So we begin a brand new month but sadly, it’s the same old sh*t when it comes to Arsenal and injuries. Reports today say Santi Cazorla has, as feared, damaged ligaments in his knee but the club are still assessing him and how long he’ll be unavailable remains uncertain.
What is for sure however, is that both Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez will miss our crucial Champions League game at Olympiacos next week. And speaking of the Chilean, he’s either got an ‘outside’ chance of making our game against Manchester City on December 21st, or he hasn’t, and will miss our next six matches, depending on who you believe.
So I guess it’s time to have a look at the boss’ options in midfield and further forward, in their absence. For the immediate future, with Mikel Arteta also missing through injury, Aaron Ramsey will have to partner Mathieu Flamini because the only other options we currently have available for the two central midfield berths are Calum Chambers and at a stretch, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The two wide attacking starting spots can be shared between Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell, the Ox and Kieran Gibbs and the sole striker role by Olivier Giroud, Walcott and Campbell. So we still have options and different things we can try despite our substantial injury list. With all those players fit, my preference would be to play Walcott from the left, the Ox from the right, with Giroud centrally, although Arsene Wenger would probably opt to swap the Ox and Walcott.
With our defence at full strength and Mesut Ozil thankfully still available, remarkably, we’ve got a pretty strong selection to call upon. Certainly one I’d be confident can beat the vast majority of sides in the league, but it’s games like the one against City in three weeks that would be the worry.
Jack Wilshere was also reported to be making good progress a couple of weeks ago, with a return date of Boxing Day when we travel to Southampton, penciled in as his comeback game. Then there’s Danny Welbeck, who’s due to return near the New Year and even if Sanchez misses the next month, he’s unlikely to be out much longer as hamstring recoveries don’t usually suffer setbacks.
Arsene’s main challenge I think, will be to get the team to adjust from having Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in the engine room to players with different skill-sets. For instance, for all of Ramsey’s qualities, his distribution isn’t nearly on a level with Cazorla’s so perhaps, as he already does quite often in fairness, Ozil will need to drop a little deeper, a little more often, to dictate our play from the middle of the park.
One man who’s very confident we can cope regardless of which players are out injured however, is Hector Bellerin. Speaking to Arsenal Player, the right-back said:
I have said it before, there is great depth in the team. There are a lot of young players in the team waiting to come through, and we have a lot of quality training with us every day. They are ready to step up so obviously every single player on the bench can do the same job as every single player in the starting XI. We don’t need to worry about [the injuries to Alexis and Koscielny]. The only thing we need to do is go out onto the pitch with the right mentality, it does not matter who we play.
Whilst I admire Hector’s confidence in his squad-mates, and completely agree about the team needing to have the right focus and mentality, we’ll undoubtedly be weaker with the likes of Cazorla, Sanchez and Coquelin missing through injury.
Whether we’ll be strong enough in their absence to win enough games to maintain our challenge for the two big trophies remains to be seen. We’ll find out soon enough.
See you tomorrow.