William Gallas is confirmed as being out for the remainder of the season whilst Manuel Almunia and Gael Clichy are going to miss arguably the most defining ten days of the season. Little surprise that this has happened for it sums up everything about 2008/09 so far; things go well and then wham bam, something comes along to try to derail the squad’s hunt for silverware, with not so much of a “Thank You, Ma’m” in sight.
Tough as this situation is going to be to deal with, I believe the squad can do just that. On paper, we have the players to cover those absences. Where their replacements cannot match them is the experience that they bring to the pitch. Each of them has played in big matches for the club or their previous employers in the case of Gallas. In the squad though, Arsene has options aside from goalkeeping where Fabianski is the option. Djourou seems most likely to come into the centre although Silvestre and Song can do so.
Left back has the choice of Gibbs or Silvestre. It would not surprise me to see the youngster play on Saturday with Silvestre taking over on Wednesday and against Chelsea. Problematically for Arsene, neither has a cast-iron case for inclusion nor exclusion. Where Gibbs has Clichy’s pace, Silvestre has experience to compensate. Suddenly, the decision to sign the Frenchman in the summer does not look as poor as some would have you believe.
It is not all bad news. Eduardo and van Persie are both having fitness tests later today over their groin injuries which suggests that one or both of them might well be available for midweek and the FA Cup semi-final, almost a case of the ‘Injury Fairy’ saying, “OK, I’ve weakened your defence but now I’ll strengthen your attack”.
Apparently, Tomas Rosicky refused to play for the reserves last night. Well, that is stretching the truth to the point of breaking – oops, there it goes, ping like, well you imagine what you want – as Wenger observed:
Tomas Rosicky, at the moment, is not close to coming back. We have to be very patient there
Patience is a virtue that Wenger and Rosicky have in abundance when it comes to the Czech’s recovery. It would be better to have Rosicky back, fully fit, than to have him bouncing in and out of the squad as is the case with Eduardo.
I am confident we can score goals, we did before anyway. What is important to us this time is that we’re a team who are relying on the quality of our passing and collective play
The captain observed about the performance in Castellon:
we showed character and came back in the second half.
In truth, there is nothing more to be said. On occasion in the first half of the season, the accusation of not being a team was levelled more than once. There is an element of truth in that but more accurately, it was a case of young players growing up in public. Since December, there has not been one case that immediately springs to mind where that is the case. In fact, the opposite has been more prevalent. Poor performances have not resulted in defeat, points ground out. The next step is to take draws and convert them to wins for we know losing situations can be retrieved.