Perhaps a provocative headline written this morning, but no less a relevant one, as we find out soon (possibly today) the extent of Theo and The Ox’s injuries, which means Arsène has to delve a little deeper in to his squad than I’m sure he’d prefer.
Arsène has definitely rotated this season more than we are used to, but even he would not want to be rotating as much as he looks likely to be forced in to doing, with injuries mounting up. We’ve currently got Wilshere, Welbeck, Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain all out and whilst Arsène has been shuffling his deck to use a core of about 15 or 16 players in his first XI squad, these injuries mean we’re looking at players who are 18, 19 and 20th in his team.
We can all bemoan the constant muscular injuries. We can all talk about how Theo should have been given more time to warm up and we can all throw our hands up in exasperation at yet another Arsène mistake (he is human, after all), but it doesn’t really solve the issue that we have this weekend, does it?
We go into this game at The Liberty Stadium knowing that we’re in a really good position in the league to mount a challenge against City, but the sick note list means that our depth in squad will be tested to its limits, as will Arsène’s faith in the players he hasn’t really played all season.
The midweek game against Sheffield Wednesday showed that the young – I mean really young – aren’t really up to the standard just yet, so it is with players like Joel Campbell that you have to wonder whether we will see a step up given the improved players he’d have around him, as well as the better opposition. Could playing against better players bring out the best in somebody like Joel?
I am not convinced. He was poor against Wednesday and that was his opportunity to show the manager that he’s closer to The Ox or Theo on that wide right position than we all thought. His audition went pretty badly, but it went badly for everybody, so perhaps I should not be making my judgements on the abysmal performance as we saw at Hillsborough?
If Campbell wants to look at a story of redemption, he doesn’t have to look far beyond that of Coquelin, who in similar circumstances through injury managed to establish himself as a regular starter at the club and is now one of the first names on the team sheet. Francis had the Christmas period last year to show what he’s about and did it almost instantly. If Campbell wants to be first choice, if he gets his chance on Saturday he has to take it, because I’m not sure he’ll be afforded too many more. He’s 23 now and although that is still young for a footballer, he won’t have many more openings because although this is Arsenal and we do seem to accumulate lots of injuries every year, what tends to happen is they come in these waves and then everyone gets fit at the same time. So unless Joel steps up in the next week, that could be it for him as an Arsenal player.
Serge Gnabry took his chance a couple of seasons ago and looked a great prospect out wide right. Were he not on loan I do wonder if Arsène would start him, but with Joel there, I don’t think Le Boss will bring back Gnabry. He would possibly consider it to be ‘killing’ the Costa Rican’s career. So we are essentially looking for Campbell to have the same cameo impact that Gnabry has had when he’s come in to the first team.
Of course Arsène could always look to deploy Flamini alongside Coquelin against Swansea, with Cazorla further forward and Özil out wide, but I wonder if Wenger will consider the little partnerships forming across the team as more important than playing a player with more experience (Flamini) over one with relatively little first team experience (Campbell). I do think he’ll play one of those two though.
If he goes for the Flamster, then he too needs to step up, like he did against the Spuds. It wasn’t just his two goals against that lot that made that performance stand out, but also his discipline and doing more than his usual running around aimlessly shouting and pointing. But again on Tuesday night it felt like it was much of the same from him in the shouty and pointyness of his performance. He was supposed to be looking after the younger players and leading the way, but like many he faded in the game and as a result I think there would be plenty of concerns from Arsenal fans should he start. Again, the good news could be that by being surrounded by first teamers, he steps up. We only hope that he does if he starts.
We’ll know more later today I hope, or at least tomorrow at Arsène’s press conference, so let’s just hope that whoever plays makes the transition and helps towards securing three valuable points.