We spoke during the week about how an injury to either Cesc or Denilson would leave us very stretched in central midfield and sadly that’s the situation we’re faced with as the former has a hamstring strain that will rule him out for the next two weeks or so.
Not only that, going into tonight’s game against FC Twente we’re missing also missing Kolo Toure and Philippe Senderos as well as the other names we weren’t expecting to play anyway. It looks as if Aaraon Ramsey, just 17 years of age, will start alongside Denilson in midfield tonight. I suspect we’ll line up like this:
Almunia – Sagna – Djourou – Gallas – Clichy – Eboue – Ramsey – Denilson – Walcott – Adebayor – van Persie
The full squad is here and as you can see we are very light on options in defence should we pick up a knock there and when our next option for central midfield is 16 year old Jack Wilshere then it really does highlight just how light the squad is. Arsene Wenger says:
Basically, it is a choice of a young player or an even younger one. The trouble is, when you have to play Champions League qualifiers so early, you push players and they get injuries, which is what has happened.
All well and good but injuries happen and maybe it’s just me but at Arsenal they seem to happen all the time. The best way to cope with injuries is to have a squad big enough and to have players who aren’t injury prone. In central midfield we’ve spoken about how often Diaby is out injured yet we go out and buy Bischoff who hasn’t played a game since 1876.
It’s the absence of Cesc that’s so worrying though. He is absolutely pivotal to us but perhaps we’re expecting too much from him. As I mentioned he only returned to pre-season training on July 29th, that was after a long, tough season with us then a Euro 2008 campaign with Spain. Should we really be putting him in a position where he has to play so soon? Had we gone out and bought the central midfielder everyone knows we need then we could have eased him back in a bit slower.
Of course that’s easy to say with hindsight but it’s little more than common sense. So tonight is going to be interesting. I still think we’re capable of beating Twente but I imagine the Dutch side will be looking at our team, seeing who’s out and thinking that if they have any chance of winning the tie then they’ve got to go for it tonight. Obviously McClaren’s usual conservative way of thinking might scupper that but if I were the coach I’d be looking for my team to go out and really give it a good try.
On the other hand it’s a chance for Ramsey to impress. He came looking for first team football and now he’s got it. Of him Arsene Wenger says:
Ramsey has a lot to learn. He has a fantastic engine, is good on the ball with a reasonable technique, although he has to improve that.
Denilson too will be rubbing his eyes wondering how, all of a sudden, he’s become the senior player in central-midfield and it’s a good chance for him to show the manager that he’s good enough to be considered there on a regular basis, not just in an injury crisis. He’s had a good pre-season and hopefully he can continue that form tonight. He must know, and Ramsey too, that it’s a fantastic opportunity. It might not be ideal for us but I suppose this is where we really see what players are made of.
So while the injuries are worrying and there’s plenty to discuss the bottom line is we can’t do anything about it ahead of tonight’s game. We’ll have eleven players on the pitch and we need to get behind them and support them. The danger is that another injury in central midfield and we’re looking at playing Ramsey and Wilshere in the opening game of the Premier League season – and when Arsene realises their combined age is 33 he’ll sell them both and play two 14 year olds.
Whatever plans the manager has to buy somebody (and however long he wants to leave it to get the best value possible) are going to have be revised. The squad is now threadbare and it’s time for the club to sort it out. We can’t wait for Diaby to return, we can’t seriously be counting on Bischoff to play any significant part this season and even the players themselves want the manager to sign an experienced midfielder. Once tonight is over and done with then some serious work has to go into addressing this problem, and it is a problem.
I don’t think I can ever remember, certainly not in recent times anyway, such a collective sense of unease amongst Arsenal fans going into a new season. There’s certainly hope and expectation but there’s just the feeling we’re living under a cloud a bit at the moment. The perfect solution to that is us winning games though, and hopefully we’ll start tonight.
In other news Middlesboro have confirmed they’ve made a bid for Justin Hoyte and are awaiting a response from Arsenal. Given the current state of the squad and the fact that we only have two fit centre-halves and (sadly) Eboue is needed in midfield I’d be surprised to see it happen. On the other hand I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Fran Merida could spend this season on loan at Real Sociedad, where he spent some of the last campaign. I was surprised not to see him involved in pre-season at all and I wonder, with the emergence of Wilshere and the purchase of Ramsey, if the breakthrough will ever come for him at Arsenal.
Thoughts from the top of the blue quadrant – an article by Arseblog user Perry Groves.
Right, well that’s about it. The new season is just hours away. I’m nervous but excited. I’m nercited and excervous. Come on you reds.