dropped by the way-side and maybe it’s time we checked how these players who ply their trade at Arsenal have fared on the biggest stage of football.

It came as surprise to nobody that the nation which had the most number of Arsenal players was France. With all that disgruntlement, back-stabbing and internal riots that makes the French squad what it is, the average Gooner must have been curious to see how the Gunners in France-nal performed at the Cup.

France had four Gunners in their squad- Gael Clichy, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby making the cut. The four of them had entirely different World Cups and reading their accounts independently would make you wonder whether they were in the same team in the same tournament.

Diaby was one of the better players for a French team in shambles. He performed well in a holding midfield role and was effective going forward. It was a delight to see Diaby’s long steps as he got past players at apparent ease. He played the full ninety minutes in all of France’s matches and was one of the few positives that France could take from the tournament. Bacary Sagna was the other Gunner to make a positive impact for the French. His pacy runs in going forward helped France build a few attacks and he tracked back well to cover in defence when called upon. Salcido caused a few headaches in the game against Mexico, but Sagna came off the Cup without too many scratches.

William Gallas has some serious issues when it comes to the dressing room. Not exactly the most popular player at Arsenal, reports seemed to suggest that he had not ingratiated himself with his fellow country men at the World Cup. Fellow centre back Eric Abidal expressed reservations in playing with him at the heart of the French defence. His on-field performance was below par as well. On the whole, he blended in nicely with the mood of discontentment at the French camp. Gael Clichy played only one game at the World Cup, against South Africa, France’s final game. Clichy messed up to allow the Bafana to slot in their second goal, the ball ricocheting off Diaby not helping his cause at all. Over all, an Arsenal goal, one might say. Not exactly a World Cup Clichy would want to remember.

Nicklas Bendtner could not ignite a wet Danish Dynamite as his team too crashed out without getting out of their group. Nicklas Bendtner was the only out-and-out striker for the Danes for the most of the tournament but managed only one goal and two shots at goal. He promised, rather pompously, that he would be the top scorer at the World Cup, but he ended up showing everyone that he still has a long way to go before he becomes the superstar he believes himself to be. Many analysts were of the opinion that Bendtner failed to impose himself on the game and for most part, I think they were right. Even against a slightly small in stature Japanese defence, Bendtner had a tough day winning air balls. A lack of positive movement and a low work rate did not help his cause either.

Robin van Persie has had a mixed World Cup so far. He has scored once and has contributed effectively to a team in which he is a regular starter. But the lack of more goals may be a worrying factor for the mercurial forward. RVP was seen animatedly arguing with his manager after being substituted in the game against Slovakia and the act captured his frustration quite nicely. The striker had said before the World Cup that more than goals, he would be happy to provide assists to his team mates as that was what would help the Oranje do well in the tournament. He has contributed in the assists department reasonably well and the diagonal run he made to allow Robben space to score against Slovakia was a brilliant move. He has been overshadowed a bit by the likes of Robben and Sneidjer at the World Cup, but I am sure he has more goals in him during the tournament. The Dutch will need him to be explosive if they are to get past Brazil in the quarter finals.

Alex Song, the promising talent from Cameroon was surprisingly left to warm the bench during their first game against Japan. He made an appearance in their loss to Denmark but was consigned to the bench again the next game, apparently injured. Song did not have a remarkable World Cup and joined the list of Arsenal players who crashed out in the group stage. Having played only one ninety minutes, Song did not have much opportunity to stun the on-lookers but he performed his duty reasonably well, filling in that defensive midfield role responsibly when called upon.

Carlos Vela of Mexico was one of the three Arsenal players whose team got through to the second round of the competition. Vela was hampered by a recurrent hamstring problem that kept him out of most of the tournament so far. As a forward, he could only lay his boot upon a few half chances, but he could not make much of the admittedly tough opportunities that came his way. Aged a tender 21, Vela showed that he has much ground to make up if he is to become a world class striker he can be with all that talent. Vela was over shadowed in the Mexican attack by other young, talented attackers in the form of G.dos Santos and Hernandez.

Cesc Fabregas finds himself to be one of the only two Arsenal players in the quarter finals of the World Cup. As they say, it is lonely at the top. However, Captain Fab has not been exactly setting the field on fire as he has been consigned to using that fire to warm the Spanish bench. Fabregas came on as a substitute in the last two group games and showed glimpses of that amazing genius he possesses. Stringing together 85 passes in the 59 minutes he played with a completion rate of 86 percent, Fabregas showed why he is one of the best central midfielders in the world at the moment. However, a team with players like Xavi and Iniesta means it will be sometime before Cesc gets the green of the pitch on his shorts rather than the enamel paint of the bench.

It is not exactly encouraging to see that just three Arsenal players made it past the group stages and only two remain in the quarter finals. Arsenal started out with nine players and not surprisingly find only the best two of the lot left in the competition. Is it because the players not in the quarter finals do not meet a quality standard? Or are they unfortunate to be part of a team which underperformed? Maybe this tournament will provide some food for thought to Wenger. I hope Arsene does know.

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