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The World Cup may now be in full swing with the first round of matches finishing today, however, it has not stopped the focus for Arsenal moving away from the return of the Premier League on Boxing Day. The hope will be that players return from the competition unscathed with ten participants out in Qatar.
With that in mind, the potential for players to miss the return of domestic action remains a real possibility. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta sees eight of his starting eleven currently away with their national sides with only Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Magalhaes and Martin Odegaard missing out.
Arsenal are set to return to Premier League action on December 26 against West Ham United. Both teams failed to progress in the Carabao Cup and therefore will not get a competitive fixture before Christmas to ease them back into competition.
Predicting what side Arsenal could use to face the Hammers is difficult but with players being allowed ten days rest, it could be that if some nations go deep into the World Cup, they could yet miss the return of the Premier League. Bukayo Saka and England have started well, winning the opening game against Iran 6-2.
Saka is starting whereas teammates Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White are yet to feature and could even go through the competition without playing, particularly the Arsenal number one. If England are able to progress, then Arteta may choose to give Saka a rest.
If England top their group and France also top theirs, the two nations could face one another in the quarterfinals. Saka would then come up against William Saliba, the result might determine which of the pair play when league football returns.
Although Saliba did not start for France in their first game against Australia and if this continues, Arteta might feel comfortable returning him to the team immediately. England’s chances against France have been enhanced by the serious injury issues Les Bleu have had to deal with.
Brazil though might not face England until the World Cup final if they and the Three Lions top their respective groups. Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli aren’t expected to feature heavily in Tite’s side but are odds-on favourites to see their nation reach the final.
Even if they make the final, however, their lack of minutes might then give Arteta encouragement to recall them straight away. Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland could face Portugal in their last-16 match if they come runners up and Cristiano Ronaldo’s team top their group, the Arsenal midfield therefore will hopefully be back in plenty of time for the tournament like teammate Thomas Partey whose Ghana team aren’t expected to get out of their group.
The final piece of the puzzle is the return of Emile Smith Rowe. The England international missed the tournament after undergoing groin surgery, however, has backed himself to return for the game against West Ham, it could be that the 22-year-old is the man to fill the void left by the potentially absent Bukayo Saka.
Potential Arsenal XI vs West Ham United: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; …