The rapid returns from injury of Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere now obviously take on added importance – hopefully both aren’t far from full fitness.
This time yesterday, I, like all Arsenal fans, was blissfully unaware that Danny Welbeck had already undergone surgery on the knee injury he suffered in April and would be unavailable for ‘a period of months’.
The last update on his fitness had suggested the former Man Utd striker would return to the first-team fold shortly after the current international break, so today’s news combined with our failure to recruit a new striker before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, now leaves us worryingly short of central striking options.
After Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, if you discount Alexis Sanchez – who in his few cameos in the position last term was far from convincing – we’re now left with Joel Campbell as the most natural option at the tip of the attack. I’m almost speechless at how quickly the air of pre-season optimism engulfing the club has been blown away and replaced by clouds of impending doom.
I can understand it of course. A lot of Arsenal supporters when we unveiled Petr Cech at the end of June, were assessing a squad that had finished the previous campaign third in the league and having secured a second successive FA Cup with a convincing win at Wembley and expecting us to mount a serious challenge for the title. Perhaps even manage a sustained run in Europe.
There was also the added anticipation of further ‘Gunner Galactico’ signings to follow in the footsteps of Cech, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to Emirates stadium. After all, the new TV deals had armed the league with obscene money to strengthen squads and players all around Europe were expected to be easy prey. We were looking like a million bucks with the promise of a further lorryload of dough. Then came a perfect pre-saseon, including Arsene Wenger’s first-ever win over Chelsea to secure the Community Shield and hope had turned into expectation. Requests into demands.
Yet after two wins, a draw and a defeat from our opening four league games, in which we looked a shadow of the team who sailed merrily through pre-season, and the lack off any additions at all before the transfer window closed on Tuesday, familiar grievances about the manager’s work and the squad’s quality have come hurtling back like Francis Coquelin closing down an opposition attack.
It goes without saying that collectively we must improve to keep pace with a far stronger Man City squad to last year’s, but has any other team suggested as title-winners improved? It’s too early to know definitively of course but given the start of the league season, and looking at their transfer business with the window now closed, I’s say no.
In a very particular order; Tottenham have no chance, Liverpool have lost their influential – if past it – captain, as well as their brightest star in Raheem Sterling, Man United have certainly added a number of players but discarded at least just as many, with those arriving far from certain to be of a higher calibre, whilst Chelsea have lost Didier Drogba and Cech from their dressing room, and only really added the, admittedly undoubted, quality of Pedro to their first-choice selection. Plus the Blues have a manager who’s as likely to cause mayhem at a club, as he is to win a trophy. So comparatively speaking, when you consider all that, we’re not badly positioned at all from my perspective.
But to go back to the beginning of this this post, whilst cover for Coquelin was my personal, primary reinforcement priority, our striking situation with Welbeck out for ‘months’ means another player will now have an opportunity he’d otherwise not have been afforded to provide the ‘internal solution’ Arsene often trumpets.
I have to admit too, that as a fan, I get as much joy from seeing an academy player, or a young unestablished hopeful, go on to make a lasting impact on our first-team, as I do from seeing a world class new signing sprinkle our play with stardust. More so maybe. But I appreciate that’s just me and if you were to ask me my preference exactly as we’re struggling to score a consolation against Dinamo Zagreb, who lead five nil at Emirates stadium in added time, I’d almost certainly have a different opinion.
But until then, I’m genuinely excited at the possibility of Campbell rediscovering his Man Utd-slaying form, his World Cup scoring skills, and proving himslef a left-footed, Samuel Eto’o-style striking sensation for us. This year’s Coquelin-esque, late-comer to the fans’ conscience as a first-team starter, who’ll save us millions in the next summer market and negate the need to sign Robert Lewandowski.
Seriously though, I still haven’t seen nearly enough of our Costa Rican to form an opinion on him either way, but it’s having the chance to do so that I’m relishing, when the real stuff returns after this international break.
Finally, good luck to Welbeck on what will hopefully be the speediest recovery from such an injury anyone’s ever seen. Just make sure you’re back in time for the Champions League semis Welbz!
Back on Friday.