With a flash, the October International break has been and gone and for Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United, attention has already turned to Saturday’s Premier League visit of Tottenham Hotspur to London Stadium, with all of the club’s International stars now home safe and sound in East London.
However, before we can fully start looking at the vital London derby, we must look back at how the International break went for the six International Hammers on show, with their respective nations in three different continents, join us to analyse.
We start in Europe and the new UEFA Nations League, which is now in full swing and with the headline act in terms of Pellegrini’s Internationals, Marko Arnautovic, who it must be said, had the most successful break.
Not only was the 75-cap Austria International in the starting Xl for his nation as they welcomed Northern Ireland to the Ernst-Hapoel Stadion on Friday night in the Nations League, League 2 Group 3, but he was also captaining them, with regular skipper Julian Baumgartlinger out injured.
Arnautovic capped off what was a very proud evening for him with a match-winning performance that earnt him a place in the FIFA 19 Team of the Week, scoring his fifth goal of the season for club and country after 71 minutes, the only goal of the game.
It also kept Franco Foda’s Austrians in the hunt for promotion from the three-nation group, preventing them from falling nine points behind leaders Bosnia & Herzegovina. After the match, the talismanic figure flew back to London, missing the friendly defeat to Denmark in a pre-arranged agreement, so as to not aggravate his ongoing knee problem, which he is having to play through.
Similarly to Arnautovic, the International break of winger Andriy Yarmolenko of Ukraine would be one that will live long in the memory, as his nation made history by becoming one of the first countries to be promoted from their Nations League group.
Andriy Shevchenko’s men achieved this by defeating the Czech Republic by a single goal on Tuesday evening in a game that the Hammer started and played the entirety of, having missed the friendly draw with Italy last week, completely. The Eastern European nation’s three points means their lead atop League B Group 1 is now unassailable and they will be guaranteed a second chance to qualify for EURO 2020 should they not make it and a place in League A for the next Nations League tournament.
It was not such a joyous break for the man, who is statistically the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, the East Londoners’ No1 and Poland star Lukasz Fabianski.
He only started one of Jerzy Brzeczek’s men’s two October Internationals and it was the first, a Nations League loss at home to Portugal to the tune of 2-3, former Arsenal teammate Wojciech Szczesny was between the sticks for the next match, another home defeat, this time to Italy. The two results leave Fabianski’s Poland bottom of League A Group 3 and facing relegation.
We are switching continents to recap the progress of our next International Hammer, who, it must be said, endured an International break of mixed emotions in Africa.
Left-back Arthur Masuaku was to make his International debut for the Democratic Republic of Congo last weekend, starting and playing into the final ten minutes of a 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying clash at home to Zimbabwe. However, he was forced to leave the field with an ankle injury in the defeat and miss the next fixture also against Zimbabwe, an away draw, flying back to England while his nation’s hopes of qualifying were dealt a huge blow.
It would be a bizarre October International break for our final two International Hammers as neither of them saw a minute of action, we start with Fabian Balbuena of Paraguay.
The Hammers’ summer signing was recalled to new manager Juan Carlos Osorio’s squad after missing out last time, his good form of late helping him to regain his place. But, there were no matches scheduled for the Paraguayans, just a training camp and a chance for the team to gel with their new boss ahead of Copa America qualifying, the camp is understood to have gone well.
And last but not least, we finish with yet another Hammer who had his break away with his nation disrupted by injury, Scotland’s Robert Snodgrass, who was set to feature for Alex McLeish’s men in a Nations League encounter with Israel and a friendly with Portugal.
Unfortunately for him, Snodgrass was forced to miss both, which ended in defeats for the Scots, thanks to an ankle injury that saw him withdraw from the squad. The good news for West Ham fans is that he is still set to be fit for the upcoming London derby.
Ultimately, it could prove to have been a costly International break for Pellegrini with injuries and it’s not one that they will look back on with great fondness, apart from a few flashes in the pan with Arnautovic’s and Yarmolenko’s successes. However, they will be hoping that the players who are coming out of it with confidence can quickly transfer that into their league form, starting with Saturday.