It wouldn’t be the international break if there wasn’t an injury scare and unsurprisingly, it is Jack Wilshere who is the centre of the story. Even less surprising is the ‘news’ that he has potential ankle-knack. Prior to the defeats to Chile and Germany, the talk had been positive, a detante breaking out between Arsenal and England. Roy Hodgson seemed to be more in tune with a longer-term view than worrying about the next game. It isn’t hard to understand a change of tack with the paucity of performances he witnessed yet he will be the first to complain if the midfielder suffers an injury which precludes his involvement in the World Cup. The outbreak of sanity in football was short-lived.
Fitness tests will reveal the extent of damage but it would be no surprise to see the player rested this weekend – not even on the bench – as a precautionary measure, especially if Theo Walcott makes his expected return. There is enough variety in Arsenal’s midfield for any number of permutations to be used and the manager will be more acutely aware than you or I, that he needs to begin rotating players. The warning signs are there in the form of the fitness of Ramsey and Wilshere; niggles can develop into something more long-term if left unchecked.
Whether that will alter Wojciech Szczesny’s view on the season is not yet known. The Pole had pretty much nothing to do despite being on the pitch in this week’s international against the Irish so returns to the club suitably refreshed. And confident. Which has never been a problem, publicly at least. Bendtner famously turned his confidence-o-meter to 11 but it strikes me that Szczesny is at 10.5, with youthful exuberance underpinning it all. That turned to maturity when he was dropped and Arsène got the response he wanted. Criticism of the goalkeeper centred around him not being able to turn a defeat into a draw or a draw into a win. That was misjudged; the defence was so porous last autumn that he was not able to stop everything which was thrown at him. Yes, he made mistakes, should have performed more consistently and was undermined by silly errors but he was not the only one. Like Giroud, talk of another goalkeeper is to put pressure on a young player who has huge potential and could conceivably have a twenty year career at the club, something he suggested when talking of his recent contract extension. It isn’t about replacing him but like Fabianski, whose departure next summer in search of first team football would be no surprise.
His confidence transmits to the team and the security of the defensive triangle at its heart gives a certain safety that in the knowledge it will be hard to breach the defence. Not impossible, just the level of difficulty that successful teams have. And Szczesny believes the team can be successful,
I don’t want to say nobody can challenge us for a trophy but if we are at our best we will win a trophy and that is all that matters. I wouldn’t say we have proved everyone wrong and passed all the tests. I will say that when we get our hands on a trophy in May.
I think what is important is what we believe in and we believe that we are good enough with the players we have got and the work we are doing to win the Premier League. We have shown that to people over the last six months or so. We know that if we just carry on doing the same thing we will show people that this team and these players are good enough to win a trophy without any extra additions or extra work that people are talking about. We certainly believe we can do it.
We need to make sure we continue doing what we have been doing recently and keep getting the results.
It is a tough six weeks or so which lie ahead. Already talk centres around how Dortmund’s injury woes may benefit Arsenal, the hope being they falter at home to Napoli whilst Arsenal win. More imminently, there is the visit of a decent Southampton side to negotiate; neither of next week’s fixtures should be taken for granted. Arsène will be hoping for a swift return to the consistency of the summer and autumn as winter arrives.
On the transfer front, Arsenal are apparently locked in battle with Roma over Salomon Kalou. In this transfer arm-wrestle, let’s hope they put forward the weakest member of Team Transfer Negotiations to take on their Italian counterpart. Elsewhere, Julian Draxler is the latest member of the German national team to be tapped up by the dynamic duo of Mertesacker and Podolski with Mesut Özil taking time out from his bout of sickness to extol the virtues of life at The Emirates. That is not believed to be this winter according to reports with Chelsea and City also rumoured to be interested. So he will end up in Madrid then. Contract talks must be about to resume with Bacary Sagna with Napoli looking to secure his services if he decides to leave the club.
That’s it for today, the return of Premier League football is just a matter of days away.