Injury Concerns Increase As Character Tests Are Passed

When the players traipse through the doors at London Colney this morning, the management will no doubt be looking for signs of wear and tear following Saturday’s win at Sunderland. With the clash against Bayern Munich looming, the side which takes to the field against Blackburn Rovers in this weekend’s FA Cup tie would no doubt have been much-changed anyway. Options are beginning to look a little limited in some positions if this morning’s press is anything to go by.

The squad is not looking thin overall, just a little stretched and you wonder how many players Wenger will be able to rest given that the Cup is realistically, Arsenal’s best chance of silverware this season. Winning the Champions League is not beyond them at all but it is a lot tougher than the domestic trophy. Viewing the remainder of the Fifth Round draw, a major surprise will occur if one of the current top six do not win the trophy. The only team missing is Tottenham; that underlines how much power is concentrated in the hands of the top of the Premier League table. The luck of the draw will definitely be with on the side of one of those teams if they avoid any others in the Quarter Finals. Did I say it was going to be easier to win this than the Champions League?

Defensive options are most concerning. Andre Santos‘ stay at the club appears to be in its final stages, the Brazilian arriving in his homeland to tie-up the loose ends of a loan deal to Gremio. How quickly things have changed for him, hailed last season as the future of the left-side of Arsenal’s defence to being marginally more welcome on the teamsheet than Sebastian Squillaci. Even so, we should not forget the contribution of his goal at The Hawthorns on the final day of the season as Arsenal contrived to make securing third a lot harder than it should have been. This is not a problem, Nacho Monreal has settled quicker than the overnight snow which has covered the locale with a thin white veneer.

His introduction probably confirmed the Spaniard’s belief that English football is filled with club-wielding neanderthals, barely capable of stringing two words together into a sentence let alone the same number of passes. Blackburn are not likely to change any of those prejudices. Doubts about Laurent Koscielny’s fitness will no doubt remain until later this week when the position is clarified but even if the Frenchman is fit, there must a strong temptation for Wenger to give Ignasi Miquel a runout as centre back in the cup-tie, Monreal’s appearances for Malaga ensuring he cannot feature against Bayern.

Thomas Vermaelen will most likely not feature and you wonder if part of the Belgian’s problems with his form can be attributed to the ankle injury he is carrying. Such an injury will not necessarily be at the forefront of his mind but any twinges felt during the game will jog his memory. I wonder how long he would be out for with surgery; if it is a less than a month, is it better to take the risk and have it done now or do the club wait until the Summer? Until Koscielny’s misfortune on international duty, that option must have been a possibility; now with the alternatives Sagna and Miquel, any managerial reticence to follow this path is understandable.

An area which must surely be of some far less concern is the team’s belief. I know there were awful first half performances in matches this year, evidenced by the stat which has done the rounds for a while that puts the team top of the table on second half scores, in the bottom half of the table in the opening forty-five minutes. With back-to-back performances that required the side to overcome the more physical aspect of the English game and take a fair bit of punishment in the process, coming away with six points and no goals conceded must instill something in them.

Not only that, the manner of achieving those wins was important. Walcott was battered from pillar to post by Stoke, responded by picking himself up and determined to make them pay, eventually drawing the foul which led to Podolski’s goal. Cazorla came on and ran at Stoke without hesitation. Wilshere showed the spikiness to Owen’s petulance, Arteta’s studied silence and lack of response to provocation a strength of character which the side needed. Too often Arsenal sides in recent years have failed in these situations.

These attributes were needed on Wearside and shown time and again. If the players cannot draw more belief from this, I don’t know when they will be able to. It isn’t a signal that they will definitely finish in European places, just that they have the inner strength to draw on, to meet the minimum requirement for a season. They will need it in the coming months, March an infinitely harder fixture list than February. Six out of six so far; win against Villa to make that nine, progress to the last sixteen of the FA Cup and a defendable lead to take to Munich – although any lead ought to be considered defendable – will leave few complaints about that month’s work and a strong position as the season enters the final third.

’til Tomorrow.

 

170 thoughts on “Injury Concerns Increase As Character Tests Are Passed

  1. Harry @ 2:15:

    “That’s the only difference. I dare say if we got as many decisions go our way as the Red Mancs do at home, that would help also, it’s certainly assisted them over the years in not “accepting defeat” (insert smiley wink).”

    I think you are a reasonable guy and then you go say something as silly as that. Man up for once and stop making excuses. They have been above us in the table because they have outscored us and conceded fewer goals every season since 2005. Thats why they finish ahead of us, not some silly mythical advantage that they get from the refs.

    They are dependent on RVP this season because they have him and he is the best player in the league. Any team would take advantage of that if given the opportunity. If they didn’t have him they would find other ways to score just like they did last season and the season before. They are a very well coached team and have the ability to adapt which unfortunately has not been our strong suit.

  2. they are dependent on rvp but hernandez and rooney still have 14 each..

    their strikers are outscoring ours right across the board..

  3. Anyone here seriously believe if we still had the Dutch boy we would not be challenging for the league right now? with this squad?

    The answer is yes we would. There I’ve answered it on your behalf.

    I’ll ignore that slur on my manliness Bill. And your last paragraph was pure piffle by the way.

  4. They were not dependant on him last year and did pretty well. Crucitially they have added RvP to their ranks. So if he were not availabe they would have the same striking options as last year. You know, the one that lost lge lge on goal difference alone.

    There are degree’s on how much a squad relies upon a player. If we had lost RvP last year, we would have been screwed. If Manure lose him this year, they will obviously be worse off, but will still carry on scoring.

  5. Harru – I do agree with that. If we had kept him and then made the same additions to the squad that we did, we would be doing very well, in spite of our sometimes leaky defence.

  6. and thats why they were finishing 20 points ahead of us without rvp and they will finish 40 ahead with him..

    the biggest thing is we only have three strikers and we have to play them all at the same time..

    UTD dont..they have 4 and they play with 1 or 2 or 3 at any one time

    and they still score more

    its called tactics.

    not tactic.

  7. rvp and song

    been here before..its been done to the death.

    we had the squad in august but then we had 35mil profit and are two additions away from challenging again..

    go figure.

  8. “They are dependent on RVP this season because they have him”

    Doesn’t make any bloody sense that. I’m not nit-picking, well yes I am actually (I love you really Bill you moany old git).

  9. So who would they be dependant on if they didn’t have him?

    I merely inquire. Of course the answer is that they are so well coached that someone else would make up the goal deficiency. In that case he needn’t have bought him in the first. Makes no sense.

  10. Harry – You seem to be avoiding the fact that the only team to outscore them last year was M City. They didn’t have problems scoring then without him, why would they now if he were missing for a few games? It makes no sense. They are not dependant on him, he just makes them better than they were.

  11. Taggart knew he needed extra goals to outscore his noisy neighbours…hence the acquisition of the Dutch boy. I think they would struggle to score this season, well half as much as they have, and factor in a poorer defensive record, and they would not be top of the league I’ll wager. And I believe he’s the difference between where we are and where they are….this season. That’s all I’m saying.

    I can’t even remember what the point of this argument was in the first place now.

    Next!

  12. they didnt really need him..they would have probably still won the title this year without him..
    the same way selling ronaldo and tevez never stopped them..

    but fergie lost the title on gd just once and it fucked him off..

    he knew we would sell because thats what we do so he paid what was required to get the leagues best player and take joy in the fact he would be wiping the floor with city in feb and not letting it go to the wire again..

    on the other hand we are still fighting with spurs, who sold modric and vdv, for 4th..

    i agree..it makes no sense at all..

  13. we shouldnt forget cazorla as well

    hes been productive for us this season..

    good to have a player in midfield who can hit you double figures..it helps.

  14. We are stronger JJ. Teething problems aside, or however you wish to describe them. You and I will never agree on much re: Arsenal and the manager though. But I respect, and would vigorously defend, your right to be utterly and completely wrong 🙂

    Same goes for Bill.

  15. Harry – I don’t get the reasoning that they would struggle to score this season. How do you come to that conclusion? Because based on last season, it makes no sense.

  16. heres something for y’all to get your teeth into

    most goals scored at home – 2nd
    least goals conceded at home – joint 14th
    most goals scored away – joint 8th
    least goals conceded away – 2nd

    so away from home we cant attack and at home we cant defend..

    but we can attack and we can defend

    but we cant.

    glad thats cleared it all up..

  17. but we cant say thats really working because weve lost more games at home than any of the other top 6 clubs

  18. how the fuck can a team that can defend away be so shit defensively at home?

    arrogance?

    i blame the fans..

  19. Harry @ 3:17:

    I love you too and I was just teasing. I am sure you are a manly man.

    “They are dependent on RVP this season because they have him”

    That makes perfect sense to me. They are taking advantage of the personnel they have available just like any team should. Barca and Messi is another example of the same thing. If RVP was not there they would figure out another way to score. 2 seasons ago the red Mancs were supposed to be a one man team, because everyone thought they were completely dependent on Rooney. Shreck went AWOL nearly all of that season and yet they somehow lead the league in scoring. Berbaflop won the golden boot and Hernandez shows up from no where and carry them to a title despite having a squad that should have struggled to make the top 4. They outscored and out defended us when on paper we were a much better team. That’s what I mean by being able to adapt and its why I don’t think the last paragraph of that post was piffle. IMO, you give credit where it is due and admit when you need to improve rather then making excuses. You can’t fix your own problems if you won’t admit they exist. No?

    I have to give this Arsenal team credit in the last 2 games, especially against Sunderland. I would have thought we would end up with a draw or worse in both games if you told me before the game that we would score only 1 goal in each. They came up with 2 clean sheets when they really needed them. Dropped points in either of those games would have been huge. That is mental strength. Hopefully they can take that into the next 2 cup games and we will need all the mental toughness we can muster the rest of the PL season to finish 4th.

  20. Simple we stop fukin chaarging. We were disciplined at the beginning of the season, we look very good when we don’t go gun ho.

  21. i was just about to say that..
    we looked defensively solid at the beginning of the season..

    the two one-nils should really fill one with confidence but we had about 4-5 clean sheets on the bounce at the start and since then we might as well not have a defence..

    i hope we find the balance soon..

  22. You can tell when things are not clicking for us up front. We let teams get setup and then try to break them down with passes straight through the centre of their back four (which rarely works). We lose possesion and the other team counter attacks.

    When things go well we move the ball back to front very quickly and are damn effective. G Neville pointed somthing out a few weeks ago which was telling. Plenty of our players are atttracted towards the ball are don’t make forward runs beyond play. This results in loads of possesion, but little threat.

  23. GoonerAndy: I understand your argument backed by the stats draughted by Cooper of last years team. As a result of Cooper’s article it is hard to believe that Arsenal are a more dynamic side during this years campaign. However, I am also, nevertheless, of the belief that this years side is indeed more “dynamic” without Van persie.

    Van persie’s absence from the squad has allowed other players to develop more attacking roles not just Walcott although he is likely the largest beneficary of Van persie’s departure. As well, Van persie’s destructive leaving of the team forced the management to find other attacking players to augment Arsenal’s goal production.
    This has been done rather nicely. Apart from these factors, it has to be mentioned the immense problem with having a player such as Van persie was his predilection for injury which plagued the team throughout his eight year tenure at Arsenal. In fact, such was the brittle nature of this player both on a physical and psychological basis, that I found myself holding my breath when ever he took to the field.

    There is no doubt that I am angry with Van persie! His behaviour during last summer with Arsene and the team was outrageous. Arsenal fans paid his wages over the many previous years of being in the sick bay. Our fans content to wait until he emerged from injury to perform on the field. Van persie’s turning of the knife into Arsenal fans was on par with the antics of a gutter snipe! Please never again mention of how wonderful this piece of minced snake is to football.

  24. @GA

    You make a valid point their mate as well as G Neville. I think that is why Theo and Giroud are so vital to our success outside of them just scoring goals and getting assists. Many times you will see the both of them making the necessary runs to help create that space in order to create that threat but until recently with Jack and now Santi those runs weren’t being recognized or the ball wasn’t being sent through. Now you are starting to see those runs from those 2 and space is starting to open up.

    The thing that I have found to be interesting is that Podolski is known for making those types of runs and for much of the season wasn’t but has now started to make the little darting runs that made him so feared at Koln and is paying dividend for us.

  25. I said struggle to score as many Andy. Look at the Dutch boys stats and then subtract his goals (and assists)…and where would they be? the evidence speaks for itself.

    @William
    This idea that Ferguson is such a genius he could coach any player to score a bagful in the absence of the Dutch Boy is nonsense. If he get’s an injury that takes him out for a while this would be put to the test. Basically I’m sick of people bigging up the Mancs and the ‘orrible Sith Lord of the North. This is an Arsenal blog. F*ck ’em.

    I’m glad you are at least acknowledging the significance of our last two results Bill. Was very important to see those games out, and keep a clean sheet in the bargain. I think the team may have turned a corner.

  26. @Harry

    “Basically I’m sick of people bigging up the Mancs and the ‘orrible Sith Lord of the North. This is an Arsenal blog. F*ck ‘em.”

    That is the best post of the day hands down!

  27. Harry – If Manure had not signed RvP do you think they would have played with ten men out of protest? You can’t simply subtract a players contribution as to prove your point. Somebody else would have played wouldn’t they? And as they proved last year, they don’t struggle to score with or without RvP.

    C – All true.

    Two Owls – The word “dynamic” is a strange descriptor in footballing terms. Under AW we have always been dynamic in a sense. Power, fast passing, and fluid play. Even if RvP were a focal point for some of our play, that does not detract from us being dynamic. I would agree that we do seem more dynamic this year, but I put that down to Wilshere and Cazorla to be honest. Players who make things happen.

  28. Harry – I am not bigging them up mate. I hate the club.

    I just don’t get the notion that they would struggle without RvP. There is nothing to suggest this would be the case and everything to suggest the opposite. They are a side that never struggles to score. They manage to outscore us virtually every season despite our belief that we are a great attacking teams.

    I agree player for player that seems hard to believe. But they are simply an effective footballing team.

  29. I wasn’t accusing you of doing that Andy, but the vibe is too reverential towards their manager for my liking.

    I’ll stick to my theory. It might be half-baked and crumble under too much scrutiny…but I’m sticking to it 😉

  30. Did any one notice that Boateng is suspended for both legs of the tie against us and their 3rd CB Holger Badstuber is out injured for the rest of the season. That means hat next to Dante will either be Javi Martinez which would weaken their midfield or Daniel Van Buyten who would cripple their defense with his decline in full swing.

  31. C @ 5:23:

    I don’t think of it as “bigging up” but more like being realistic and giving credit where it is due. As Andy says they have been an effective team and that is something we should always be striving for.

    The way we attack seems to cause inordinate risks on the defensive end. That would be acceptable if we could consistently outscore the teams we compete with, however the teams that win the league have comfortably outscored us every season for the last 6-7 years without taking defensive risks. That’s effective football and we should be trying to figure out what they have been doing better then us rather then ignoring it. Anyone who looks at the goals scored and goals conceded column in the league tables can easily see what has been happening, I have never understood why we can not get the balance right.

  32. @GA

    I wouldn’t be opposed to that. Hell We could lend them Kos if he would rugby tackle Giroud thus giving us a penalty and reducing them to 10 men would be even better.

  33. JD Gooner

    That poll question is a little disingenuous, as there is a distinct difference between winning the F.A Cup and The Champions League.

    In agreement with one of JJ’s recent comments, I’d take finishing 17th and winning the CL over coming top four: the most prestigious trophy of the lot and qualification as title holders to boot. However, I wouldn’t be happy with an F.A Cup if it meant finishing outside of the top four, especially as these days that also means below the enemy.

    The two trophies that really matter, the domestic and champions leagues, by their very nature negate the “would you rather …” question.

    The remaining two trophies perennially on offer, can surely only be seen as a mark of success if achieved simultaneously with a strong league campaign, which for The Arsenal, requires 4th place as a minimum.

  34. @MGK

    I agree with you 100% mate no doubt about it. But would you take 5th, us winning the FA Cup this year Europa next year and challenging for the League next year. Could we possibly use winning the FA cup as a kind of spring board monkey off the shoulder type of play!

  35. Here’s perhaps a more interesting “would you rather this season” scenario-

    Finishing in 4th with Spurs 3rd

    or

    Finishing above spurs but outside of the top four

  36. ps

    I realise the 2nd option is very unlikely to happen, whilst the 1st is far more of a realistic possibility, but putting such details aside – which one?

  37. If we finished 4th Spuds finished 3rd and we won the CL or FA Cup I would take that.

    If we finished above the Spuds and outside the top 4 and won the CL and/or FA I would take that.

  38. Matt:

    I don’t really care that much where the spuds finish as long as we finish 4th or better. If it was one of the other I would almost rather see the Spuds finish above us rather then Chelsea as long as we make the CL spot. The only team I hate enough to want them to lose more then I want any other team to win is the Dallas Cowboys. I am very happen no matter what happens in the rest of the league as long as the Cowboys choke away a playoff spot every year.

    I agree with C. I would not mind finishing 5th once if it was a guaranteed springboard to a real title challenge the next season but unfortunately it does not work that way.

  39. The fact that ManU are going to win the league at a canter this season shows just how piss poor the PL has become. ManU’s once excellent defence and GK are poor, their wingers decent but no better and they have no central midfield to speak of. Without RVP I think they’d be significantly worse off. Getting £24 million for RVP, a player who had previously been injury prone and with only a year left on his contract would have been good business if we had reinvested the money back into the squad. As it is I can’t see the point of the money just sitting in the bank, especially if we lose out on CL football next season.

  40. @Bill

    I too hate the Cowboys but as a Steelers fan, my worst fear happened this season when the Ravens won the Superbowl. I burned literally EVERYTHING that had a combination of Black and Purple together in it that I had in my house.

  41. C

    I just wrote a really detailed response to your FA Cup/ Europa League question and then was met with this

    “Error Establishing a Database Connection”

    No post 🙁

    So, in a much, much shorter version, if you could promise me that we would invest regardless of the lack of CL, then sure, but the worry would be that the very fact that CL wasn’t being played would put your proposed scenario in serious jeopardy.

    Erm, I think a trophy would soften the blow if we finish below spurs, but I’m hoping we will finish above them, and with it we’ll secure 4th at their expense.

    Above the spuds is 1st priority for me, especially as they are currently a good team. Hopefully we can go back to regarding Utd as the enemy and finishing above the spuds returns to being a thing that is not even up for discussion.

  42. “I would almost rather see the Spuds finish above us rather then Chelsea as long as we make the CL spot.”

    Can’t agree with this I’m afraid.

    As much I loathe Chelsea, they have been bankrolled to such an extent that I’m willing to accept them out performing us, but the enemy? Not only are they the enemy, but they have the most detestable set of supporters. No other fans have such an over inflated sense of importance. Despite all of the facts, figures, statistics and numbers, the average spud would still look you in the eye and genuinely tell you that they are the bigger and better team and club.

    The thought of them actually finishing above us is horrible.

    I very much give a shit about finishing above sp*rs.

  43. @MKGK

    I too was met with that hence my shorter response.

    The funny thing is that I feel that we have already set in motion the transfers for the summer and that we will see more Podolski like signings this summer than Park(last min not quality even though he has scored goals). I do have a special place in my heart for ALWAYS wanting to finish above Spuds as well and do want to get back to regarding Manure as the enemy.

    I do think though that once we do win a trophy, it will be a significant scenario outside of the obvious reason. I think what is holding us back is the weight of not winning and once we do win 1 even the FA Cup I could see us getting back to challenging every year and even winning the League with more additions and subtractions of non-key players(many of which have already signed and resigned for the next 3+ years). For me it is similar to watching Lebron and the Heat win a championship last year and then watching them this year. He finally got his ring after a long hard road and now plays and dominates. Us winning a trophy could have the same impact.

  44. C,

    It’s a good job aman wasn’t sitting in your house. Or a shame depending on your opinion of aman.!!

    I’d take 17th and a carling cup, I’m desperate for some silverware.

    Seriously though I’m sure the players would love an fa cup medal. And no cl for a year in exchange for it.

  45. Matt:

    My relatively recent introduction to English football (when fox soccer came TV came on line) and the physical distance from the spurs makes them less detestable. I see Chelsea as a much bigger threat over the long term and I see Abramovich as the biggest villain in the PL. Chelsea is like the New York Yankees of the PL. To me spurs and their fans are a bunch or laughable losers. In my time following Arseanal, Spurs have found more ways to lose things then any team I can think of. I still chuckle at them missing the CL spot because of the food poisoning in 06 and then last year finishing 4th only to have Chelsea take their CL spot. I have a difficult time hating them because its so easy to laugh at them.

    C:

    I like Pittsburg mainly because they have won more Super bowls then the cowboys which annoys all the locals. I was hoping for San Francisco to win their 6th super bowl this season so they would also have more trophies then the cowboys. For me the real super bowl was the last day of the regular season when the Redskins knocked the cowboys out of the playoffs.

  46. Fair do’s, Bill, although I can honestly tell you, from an English perspective, they are generally intolerable.

  47. No sane Arsenal fan can do other than thank their personal deity that our neighbours are Totteringham Bill

    Almost 20 years of giving – extraordinary

  48. It’s not their failures that are worthy of mirth – it is the season after season of effort, the near misses, the inexplicable trip on the final threshold of victory

  49. @Dukey

    Yea more than likely he wouldn’t have been welcomed in my house unless we weren’t talking American football.

    Yea I think honestly their isn’t a Gooner or Gunner around the world that wouldn’t and isn’t desperate for Arsenal to win a trophy.

    I know personally I would love for Arsenal to win the FA Cup. I’m pretty sure I’ll be insanely drunk and slide across the carpeted floor!!!!

  50. @Bill

    My best friend is a devote Redskins fan and he enjoyed the Cowboys getting knocked out by his Redskins. I too was hoping that the 49ers won the SuperBowl but when they didn’t I was very miserable.

  51. Santos has played about 3 matches for us this season – all bad – and has fallen from grace, with no chance to prove anything really. Tony Adams had more chances in a single February to prove himself when he was deemed incapable of kicking a ball and Djourou at the other end of the spectrum played tons of bad matches and was like the protected son of the chief.
    Who the hell knows what happens behind closed doors.

  52. Not all Arsenal fans have to like the manager. I suppose even hating him for whatever reason is allowed. One is left to wonder whether the likes of Cesc and rvp should have been left to walk away for free rather than be sold for profit. These players were determined to leave and one of them even created a website to state that fact to his loyal fans. Is it so hard to see that Wenger has been consistently rebuilding as a result of these losses whereas the best coach ever has been adding to a relatively stable team consistently?

  53. Yes HARRY
    I’m sick of posters bigging up manure every chance they get on an ARSENAL BLOG. makes it like they are manc fans here with an agenda. I know it isn’t true but it just seems like it. Well to each his own. I detest no other team than them for the same reasons you mentioned. The blue mancs and chelski I could tolerate till they whored their soul for sugar daddies and now I can’t stand them either. The tots I have never considered as our main competitors and I take great pleasure each year beating them in derbies and finishing ahead of them. Year after year The laughing stock of the league with their delusions of grandeur.almost feel sorry for them.almost.

    MARCUS
    totally agree that this year our team ia more balanced and more fluid since not all attacks have to go through one player. The whole team has a chance to blossom and it shows. I would rather have four players scoring ten to fifteen each than one player scoring forty to fifty. ARSENAL. is so much the better for it and part of our evolution. SONG leaving was a huge error on his part for his career development and we have suffered a bit for it but are adapting. I would love to see ARTTETA as an attacking midfielder that he is. But he does play as a DM unselfishly so that the team prosper. Much respect to him for that.

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