It must be October because the injury gremlins are here. The month when national teams borrow players and return them crocked for Arsenal. The time when we start trying everything from horse placenta to cryochambers. This time round, our defensive personnel are battling sore hips, thigh strains and Achilles problems.
We should already be used to this, right? It’s an occupational hazard you might say. That’s why you have a squad, that’s why you keep your options open. I’m still scratching my head as to why we sold Gabriel, the only plausible reason being that the Brazilian wanted guaranteed pitch time for a chance to get into the Brazil World Cup squad. We already knew that Laurent Koscielny has a long-term Achilles problem and it can give way at any time. With Shkodran Mustafi now out for at least 6 weeks, Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker will get more action than they expected.
No matter, we have a stretch of 6 winnable games in 3 competitions placed before us. Not to say that they’ll be a walk in the park, they won’t. If Watford taught us anything last season, it’s that complacency and showing disrespect by not taking our opponent seriously is the quickest way to losing 3 points. The next stretch of games is a great opportunity for our fringe players to make their mark on the team, especially young Mr Holding.
Squeezing the Lemonade Out or Scraping the Barrel?
Some people head for the gym and unleash their anger and disappointment on a punching bag. Others go off the rails with any number of excesses. But we do have a curious case of Alexis Sanchez. At 29, it’s hard to under-estimate the impact on him after Chile failed to make it to Russia 2018. This must be a very big blow for him. But he is also a professional with the pride of a lion, and someone who is clearly in the shop window.
You would hope that all his frustration, anger and disappointment will be unleashed on any of the opponents that come our way. That he will use his desire to win and be the best to exorcise the disappointment out of his system. Wenger will have a key role to play in supporting Alexis to quickly get back into the right frame of mind. The manager has admitted that the Chilean isn’t in a good place after their loss to Brazil that kicked them out of the World Cup. Well, there’s Ospina’s enthusiasm to try save a shot at goal he didn’t need to, earning Peru a point and ensuring Chile doesn’t make it to Russia. We won’t talk about that now though, will we?
Have Boots, Will Travel – But Only for a Fortune
You can just picture it. The sound bites, the PR statements – “I’ve always said I wanted to stay and my heart has always been at Arsenal”.
So Ozil wants to stay? It’s more plausible to believe Wenger when he says that Ozil’s agent is making the right noises towards extending a deal. The alternative view comes from the tabloids who are linking him with everyone from Manchester United to Gor Mahia FC in Kenya, and that’s just the January transfer window.
Having put Arsenal in a precarious position with key player contracts, the club have no choice but to prepare for all eventualities. That includes the German surprising everyone with a coupon busting new contract for Arsenal. Ozil also needs to be in the right head space if he is to get back to his best for Arsenal. It might help that few teams if any, have shown real interest and made bids for him. Perhaps they’re waiting to sign him on a free before or after the World Cup.
Let’s Keep Our Eye on the Right Ball
You know the press are still going to milk the Ozil and Alexis wantaway stories to the death. However, with Manchester United playing Liverpool in the early kick-off, points are going to drop around us and we have to focus on the job and do are part in quietly smuggling ourselves into the top 4. Arsenal can least afford to be caught up in the drama of a transfer window 3 months away. Apart from the injury threats, the international break came at a time we were on the high. We must maintain that momentum regardless of the personnel available to us.
9 points are up for grabs in the next 3 weeks, Everton being the most likely club to give us grief. One would hope that they are still in turmoil when we visit Goodison Park on the 22nd, but approaching that match with lady luck as our strategy isn’t a smart move. We also have the advantage of rotating the squad for the 2 matches against Red Star Belgrade in the Europa league and Norwich in the League Cup.
That should give our key players, especially Koscielny enough room to avoid the red zone. Rob Holding has an excellent chance for progress and confidence building. Mathieu Debuchy must be wondering where things went so wrong when he still can’t even get into the team with our defence crocked as it is. Even for the Europa and League Cup teams, Da Silva has a better chance to get into the squad than the Frenchman.
Glad that proper football is back though. Have a great weekend good people.