Aah, I love Saturday’s; 3pm is not that far away and then it’s…oh. Still, Skint & Demoralised will get you all misty-eyed about that one in this week’s playlist, the wittily titled When Saturday Comes, on the right-hand sidebar or here. For Arsenal it is a case of waiting until Monday. The rest has been beneficial for Arsène as he seeks to recuperate his squad and take advantage of the relatively light fixture list at the moment.
Transfer speculation is a necessary evil in the game and Arsenal, whether they like it or not as a club, are the prime focus this winter with the injury to Theo Walcott. Arsène would have none of this if he ruled the world; January would be the month of broken promises, nothing more,
The transfer market is a distraction that for me is not welcome. I think it would be much better that there is no transfer market at all in January and the team starts and finishes with the same players would be fair
There is a caveat, of course,
unless you have big injuries.
Which is exactly where Arsenal find themselves, isn’t it? I understand – sympathise, even – with Wenger’s frustrations. No matter where he turns, there is scouting advice and questions that are the footballing equivalent of “Are we there yet?“. He has to show the same phlegmatic exasperation as all parents when those words dance through the air. Arsène would prefer the league be treated as the marathon it is so often called. It is not immediately apparent when he would not have called upon some mid-season transfer window since moving to The Emirates, such has his ill-fortune with injury been in that time. But, as with the Away Goals Rule, it is what it is and we move on, especially since this morning had encouraging noises being made about contracts.
Tomas Rosicky, according to the manager, will be here in the summer. Arsène could have hardly eulogised more about the player - “He is certainly a typical Arsenal player in the way that he is mobile, technically sound and team orientated, so he is a fantastic football player“- and rightly so, his form a continued reminder of how much of his prime was lost through injury. Recent noises from media interviews suggested that Rosicky was not taking anything for granted nor committing to Arsenal beyond the summer. Insiders were quoted as authority for the assertion that Wenger wanted the Czech to play 25 games this seasons. He’s not far off that now and if that benchmark really existed, he is showing little sign of ill-effect at approaching it. Indeed, the player indicated that the volume of injuries had prolonged his career, saving him from wear-and-tear that would have normally visited his playing career at this stage. No pain, no gain, indeed.
Bacary Sagna is the other issue at hand, neither side commenting openly on the situation beyond ongoing talks. He is free to sign pre-contracts with another club if he so desires and reports this morning suggest Galatasaray are willing to pay him £75k per week after tax as opposed to the same amount before the government takes their cut. There is a universal desire among the support that the club reach agreement with Sagna, a testament to the player’s consistency which is showing little sign of dropping despite an unsettling situation.
Focus though is probably on the trip to Villa Park. Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen are missing whilst Kieran Gibbs is in the running although doing so may aggravate his calf. With a perfectly good replacement in Nacho Monreal, is there any rush to bring the England international back into the team? Injuries dominate his thinking, recuperation key to team selection. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may feature and Arsène would have no qualms about using the midfielder despite only 45 minutes of reserve team action against Fulham since returning to training.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is “in the same position” as Lukas Podolski, according to the manager. Both are recovering from long-term injury and not yet fully match-fit. Whilst Wenger did not hesitate with the midfielder, he was more guarded in his view on Podolski,
He has been out for four months and after being available, it doesn’t mean you are competitive in the Premier League. It takes some time to come back. This week he looked sharper in training so he’s getting closer now to being completely fit again. He’s certainly one of the best finishers I’ve ever seen. When he is physically ready, he will of course help us. If there’s one you want to see in front of the goal in a shooting position, it’s him.
It sounds to the outsider, as if there are lingering doubts about the German’s fitness. Was he rushed back or brought into the squad ahead of plan because the team had encountered a rough patch before Christmas or was it needs must with others stats suggesting a rest was needed? Whatever the case, it sounds as if there is still a way to go for Podolski before he is ready for the rigours of competition on a twice-weekly basis as cup and league competitions intertwine in the fixture list.
It is somewhat unfair to compare the recoveries of Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain in many respects, particularly with the different natures of their injuries. The German’s benefit to the team was seen in his return at Upton Park but whether he is as much of an asset to the team in the central striking role that Arsène believes, is debatable. Some enthuse about his use there but sometimes it feels as if his strengths are underplayed in such a role. His finishing is not questioned but is he a genuine replacement for Giroud in the Frenchman’s absence? I am not convinced it is anything beyond a game or two; he is far more effective supporting such a striker and not being the lead role, something which I thought was evident when Giroud was suspended as last season drew to a close. The manager sees him on a daily basis and knows better how the team fits together but let’s not forget he is hamstrung by the squad rules and transfer windows…