If I were Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, I’d be recalling Daniel Ballard from his loan spell at Millwall and placing the young Northern Ireland international in my struggling Gunners team.
I know Daniel isn’t Mikel’s type of defender — he probably doesn’t match his philosophy in how he wants the game to be played — but maybe he should be with the way Arsenal have started their season.
Daniel just keeps on getting better and better with every game he plays in, especially on the international scene.
He is tough, tenacious and dependable.
Despite his tender years, and we have to remember he is only turning 22 next week, Daniel reads the game well, is ferocious in the tackle and strong in the air.
Switzerland are top-class opposition, but I felt he was excellent against them.
He formed a solid understanding with his fellow defenders and executed his job well.
Arsenal must be looking at him and the paperwork, and wondering how they can get him out of the year-long deal with Millwall. In contrast, the Lions’ manager Gary Rowett will be asking them to leave well alone.
I look at Arsenal and they are playing Rob Holding at centre-back and for me, Daniel would do a better job in that position.
Now, the big question is whether Arteta will be brave enough to bring him back.
Daniel will, of course, benefit from playing a year in the Championship, after his stint in League One with Blackpool last season, but do I think he is ready for the big jump up to the Premier League with Arsenal? Absolutely. His performances for Northern Ireland certainly bring him into the conversation.
Arsenal have a quality young centre-back on their books and I believe it would strengthen their hand if Daniel was in the team.
And of course Daniel is just one of a number of young players Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough is bringing through.
I really like midfielder Ali McCann.
Every time I watch Ali play he impresses me and I honestly think he thrives on playing international football.
His move to Preston can only improve him as a player. No disrespect to St Johnstone, but he’ll be playing with better players, against better opposition and he’ll be able to express himself more in the Championship.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Ali uses his time at Preston as a springboard to bigger and better things.
Shayne Lavery is another young gun who really caught the eye during the international window.
He is a reactive player, brings a spark to proceedings and is a really exciting talent.
We saw in the first few minutes of the game against Switzerland how he can burst onto a pass, use his pace and strength to hold off the opposition and was unfortunate not to hit the target.
But I feel Shayne can be a player who can set the tone for Northern Ireland in matches and he really did that against the Swiss. He’s a nuisance for defenders, the crowd were lifted by his direct approach and hopefully more game time with Blackpool in the Championship will only improve his game.
Just behind Shayne is a player who is a few years older, but still a youngster at 24 and I felt Jordan Thompson had his best performance for Northern Ireland against the Swiss.
It’s been a positive 10 days for the Stoke City midfielder because I felt he improved in Lithuania as the game wore on.
It can’t have been easy for the young Northern Ireland players because in being without Jonny Evans and Stuart Dallas, we were missing our two best players.
But boss Baraclough asked his boys to come of age during these games and I felt they did that.
Young Conor Bradley, who of course only turned 18 just a few months ago, will remember a moment in the match for the rest of his life.
When he slipped and then raced up to put in a crunching tackle on Ricardo Rodriguez, the incredible noise that the Kop and North Stand generated was mindblowing.
It was crazy and told Conor exactly what the Northern Ireland fans think of him, especially if you give your all.
The noise would have hit him square in the face and it would have been most satisfying, knowing those cheers and applause were for you.
I don’t care where he plays throughout his career, even on a regular basis at Anfield, I can tell you he will never experience that sound and feeling again.
That message was loud and clear for Conor from the Northern Ireland fans — welcome to our team, you’ll do us.
And while these youngsters excelled in the senior ranks, having worked with the Northern Ireland Under-19s during the last few months, there are definitely a few more players in the pipeline that can make the immediate jump to the senior squad.
I’ve been greatly enthused by this international break.
The fans are back, the young players are excelling and the future looks bright.
We might even have found Arsenal a new defensive rock…
The loyal Northern Ireland fans have voiced their disgust, outrage and frustration at the Irish FA over the outrageous over-pricing of tickets for matches at Windsor Park and now it is time for a resolution.
I wholeheartedly agree with the supporters, they have, in my opinion, been fleeced by the IFA.
It’s outrageous that single tickets for games are as much as £52 plus a £5 booking fee.
We need to have affordable tickets so that the average working man, with a family, is not priced out of games. Going to support your country should not feel like a hardship due to cost.
During this pandemic, we have constantly been told football is nothing without fans.
Well, prove it.
I welcome the Irish FA’s statement on Friday saying they would meet with fans’ representatives to discuss the matter but words are hollow unless action is taken.
It’s been a PR disaster and overshadowed the performance of the team.
The Irish FA should also consider themselves lucky and be very grateful to Bailey Peacock-Farrell for saving that penalty. If we had lost that match, you can only imagine that the fury of the fans would have been directed further at the IFA.
The IFA got lucky but it will not happen twice, so get round a table, thrash out a price which is affordable and acceptable to everyone and let the focus return to what happens on the pitch.
I wouldn’t dismiss Northern Ireland’s hopes of finishing in second place in Group C just yet.
Yes, it’s a tall order after drawing with Switzerland at home left us three points behind them with the same number of games played, and four remaining, but we can have a real go when we play the Swiss in Geneva next month.
It’s a game that is suddenly win or bust and that makes us dangerous and Switzerland hopefully vulnerable.
They are the team that is expected to finish alongside Italy at the top.
If Northern Ireland finish third then that’s okay with the team in transition and Ian Baraclough bringing through a number of youngsters.
That allows us to have a real go in Geneva and we know from the other night how to get under their skin.
The players should be excited about the situation and hopefully by then Jonny Evans and Stuart Dallas will be back alongside Paddy McNair to really boost our team.
Of course they’ll probably have Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri in their line-up but that wouldn’t perturb me.
If Northern Ireland manage to win then we’ll go level on points with the Swiss and they still have to go to Lithuania and Italy and then finish up with Bulgaria at home.
We’ll travel to Bulgaria and then finish up with home matches against Lithuania and Italy.
It’s obviously going to take a huge effort to remain in the mix, but I was greatly encouraged by Northern Ireland’s performance against the Swiss and with reinforcements returning, you just never know…