Morning all, and we’re heading towards real football again.
There was even a smattering of it yesterday when a behind closed doors game against Chelsea took place. Arsenal lost 2-0 and with first team involvement that included Santos, Coquelin, Arshavin, Chamakh, Squillaci (yes, I know ‘first team’ is pushing a bit in some cases) and Frimpong – with Arsene Wenger on the sidelines – it was obviously a little bit more than just a training game.
The key combatants though were Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere, both of whom played the full 90 minutes, which is something of a landmark – particularly in the case of Wilshere whose last full match, competitive or otherwise, was for England on June 4th 2011. Already there are reports this morning that Wilshere has told the manager he’s feeling good enough to play on Saturday against Norwich, and that may well be true.
What I’d say, however, is that both club and player need to be 100% sure he’s ready. There’s been an understandably cautious approach to his recovery and sometimes players, because of their desire to get back out there, are the worst people to listen to when it comes to their injury situation. The manager alluded to the fact that Wilshere had, around the time he got injured, played on without really acknowledging the seriousness of the problems he was having, and in the past we’ve had the Dutch Skunk tell medical staff he was fine and dandy only to exacerbate an injury by returning too soon.
From our point of view it’s just speculation, but you’d hope that after this long out, Jack wouldn’t take any risks by making the step too early. The same with the manager or the medical staff. It’d be utterly pointless to have gone through so much to aggravate something for the sake of a week or ten days. That said, if he’s feeling well and the various tests show that, then he’s got to get back out there at some stage. Playing 90 minutes breaks one of the psychological barriers, making his first team return is the next one and from then on it’s a matter of management, both from Arsene and Jack.
I suspect he’ll have a more mature approach to injury in the future. A young guy with all the enthusiasm in the world is as likely to try and play through a niggle or a strain, but after 16 months out – and all the frustration that entails – I think Wilshere will be more ready to listen to his body and know when it’s necessary to miss one or two games rather than risk being out for a prolonged period.
Whether he makes it back this weekend, or next, isn’t really that important. The fact that he’s almost ready surely is and with Sagna back too we’ll add some depth and quality to the squad – something we’ll need as the games come thick and fast, domestically and in Europe. No doubt we’ll get further info on those two, and the others, ahead of the trip to Norwich.
This being Arsenal though, one injury door can’t close without another one opening, and it’s feared Lukasz Fabianski could miss months after suffering an ankle injury in training. Although it’s still being assessed the suggestion is it’s a ligament problem which could sideline him for quite a while. It’s unfortunate timing for a guy who must have smashed a mirror, run over a black cat and stepped on all the cracks in the pavement as he made his way to sign for us all those years ago.
I know he’s a player who has failed to convince many. The spectre of that period when he had the Mr Hanky touch (everything turned to poo) clouds his career, which makes it easy to forget he improved a great deal and was playing pretty well when he picked up the injury which allowed Szczesny to move into Pole position. Since then he’s had a litany of further injuries and the timing of them all has been terrible. Forced out of the Euros just before the tournament kicked off, he must have been distraught when his Arsenal teammate was sent off in the first game, knowing he’d have been the man to replace him.
That injury then kept him out of the Arsenal side this season when Szczesny’s ankle went blork allowing the hitherto out of favour Vito Mannone to stake his claim. And although the Italian has done well enough, I think it would be to everyone’s benefit if we had experienced competition for the place. As it stands youngsters like Shea and Martinez are unlikely to do anything but warm the bench and Fabianksi would, at least, have provided that competition.
With Szczesny in a ‘two to three week’ limbo regarding his injury (there’s talk he’s had a setback too, although that is unconfirmed as yet) it means Mannone will remain as first choice, and Fabianski’s chance, at least to give the manager something to think about, appears to be gone. Overall, you have to think the goalkeeping situation is a fairly unhappy one at the moment. When all other areas of the pitch appear to be in good shape, with good first choices and solid back-up (for the most part), the fact is we’re playing a keeper the manager would have probably given away for free. Despite talking him up publicly, something he has to do, that fact remains and our options at the moment are unconvincing.
Obviously the manager wanted Szczesny to establish himself properly as the number 1, and I understand that. There’s huge potential there but also the rawness of youth (in goalkeeping terms he’s still very young), and the current injury and the worrying length of time he’s been out is a hindrance to his development. I guess it’s up to Mannone to prove to the boss that he’s up to the task and so far he’s done well enough, but I don’t think it’d be the worst thing in the world to make a contingency plan and, perhaps, look to bring in an experienced goalkeeper in January. We shall see.