Sixteen is the magic number for Arsenal over the next few days, as that’s the number of first team squad members who are on duty with their countries for various World Cup qualifiers (and meaningless friendlies).
Unsurprisingly our Gallic players make up a quarter of the players who have jetted out of North London, with William Gallas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri all in the French squad for the ties against Austria tomorrow and Serbia next Wednesday.
I’m usually completely disinterested in internationals and while the coming few days are unlikely to change that, it’ll be interesting to see if Clichy gets his first full senior cap. I hope for his sake that he does, but being entirely selfish, I hope for Arsenal’s sake that as many of our players as possible are simply on duty to warm various foreign benches.
Aaron Ramsey is another player hoping to earn his first senior cap after being called into the Wales squad for the clashes with Azerbaijan tomorrow and a difficult trip to Russia on Wednesday.
Cesc Fabregas is in Spain’s squad to face Bosnia-Herzegovina tomorrow and Armenia next Wednesday and given his pivotal role in helping his country win the European championships, I’d expect him to play both games.
Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue have made the long trek to Mozambique for the Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualifier on Sunday, but they should be back in the UK on Tuesday, allowing them more recovery time and ahead of the Gunners’ trip to Blackburn next Saturday.
No such luck for Robin van Persie, who despite limping out of last weekend’s victory over Newcastle is included in the Dutch squad that faces Australia in a pointless friendly tomorrow, before travelling to Macedonia midweek. Apparently the Holland management allowed RvP to sit out training this week, so no doubt he’ll pull, tear, rupture or break something against the Socceroos tomorrow...
Theo Walcott has been drafted into the England squad that faces mighty Andorra on Saturday and old adversaries Croatia next week. I can’t see Theo getting a game, but given the pessimistic mood that international week sees me slump into, he’ll probably be one of 16 players who will return to Arsenal complaining of some niggle next week.
Zambia is where Emmanuel Adebayor finds himself today for Togo’s World Cup qualifier tonight and with any luck the frontman can start hitting form, as his countrymen are depending on him to lift them off the bottom of their group.
Fellow Gunners striker Nicklas Bendtner is in Hungary for Denmark tomorrow and Portugal on Wednesday, so let’s hope he can stay away from dodgy airline food.
If Alex Song is anything like me, he’ll have got the atlas out to find out just where the Cape Verde Islands are. If he did the Cameroon star would know they’re off the coast of Senegal and if he was as diligent as me at doing research, he’d also know that, according to the CIA, the islands are “ used as a transshipment point for Latin American cocaine destined for Western Europe.” Make sure you pack your own suitcase Alex.
Johan Djourou better make sure he packs carefully too, as the El Al check-in staff are not to be messed with, even if you are a member of the visiting Swiss team who is going to battle out a goalless draw with Israel tomorrow. Normal service should be resumed on Wednesday when Johan and friends visit fellow European bankers heaven Luxembourg .
Poland take on Slovenia tomorrow and San Marino on Wednesday, while Lukasz Fabianski battles once again with Celtic stopper Artur Boruc for the right to the no.1 jersey. I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out when I suggest they might get a game each – Lukasz against the Italian sounding chaps.
Last, but by no means least is Carlos Vela, who will be travelling further than all of his club team mates to the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Maybe he can bring back a secret or two into why the inhabitants of that nation are so fleet of foot. Or maybe that’s getting into customs-related issues again. Anyway, Sven Goran-Eriksson's Mexico follow that trip with a home tie against Canada on Wednesday, so given the long flight home, I wouldn’t be expecting Vela to figure in the squad for the Blackburn game.
As usual, let’s get the worry beads out for the next few days and say our collective prayers to whichever deity you favour that Arsenal’s internationalists can return in one piece to London Colney next week.
And spare a thought for Arsene Wenger. If I get nervous about international breaks, imagine what it does to the nerves of Le Gaffer, who has to run the gauntlet of overseas phone exchanges to find out if he has to remove any of his players from the team sheet for the forseeable future.