A major international tournament taking place in the winter will create problems at the start of next season, but the latest rule change can benefit some Arsenal players.
Over a decade ago, it was announced that the 2022 FIFA World Cup would be moved from its usual June-July slot because of the intense heat in Qatar around summertime and will instead get underway on November 21, with the final taking place in Doha on December 18.
Now in another change to usual proceedings, on Thursday, FIFA announced that plans for every nation to name a 26-man squad has been approved – as was the case for Euro 2020 last summer. Although the big difference is that unlike at the Euros, for the World Cup, all 26 players will be included in a matchday squad, so three will not have to miss out on selection.
A statement reads : “Given the need to retain additional flexibility due to the unique timing of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in the global calendar, as well as the broader context of the disruptive effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on squads before and during tournaments, the Bureau has decided the following… The maximum number of players on the release list has been increased from 35 to 55. The number of players to be included on the final list has been increased to at least 23 and a maximum of 26.
“The final matchday at club level for the 23 to 26 players nominated on the final list will be 13 November 2022. No more than 26 people (up to 15 substitutes and 11 team officials – one of these officials must be the team doctor) will be allowed to sit on the team bench.”
Of the Arsenal players expected to be at the club when the World Cup gets underway, it’s likely that Aaron Ramsdale, Benjamin White, Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhaes, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Granit Xhaka and William Saliba are in line to be selected by their respective nations.
Meanwhile, if the Gunners do end up completing deals for Matt Turner, Gabriel Jesus, Youri Tielemans, Raphinha and Lisandro Martinez before the summer transfer window closes, they too are likely to increase the number of first-team players out in Qatar for the tournament.
But confirmation that managers can name a 26-man squad for an international tournament once again will give hope to some of those on the periphery of their national sides and, therefore football.london takes a closer look at the five Arsenal stars that this rule change should benefit.
Emile Smith Rowe
The first potential beneficiary has to be Emile Smith Rowe. After making his senior England debut – then scoring his first goal on his second cap – the attacking midfielder missed out on the most recent Three Lions squad for UEFA Nations League games against Hungary, Germany and Italy.
With the likes of Raheem Sterling, Saka, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Jarrod Bowen among the names pushing for inclusion, the Arsenal no.10 needs a strong start to the 2022/23 campaign to leave Southgate with a real selection dilemma.
2022 could turn about to be a great year for Eddie Nketiah. After finally getting a chance to shine for Arsenal towards the end of last season, then signing a new contract and getting the no.14 shirt – made iconic by club legend Thierry Henry – he could round off the year by playing in his first World Cup.
Now, in all likelihood, the striker’s best chance to be on the plane to Qatar is if he switches his international allegiance to Ghana after representing England at various youth levels and a strong start to next season could place him in pole position to take advantage of the three extra spots.
Cedric Soares and Fabio Vieira
Perhaps a surprise for many, but in March of this year, Cedric was part of the Portugal squad that qualified for the World Cup by beating Turkey and North Macedonia. Granted, he didn’t feature in either game, but the call-up shows he’s still very much in Fernando Santos’ thoughts.
Meanwhile, Fabio Vieira is a regular for the U21s and could be next in line to break into the senior setup. Who’s to say those plans won’t be fast-tracked for the World Cup in November if the £34m summer signing from Porto gets off to a flying start with his new club?
Albert Sambi Lokonga
Roberto Martinez clearly rates Albert Sambi Lokonga after handing the midfielder his first Belgium senior cap in a World Cup qualifier against Estonia last summer and then calling him up for the March fixtures. However, a lack of game time towards the end of last season meant the 22-year-old missed out on the most recent squad.
With Axel Witsel, Dennis Praet, Tielemans, Kevin De Bruyne, and Leander Dendoncker all options in central midfield for Belgium. If Lokonga can get some regular minutes under his belt at the start of next season, then he has a great chance of forcing his way back into selection contention.