those of you who know me and know this site will know that I am not a fan of the Interlull in general. I find international football pointless, tedious and generally injurious to the health of our players, and by its very existence it robs us of real football – where real football is that involving Arsenal.
This time, however, despite the inevitable dearth of blog material, news, gossip, Arsenal current affairs, and everything else, I get the feeling this is pretty much exactly what we need. Making the enormous assumption that every one of our players who goes away comes back intact this particular Interlull could be extremely well timed.
Saturday put the fear in me. I’m still trying to work out some reason, any reason, why Almunia would have done what he did and unforunately the only answer I can come up with is that he’s a goalkeeper who will always make those kind of errors. You would think that on his return to the team he’d be making sure he didn’t do anything stupid. For the most part a keeper coming out that far out of his area is stupid. Unless he’s 100% sure he’s going to get the ball he has absolutely no business being there.
It has led many to call for the inclusion of Jens but even the boss admits that’s unlikely due to his lack of fitness and match sharpness:
He looks like a guy who’s not been involved for a long time but has kept his body fit. He has the basic physical fitness but he lacks a little bit of decision-making and practice in goal. Would I consider starting him? I’m not going to get into that now, we now have two weeks.
With a grand total of 0 competitive games in the next two weeks the only place he can get sharper is on the training ground. And I’m sure he can but there’s a big difference between training and an important match. You get the feeling the boss was gambling on Jens not having to play. Once again Arsene says ‘hit me’ and ends up with 22.
There’s a reason why Almunia lost his place this season and it wasn’t just due to injury. He lost it to a man who, last season, was literally throwing the ball into his own net. Fair play to Fabianski, he did better, but even then I think fans felt better with an untried 19 year old in goal. Now though, it seems obvious that Almunia is really the only option unless Jens can make big strides.
So you might ask why the manager didn’t bring in a keeper who would be ready to play, and a good question it is too. I don’t have an answer to that, only to suggest that perhaps he wouldn’t have enough faith in a keeper who is available as an emergency loan at this time of the season. A player on the very fringes of their club being asked to come in and perform for a crunch 9 game run in which the title is up for grabs. I know, I know, but I’m just trying get my head around Arsene’s thinking, not easy.
Defensively we looked pretty suspect at times too. The move which West Brom put together in the second half, which should have seen them go 2-0 up before Almunia’s walkabout, cut us open like a hot knife through butter. Coupled with the keeper uncertainty, and the fact we’ve got to face teams like Stoke and Blackburn, who like to play it long, direct and very phyiscal, it’s no wonder I have the fear.
However, here’s the thing: amazingly the title is still in our hands. It could be a case that we look back on West Brom as the day we grabbed a hugely important point rather than having dropped two. I know it’s more likely to be the latter but I said ‘could’. Win all our games and we’re champions. It’s that simple. Just win nine games in a row, pick up a trophy, go ‘Yay’ and ‘Hurrah’ and enjoy the summer.
Of course it’s easier said than done but that’s the bottom line. And if we do have any chance of doing it we need important, injured players back. Theo Walcott hasn’t played since the 1-0 win over Stoke on February 23rd. Assuming he makes his comeback against Blackburn on April 2nd that’s the best part of 6 weeks rest. He ought to be flying until the end of the season.
Cesc’s hamstrings will have had almost a month to recover. Enough, hopefully, to see him through to the end of the season at which point he can get the rest he really needs. Alex Song, whose importance grows with each Denilson appearance, should be back to provide some much needed steel in midfield.
And then there’s Johan Djourou. The manager says 6 weeks but he’s undergoing some kind of procedure today and we might just have some better news. If there’s any way we can get him patched up and out there for the remainder of the season then it’s a risk we have to take. The worst case scenario is that he gets injured again and we’re back to where we are now. He’ll have the summer to get properly fit.
I realise it all sounds a bit desperate but you know what they say about desperate times. That’s why I think this Interlull is well timed. We’re disappointed by Saturday but still in a position that gives us a chance to win the title, we can spend that two weeks with poultices and potions, lonely hippo wombs, rub downs, massages, ultra-physio and medicine. And if all else fails we’ll take to the woods like acnient jungle people and sacrifice something to the SuperMoon to get our players fit again.
Song, Cesc and Theo add a lot to the team. Goals, creativity, defensive stability, and perhaps that trio would have made the difference against West Brom. Can they do enough to counter the madness of King Manuel and the soft underbelly of our defence? It remains to be seen but I’d rather do it with them than not.
It’s tough trying to be positive, and I’m not suggesting for a second that everything is rosy simply because of our league position, but while we’re still in there with a shout my shout will be one of hope and encouragement. I’d rather not have to use the phrase ‘Oh for fucks sake’.
Mostly because I never know whether or not that needs an apostrophe. Is fuck a person so it should be a possessive fuck’s sake. If so, shouldn’t it also be capitalised? Or is it just ‘for fuck sake’ with the s of sake attaching itself to the ck? It’s just so damn confusing.
Stop confusing me, Arsenal. Just win.