Four Arsenal players to watch out for at the 2018 World Cup

Everyone across the globe waits for this summer’s World Cup with great anticipation. Will Messi finally get the one winner’s medal that eludes him? Can England overcome their big tournament hurdle? Will Spain get back to the top? Which big team will underperform? Which small team will cause an upset? So many questions that will be answered in Russia from June 14th to July 15th.
From an Arsenal perspective, there is even more cause for interest: the Gunners are one of just two teams, the other being Barcelona, to possess a player in each group of the competition. The squad, including reserve players and those out on loan, has approximately 20 members with a realistic chance of making their nation’s squad in Russia. Of those, we have picked out four key men who could set the world alight on the big stage.

Laurent Koscielny

The club icon is expected to feature for France, if he can recover well from the injury he picked up in the recent Europa League tie with Inter Milan, which is not as bad as first feared. The centre-back faces competition though: Samuel Umtiti impressed at Euro 2016 while Raphael Varane has been one of the continent’s best ball-playing defenders for some time. Koscielny though offers leadership, reading of the game and international experience, with 50 appearances to his name. The 32-year-old’s qualities might appeal to Didier Deschamps, whose side seek their first World Cup victory on oversees territory.

Jack Wilshere

The 26-year-old has not only proven his fitness for Arsenal this season, he has given their midfield something unique. Wilshere has completed 3.6 successful dribbles per game (WhoScored), which is by far more than any other central midfielder in the Premier League. Not all of those runs directly result in chance creation but even when they don’t, the opposing team is forced further back to allow other players more time on the ball. Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier provide different qualities while Gareth Southgate is yet to utilize Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a central role, so Wilshere could be a key man for the Three Lions.

Alex Iwobi

One of the great hopes of the Arsenal academy, Iwobi is perhaps yet to live up to the hype that once surrounded him. The Nigerian international, who will represent the Super Eagles at the World Cup, is a willing runner but needs to add more productivity to his game. Out of 40 Premier League players who have made 10+ appearances in attacking midfield or advanced wide positions, Iwobi is one of just six yet to score more than one goal. 21 of those players have completed more key passes per 90 minutes than his 1.6, so a positive summer showing will be integral to his chances of progression.

Mesut Ozil

The former Real Madrid man has faced criticism for his club performances, but is a different proposition once he joins up with the Germany national team. He was a valuable member of the side that won the tournament four years ago in Brazil, and now appears to be relishing a slightly deeper position with Die Mannschaft. In recent games for the Gunners, we have started to see a continuation of that trend as he collects the ball from further back. Events in Russia should indicate the true range of his controlling capabilities.

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