It’s been a while since the international break wrought havoc over a season so Shkodran Mustafi pulling up with an unidentified knack was a return to the old days. This was a proper return to the old days, not the Mike Pence’s version. When the US vice-president posts photos from three or four years ago to pass them off as being at an event yesterday, you wonder if they want to ‘out-buffoon’ Boris Johnson.
Mustafi’s injury is ‘old skool’ Arsenal.
“With Mustafi it seems that it is some muscle tear or some muscle fibre tear,” came Joachim Löw’s medical update. “In any case it could force him to a longer break,” he added with a shrug of his shoulders which let the world know it wasn’t his problem.
Therein is the rub. We’ve borrowed your lawnmower but it’s not working properly; can you fix it so that next time I want to use it, it’s working properly?
News of Mustafi’s injury caused much hand-wringing. Amid the cries of “Woe! Woe! And thrice woe!”, the German is now considered an integral and irreplaceable member of the team. Who knew? This can’t be the same Mustafi who Wenger was happy to sell in the summer because he wasn’t as good as he thought, surely?
Or is it just because it’s Arsenal and we’re a bunch of old drama queens?
The immediate concern is not Mustafi per se but Koscielny. His Achilles injury is not a new problem, it’s flared up for years. Surprisingly, the club didn’t elect for him to be operated on during the non-tournament summer. Now, it’s kept him out of the French squad – no bad thing from an Arsenal perspective – but he’s a doubt for the trip to Watford.
We’re not blessed with depth in the centre of the defence or maybe experience is the issue.
You Put Your Left Back In, Your Centre Back’s Out
Calum Chambers is so hip his hurts but is expected to be fit for Saturday and could make his first Premier League start of the season. I doubt it. Rob Holding is Mustafi’s replacement and if Koscielny’s out as well, Mertesacker returns to the side. Then there’s Mohammed Elney at which point you wonder if the list of centre backs is best described as “everyone but Chambers”.
It would be surprising if it is. Middlesbrough gave him good reports, England Under-20s saw good performances en route to winning the World Cup this summer; there’s a talented defender in there screaming to get out. We’re quick in the stands to criticise.
There’s a mythical view that we always gave youngsters a chance in the past but like so much surrounding the club, it’s a romantic view of the truth. The reality is that we didn’t have the multitude of views at our fingertips; in those days, it was more a case of the voices around you in the stadium and in the bars. Not an electronic echo chamber but an echo chamber nonetheless.
Where we’ve got to see an improvement is in the use of the squad. Putting two left backs into the centre of the defence was an unmitigated disaster which cost us dear. Kolasinac in his favoured position as left wing-back is phenomenal. We have able deputies for injured first choice centre backs; we won the FA Cup last season with a reshuffled defence so winning Premier League matches is well within their capabilities.
That’s What it’s all About!
Concerns abound about the next international break and how we’re going to need to rotate the squad may prove premature. As things stand, Wales are on the cusp of elimination. Ranked second bottom of the ‘second place’ teams, they aren’t guaranteed a play-off place unless they beat the Republic.
Draw and they are out. Ramsey like most, if not all, the squad is then involved in friendlies for their countries in November. I think Xhaka is the only other player who could find himself in the UEFA play-offs, if Switzerland lose in Lisbon.
Alexis and Chile? Well, the South American play-offs are so mad at the moment that if Peru v Colombia finishes in a draw while Argentina win their game, then defeat in Brazil eliminates Chile. Having been the horse that everyone flogged during his time at Arsenal, gets a summer off just as he leaves. Fan-bloody-tastic.
Those are permutations which will be resolved in the next few days. To be honest, we know that the squad can just as easily be decimated in training; I’ll pass on worrying about anything beyond Watford right now.
I’ll close today with a reminder that over at Dad’s Jukebox, you can view the Records of the Week in under 140 Characters with a new post set for later this evening.