We’re still in that weird post-Christmas bit where you’re not quite sure what day it is, but it’s Friday which means football tomorrow and Arsene’s press conference today.
There was some early team news ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Newcastle and it’s positive stuff. Tomas Rosicky and Olivier Giroud return to the squad after illness, while Andre Santos and Abou Diaby should return to training next week. Clearly Diaby has found a time machine to propel him forward a couple of weeks. Other than that pretty much everyone is fit, something the manager admits is due to work done behind the scenes:
It is down to the continuing good work we are doing behind the scenes at the club. We hope that it continues because it is important to go into January with a full squad and we will be gaining Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations.
Injuries are part and parcel of any football club, but there’s no doubt they’ve become something of a ‘thing’ at Arsenal. We’ve had a lot of players miss a lot of football. Obviously it’s not their fault if they find their leg hanging in two or their ankle attached by a bit of old gristle. There have been some rather unique problems too, like Rosicky’s hidden ligament problem, and Vermaelen’s mutant Achilles, but the issue has more to do with not having adequate cover for these players.
For example, this summer the manager went into the season with Wilshere sidelined and with an expectation that he wouldn’t be back to his best until February. He put a lot of faith in Abou Diaby’s fitness, hoping a full and thorough pre-season would help him maintain his fitness, but a muscle twang taking a shot against Chelsea back in September has sidelined him since then. I love Tomas Rosicky as a player, he’s got something few others in the squad have, but his problems have been almost chronic too.
I understand him giving Diaby a chance this season, even if it was a long-shot. Wenger has real faith in his talent as a footballer, but I think the best we can hope for is that he can contribute something between now and the end of the season, at which point we move him on. I wouldn’t be averse to bringing in a new midfielder in the January window, somebody to provide some height and physicality, and I don’t think anyone can accuse us of not doing right by him.
I’m far more on the side of a player who is out of the squad through injury than a guy who simply isn’t good enough or can’t be arsed. As frustrating as Diaby is it’s better a situation than a Squillaci or a Chamakh or Park, for example, but I’ve said for a long time that the efficiency of the squad is something which needs attention. We’ve had too many of both kinds in recent seasons, and if we’re fitter, healthier and more available now, for whatever reason, then that’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla has been singing the praises of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky. On Jack he says:
He has amazing potential. I did not know him well when I arrived because he was not at the training sessions due to his injury, and everyone was already talking about him, saying that when he returned, the team would improve, and that has been the case.
I think that Rosicky is an amazing player, now I have started playing with him because he too has been through a long injury, and he is also a Spanish type of player
Seeing the positions that we play in, we will understand each other very well, as we do every day during training, and I hope to enjoy many good moments with him on the pitch.
Although the manager says Rosicky and Cazorla can, and will, play together, it’s difficult to see how often that will happen unless one or the other of them is deployed in a wide position. It’s certainly something the manager did last season when he used Benayoun wide, and let’s not forget he’s played Aaron Ramsey in the front three this season (not exactly to the benefit of the team or the player at times).
It’s hard not to look at Rosicky as something of an impact sub, somebody who can add zip in the final 20 minutes of a game, but his most natural position is the one occupied by the Spaniard and as long as he’s fit he’s got to start. Anyway, having him fit it a good problem to have, so let’s hope he can figure in the second half of the season.
Other than that it’s pretty quiet, the manager is giving his press conference as I write and there’s some stuff on transfers which you can find on Arseblog News in a few minutes time. Because of the week that’s in it there’s no Arsecast today, that will return next week, so for now, have yourselves a good Friday and we’ll look ahead properly to the Newcastle game tomorrow.