Gunner Summer: Arsenal shows international class

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Alexis Sanchez
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Alexis Sanchez /

As the major tournament summer festivities come to a close, excluding the Olympics, the Premier League was well represented in both of the major tournaments with Arsenal in particular proving the quality of their pieces.

With 13 players representing the club between the two major tournaments (Euro 2016 and Copa America Centenario), Arsenal shared interests in both finals with Alexis Sanchez (Chile) lifting the trophy and Olivier Giroud (France) and Laurent Koscielny (France) coming tormentingly close in the Euros.

Excluding the mercurial Joel Campbell who proved his ability again to show moments of flair but more often times stretches of silence, the north London club showed well in the battle of the Americas.

Sanchez and David Ospina (Colombia) both proved to be catalysts for their country’s success. While the form of Colombia did not meet expectations held by world rank and roster names, Ospina indeed pushed the team into a third place finish despite finishing runner up in Group A. With a tally of 11 saves and three clean sheets the Gunners’ rotation keeper proved his form and proficiency in an otherwise less than compelling run for the Columbian squad.

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Even more critical, Arsenal’s second highest paid player, second only to Mesut Ozil, Sanchez empowered a potent Chile team to their second straight Copa America title. Proving time and time again his seemingly endless motor and heart for victory, Sanchez’s pace and technique aided his Chilean squad to break down the likes of Colombia and Argentina, and rout a good Mexico team.

His three goals and two assists further establish his versatility in attack and creativity. With a contract through 2018, Sanchez has proved his worth on a club and national level with possibly the best yet to come at a prime age of 26.

Moreover, Euro 2016 set a stage for Arsenal mainstays to display ability and positional prowess. With 10 players spanning eight nations (including Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny on loan to AS Roma), the Gunners were better represented than Premier League counterparts Manchester City and equally as ingrained in the tournament as the likes of Manchester United.

Positionally, Arsenal displayed class in all facets of play, most distinguishably in midfield. Ozil, Arsenal’s top man, may not have filled the stat sheets, but his vision and calmness on the ball provided an otherwise ill-inspired attack a means of opportunity with 14 shots, six of which landing on goal.

Mesut Ozil during the UEFA EURO semi final match between Germany and France at Stade Velodrome on July 7, 2016 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Mesut Ozil during the UEFA EURO semi final match between Germany and France at Stade Velodrome on July 7, 2016 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

Similarly proficient, the young talents of Aaron Ramsey (24) and Granit Xhaka (23) gave a spark to not only their country but to the tournament as a whole.

Ramsey’s four assists played a vital role in helping Wales advance to the semi-finals. With an arguably more vital role than even superstar captain Gareth Bale, one could make a case for an alternate semi-final outcome lacking in counterattack creativity and possession without the Arsenal man out per yellow card accumulation.

New Gunner Xhaka, proved his transfer worth through the establishment a calculated midfield amassing the fourth highest possession percentage among all nations in the group phase. While not a trophy signing, the Swiss midfielder seems apt to add to the Arsenal quality in the middle of the pitch.

Instrumental in the near victorious tournament run of home country France were lead striker Olivier Giroud and center back Laurent Koscielny, both regulars in the Arsenal starting 11. With quality hold up play and linkage with attacking midfielders, the work of Giroud accounted for three goals and two assists.

Although not a dynamic presence in the attack, Giroud served his country well in a subsidiary role to such headliners as Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet. Furthermore, the aerial ability and vision of Koscielny assisted in the three French clean sheets. While not a demanding presence on set pieces, the center back’s services were well worked in holding a firm line and communicating tactically with the midfield likes of the potential Manchester United man Paul Pogba.

Though not further illustrated and analyzed, the participation of Petr Cech (Czech Republic) should be viewed with recognition of an underperformed team and bombardment of 13 shots on goal in just three games.

While the performance of club player on the international level promote a quality and class value for Arsenal in the upcoming season, this class should be further leaned on to make a larger splash in the transfer market.

Still lacking a dominant striker that now Manchester United possess with the signing of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Arsenal will need to make this upgrade in order to stay relevant in an improving upper echelon of football.

The use of Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck will continue to create an identity of youth and pace, but the addition of a more clinical striker could serve to push Arsenal over the threshold and finally into a position as league favorite after a spell of top four finishes without a league title in over a decade.

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The world stage of the Euro 2016 and Copa America Centenario may just serve to reveal the Gunners’ next superstar striker.