How Arsenal Will Influence the France vs. Germany World Cup Quarter-Final

Willie Gannon@ Writer IJuly 2, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal (C) celebrates with team-mates Olivier Giroud of Arsenal (L) and Per Mertesacker of Arsenal after scoring their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at Emirates Stadium on February 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

In 1998, the Daily Mirror ran with the headline "Arsenal win the World Cup" after a France team beat Brazil 3-0 in a thrilling World Cup final, as per Nick Hornby writing for National Geographic.

In 2014, the Arsenal-France connection still exists, but it is now joined by an even stronger Arsenal-Germany connection.

Les Bleus and Die Mannschaft will meet in the World Cup quarter-finals on American Independence Day, July 4 where the Gunners' heavy influence will determine the destiny of the match and maybe even the World Cup as a whole.

Les Bleus were inspired to the victory on home soil in '98 by Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira. Although Thierry Henry scored three goals for France on the way to the final, the then-20-year-old was playing for AS Monaco at the time.

Roll on some 16 years later and Arsene Wenger remains true to the nation of his birth. This time around, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud will represent the Gunners.

One must also remember Bacary Sagna who left the Gunners for pastures new at Manchester City this summer, as per BBC Football, after seven outstanding seasons at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal are also said to be tracking Real Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann for some time, as per numerous sources, including the Metroand Newcastle United's right-back Mathieu Debuchy, as per Luke Edwards in the Telegraph.

On the other side of the field, Arsenal will be represented for Germany by Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski.

According to BBC Sport's David Ornstein, Julian Draxler turned down a January transfer to the Gunners, while Charles Reynolds, writing for the Irish Independent, has linked Sami Khedira with a summer move away from Real Madrid to Arsenal's growing German ranks.

In short, Arsenal, as one of the biggest and most important clubs in the world, are influencing football at the highest level in every way possible.

When Didier Deschamps' and Joachim Low's teams take to the field, there will be a heavy Arsenal and Premier League influence on the Estadio do Maracana pitch. You'll agree, this magnificent stadium will be an apt place for these two heavyweights to go into battle.

Deschamps, captain of that famous France team who won the World Cup in 1998, told his only focus was on Friday's big game.

I'm a realist, my target, like my players, is Friday.

It doesn't serve any purpose to look any further ahead. The reality now is Germany on Friday.

Everyone can dream, including me, but I'm a pragmatist and a realist, Friday is the only thing that counts.

Laurent Koscielny will be hoping he has done enough to retain his starting position at centre-half. The 28-year-old did not start in France's first game of the tournament, a 3-0 win over Honduras. Real Madrid prodigy Raphael Varane and Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho were the first-choice central pairing for Les Bleus' opening two matches.

However, Sakho picked up an injury in the 5-2 win over Switzerland and was substituted for Koscielny. Since then, the Arsenal man has kept two clean sheets and used his pace to great effect while complementing Varane.

Kos is now in the driving seat as we head towards the quarter-final. While he has looked unsteady under long and direct balls, Mertesacker usually takes point and responsibility in these situations at Arsenal, he is assured in dealing with pacy strikers.

David Vincent/Associated Press

One thing is for sure with Low's proactive tactics: He will not allow his team to bombard the box with percentage passes. Instead, the German head coach likes to utilize possession and the great pace and mobility of Thomas Mueller. Here, Koscielny is best placed of all France's defenders to deal with the FC Bayern Munich man.

Sagna will only replace Debuchy if the Newcastle defender picks up an injury between now and Friday. He remains an important squad player, however, as his versatility allows Descamps to cover numerous positions and switch to other formations when he is included.

Up front, Giroud did not have the best of days against Nigeria in the round of 16. It is worth noting, though, that Arsenal's No. 12 is one of only eight Frenchmen to have played in every game.

Giroud plays a very similar role for France and Arsenal. However, he is hamstrung somewhat on the international stage by not being the focal point for all attacks and for not having the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla playing off him.

France use a much more measured approach and do not look to get beyond Giroud as Arsenal do. This tactic often leaves the striker isolated as he does not possess the pace to join with the attack further up the pitch. As such, Karim Benzema and Griezmann are proving far more effective on the international stage.

Against Germany, France will undoubtedly try to expose the slow German defense. Germany were torn to pieces by simple diagonal passes by Algeria in the round of 16 as their defense was pulled out of position.

Lacking any kind of pace, Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng, Shkodran Mustafi and Benedikt Howedes were left looking more than vulnerable.

Their cause was not helped by the undisciplined performance by Philipp Lahm in central midfield. The 5'6" German captain has been poor in central midfield since the start of the competition and was caught out of position on many occasions having moved too far up the pitch and actually past Mueller in the final third.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

This situation was rectified in the second half when Low moved Lahm back to right-back where he is more comfortable.

Given the fact that Germany are slow at centre-half and have a significant advantage in aerial situations due to Mertesacker, it is unlikely Giroud will start. 

For Germany, Mertesacker is a certainty at centre-half. His complete lack of pace, however, dictates that Lahm should be shifted to right-back where he can sweep in behind the defense in covering positions. It also means Khedira should start in central midfield.

There, the underused Real Madrid midfielder will play in a screening role whereby he protects the German soft underbelly. This will also allow Bastian Schweinsteiger to go head-long into a battle with Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi.

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - JUNE 30:  Philipp Lahm of Germany acknowledges the crowd after defeating Algeria 2-1 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Germany and Algeria at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 30, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Pogba and Matuidi have been the most impressive central-midfield pairing at the World Cup, but up to date they have not had to contend with a world-class player like Schweinsteiger or Mesut Ozil for that matter.

Khedira, Schweinsteiger and Ozil were formidable in South Africa four years ago and they have done nothing but improve since. Their synergy is almost perfect and they play their roles perfectly in the most balanced of ways.

Ozil has suffered because of Schweinsteiger's lack of fitness and Khedira's relegation to the bench. Now that he is back in his favored system and midfield, he should thrive. 

One other factor in Ozil's favor is his fitness. Arsenal's record signing was on the verge of burnout last season when Arsene Wenger took the wise decision to use him sparingly during the final months.

Between September and February, Ozil played 27 of 29 matches and started every single one and played the full 90 minutes, 19 times. Of the remaining 17 fixtures, he only played in 11 and played the full 90 minutes just five times.

In other words, Ozil is in Brazil and fully fit with great thanks to his French manager.

As one of the best talents in world football, Ozil can unlock any defense and has the skill to terrorize any team. If Low sets up his team right, he will be the most influential attacking force on the pitch.

It is one of the great shames of this entertaining World Cup that France and Germany, the competition's two most impressive teams, meet in the quarter-finals.

It is fantastic, however, for English football and for Arsenal FC that the team that Arsene Wenger built will have such a huge influence on the world game and how we will perceive football going forward.

Le Prof has had his many critics over the past decade, but he has always had the best interests of the game and Arsenal at heart.

There is no more a fitting tribute to the great man than Arsenal vs. Arsenal 2014 and the very real possibility of Arsenal winning the World Cup in 2014.


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