Ending the nine year drought without a trophy will have provided a huge lift in the Arsenal dressing room for players who have been constantly reminded of the club’s failures over the last few seasons. Although the harmony has always remained strong within the camp, it would be understandable if an element of tension was beginning to creep in after throwing away a wonderful opportunity to win the Premier League title. Victorious scenes at Wembley illustrated the strong spirit and level of friendship enjoyed by Gunners’ team-mates, with Jack Wilshere dedicating the trophy to fans who have stuck with them and the club through thick and thin.
While the players can immerse themselves in the glory of being winners once again, many of them will soon leave for the small matter of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where team-mates could find themselves going from good friends to the best of enemies as their respective countries come head-to-head. A bit of friendly competitiveness never hurt anyone, but in the soaring heat and humidity of Brazil, players can often get carried away and let the moment of playing in a prestigious tournament get to them. Arsene Wenger will no doubt keep a keen eye on the World Cup, with everything crossed that his players do not clash on the pitch and ruin their state of mind.
Belgium v South Korea
Belgium are widely considered as serious dark horses to win in Brazil 2014 at 18/1, with Thomas Vermaelen set to play a crucial role in defence alongside fellow Premier League stars Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen. They will fancy their chances of progressing from Group H which includes Russia, Algeria and South Korea. The latter could provide a potential Gunner versus Gunner encounter between Vermaelen and forgotten man Park Chu-Young, who is currently out on loan at Watford. Despite his lack of games, the South Korean striker remains an important part of their plans and could be set to lock horns with Vermaelen. Their encounter could be as good as it gets for Park Chu-Young whose team are third favourites to qualify from Group H at 15/8, but find themselves well outside the running for the World Cup at a massive 400/1 as they lack the quality of previous years to be competitive.
England v Costa Rica
On paper, this game has an England win written all over it. In reality, however, we know that football has a funny habit of throwing up surprises, and with England going into the World Cup with considerably lowered expectation and hope, there is every chance that Costa Rica could do the unthinkable and spring a major surprise. The return to fitness of Jack Wilshire and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain following injury lay-offs is a huge boost to Roy Hodgson who may utilise both Arsenal stars in a youthful side that is able to express themselves without fear and provide England with the best possible chance of success, with odds of 28/1 putting the Three Lions amongst the dark horses. It remains to be seen whether both players will be fully fit to make an impact, but England’s defence must be aware of Joel Campbell who has excelled on loan at Olympiakos. The Costa Rica star illustrates his wonderful potential with a devastating display against Manchester United in the Champions League, with his considerable pace and trickery being one of his country’s greatest threats. The 1000/1 outsiders are unlikely to pull up any trees at the World Cup, but Campbell could well come out on top in the battle with his fellow Gunners with a bright tournament that puts him in Arsene Wenger’s plans for next season.