At lunchtime yesterday I decided to go for a walk and as is the culture these days, I thought I’d take along my smartphone and spend most of the time walking blind whilst staring into the rectangular blue light that is my handheld device. What I was looking for, I’m not entirely certain, perhaps some escapism from the fact I’m back in to work and have been for most of the week, or maybe I just wanted to see what people were talking about on my Twitter timeline and other social media profiles I have.
Invariably though, I came back to one source I always use, which was the club’s official site. I wanted to see if there was any team update ahead of the away trip to Preston tomorrow evening and I wasn’t disappointed.
Well actually, I was thoroughly disappointed but not due to the lack of news, but the potential lack of players we could have for tomorrow’s game. Arsène confirmed yesterday that a host of players would be missing for the game. It’s not so much that Arsène’s taking the time to rest them or devaluing the FA Cup, its more that we seem to be running out of players, and that’s what has irked me more than anything else.
How on earth have we gone in to this season with one of the strongest squads in the league, yet we find ourselves literally scrabbling around for enough first team players to make a squad. It’s mental. Count them:
- Koscielny (rested, although Arsène said he was fatigued so we might as well put that down as an injury)
- Coquelin – confirmed yesterday that it’s the classically Arsenal, now trademarked, ‘three week hamstring’ injury
- Elneny – African Cup of Nations Duty
- Özil – unlikely to be featured if, as the boss says, he hasn’t been out of bed for a week
- Alexis – again like Koscielny, will be rested to avoid further fatigue
- Lucas – picked up a knock in the Bournemouth game, apparently
If all of those players are out for the match and don’t make the squad, that’s one heck of an injury list, almost unbelievable. That’s 11 players who would be considered part of the first team squad that could be missing. Eleven.
I’m probably sounding like the classic bleating Arsenal fan here, but it feels like we’ve been cursed ever since we moved in to the old stadium. Have you heard the urban myth about how a Tottenham fan working on the Ashburton Grove site buried a shirt underneath the pitch as some kind of hex? I’m not exactly the most superstitious type in the world, but that’s the kind of sh*t that makes me think about it being a possibility, when I read team news updates like that yesterday.
Even Monreal was hobbling for parts of the Bournemouth game! We’re going to get to the stage where there’ll be a memo on the notice board at London Colney this afternoon saying
Running out of bodies for the game at Preston, so first ones on the bus from the under 18s, under 21s and ladies team, makes the match day squad.
I know I’m being a bit flippant, but it’s hard to think that there won’t be a decent spattering of youth who at least make the bench for the game. I have a feeling that this team will have a decidedly League Cup feel to it.
Still, I’m going up there with about 5,000 other Arsenal fans and although we’ll see far from our best XI, I’m looking forward to it. Apart from the cup finals I’ve never been to away FA Cup games, so I expect there to be a good atmosphere and plenty of noise at Deepdale, so let’s hope it drives those that are alive forward.
The one positive I will say, however, is that Danny Welbeck could be back in the squad. That, boys and girls, would be marvellous news. I don’t want to go all Wengerisms on you, but if he stays fit it really would be like having the same boost you get from a new signing. Welbeck will run channels, he’ll close down and at a time in which many I share a pre match drink with wondering whether we need more in the wide-forward positions, he will provide an option that will be greatly needed. I hope he gets some minutes. Even as a trademark Arsène Wenger ‘on 70’ substitution. He’s the sort of player who I think works really well with someone like Alexis. Both of them hurry and hassle defenders and with Alexis surely to move back centrally eventually (unless Giroud scores every game, in which case I’m fine with the Frenchman carrying on), he and Alexis will give us a lot of movement and probably fill the gaps left by Alexis wandering away from his centre forward position, as he likes to do.
Just think back to the success of the Everton game away last season. Alexis, Welbeck and Iwobi played as the front three and the mobility of each of them, as well as their constant interchanging of positions, caused the Everton back line all manner of problems.
The big ‘IF’ though, is whether we can keep him fit, because he’s gone a bit Wilshere/Diaby on us (through no fault of his own I might add) by being out for two years. So we’ll need to treat his recovery carefully and I think that means we won’t see him starting for a number of weeks yet.
But let’s just end today’s blog with that positivity, eh? We have a good player back with us who we’re hoping can make an impact. That’s something to smile about amidst a barrage of negativity that’s been swirling around after the Bournemouth debacle and the lengthy injury list.
I shall speak to thee in the morrow. Y’all be good now, yer hear?