It seems a corner has been turned in the world of injured Arsenal players. One can only hope that Eduardo’s return proves not to be so much of a false dawn as the ubiquitous ones that have cast a long shadow over the career of Abou Diaby. Oh, he’s still keeping the medical staff company, in case you were wondering. And Aaron Ramsey, apparently.
Eduardo is keeping a positive spin on his return:
All my team-mates asked me if I was scared, but I’m happy not to fear anything on the pitch and I’m ready to play. When I came on, I must confess that I felt tension in my stomach, but it disappeared when I made my first touch. The most important thing is that I’m back, but I still have work to do to be the old Eduardo.
That’s to be expected and the butterflies will really be turning in his stomach when it comes to the Premier League or maybe Monday’s cup-tie and the first crunching tackle comes flying in his direction. Whatever his feelings are, that is perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome.
Wenger meanwhile is not going to be rushed into playing him:
He is back and ready to go. I don’t know [about Cardiff]. I don’t want to promise anything. I want the freedom to pick the team I want to pick
Well, that has to be quite the most disgraceful statement that Arsene has made in a long time. Does he not realise that we all know better than he? And he’d better come along with any of this, “I’ve won trophies“, malarkey either because that seems to count for nought these days. However, given that Wenger likes to rest his main strikers for these cup games, Eduardo is likely to get some action on Monday night, a gentler introduction perhaps than Sunderland the following weekend.
Wenger has been praised by Amaury Bischoff:
I suffered very serious groin trouble at Werder. Arsene Wenger wanted me anyway. He hired me for one season while I was still injured. The first five months at London, I was training all alone. Arsenal saved me. Wenger gave me one more year to come back to the best level. After eight months I have already played two matches and appeared a few times in the professional group. But the coach doesn’t want to rush.
Bischoff has impressed those who have seen him for the reserves and may yet get his chance with the first team given the inability of the midfield to stay fit for more than a week at a time. The internationals have worked favourably for Arsene this time with the next fixture five days after the friendlies ended. With a clear week after that, Wenger has the chance to keep others fresh for the important visit of Sunderland.
Important? A win puts pressure on Chelsea, whom George Graham believes can be caught. I am not so sure as Hiddink’s arrival will act as a spur for the players, at least in the short-term but a positive outcome in the Villa – Chelsea encounter and a win for Arsenal means the gap to fourth can go no wider, at worst. Graham is an expert at not strengthening his squads, failing to do so after the 1989 and 1991 title wins, his observation that “I look at the squad and the strength in depth isn’t there for me” was a regular complaint about his tenure.
Achieving a top four place is something that Gael Clichy believes is achievable:
I think it’s 10 years that we have been in the Champions League, so it would be a big loss for the club and for the fans but the season is not finished and we still have the chance. I am confident we can still do it.
It is not going to be easy but the ‘business end‘ of the season is approaching and injuries may yet play a big part. Arsenal are beginning a phase when those out should start returning which will be a big boost. Others may yet suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune that have beset Arsenal in recent months.
That said, Clichy is right. Arsenal has to win their games and not worry about anyone else. In fact, if they win all of their matches, the silverware haul will be healthy indeed and perhaps people will look back and wonder what the fuss was all about. I doubt it though…
Finally, Happy Birthday to No.1 son. Almost double figures but not quite.