Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Wilshere injury sets alarm bells ringing

Only one place to start this morning and that’s the report that Jack Wilshere will miss tomorrow night’s game against Bayern with an ankle injury.

Apparently he picked up the problem against Sp*rs last Sunday and has been in Dubai recuperating. There are some suggestions it might be quite a bad injury, meaning he could miss a lot more than tomorrow night, so that raises the question: is he in Dubai because it’s not serious or because it is so serious that there’s little they can do other than send him off to get his head right?

My hope is that it’s the former. If it were really bad surely he’d be back at base having treatment? Maybe that’s my glass half-full nature, and I suppose if experience has taught us anything it’s that when it comes to an Arsenal player you don’t want to be injured, he’s usually far more bollixed than you would like.

From a Champions League perspective, I don’t think it’s that much of a problem. My expectations regarding tomorrow night are pretty low, but obviously with ten league games still to play having one of our best, most combative players out would be a fairly serious blow. However, until we get something concrete from the manager we’re just speculating.

People may suggest that Tomas Rosicky is the perfect candidate to replace him, and as long as Wilshere would have been deployed in the attacking midfield role, with Cazorla on the left, then I think that’s a good choice. The reason he’s been so underused, injuries aside of course, is that he’s competing with both Wilshere and Cazorla for a place in the side. Both of them need to start if fit, and one of them usually occupies the position which fits the Czech best. But if Jack is out, and Podolski is rumoured to be an absentee too, then it does create the space to bring him into the team.

There’s a press conference this evening in Munich but Arsene usually gives a team news update before they head off, so once we have that we can panic/relax as appropriate. There’s some talk that Kieran Gibbs might be back, which would be a boost, and that Wojciech Szczesny is set to be dropped in favour of the fit again Lukas Fabianski. Again, that’s just speculation at this point but it’d be a remarkable decision in my opinion.

I know Szczesny has struggled at times this season, but leaving him out altogether for a guy who yet to play a competitive game this season seems a touch odd to me. Especially when Fabianski has made it clear, more than once, that he’d like to leave the club to play more often once his injury problems clear up. Then again, maybe it’ll be part and parcel of a wake-up call to certain players.

If Gibbs is fit I’d like to see Laurent Koscielny back in the side and Thomas Vermaelen reminded that the captain’s armband is not a shield to protect you when your performance level drops. But the reality is that our squad is such that it’s difficult to rotate too much, even if he wants to. I think the Bayern game is about putting in a performance that might provide us with a platform to go into the Premier League run-in with, rather than us actually achieving a result which will see us through. Maybe it’s a measure of where we are that that’s how it is, but there you go.

Olivier Giroud lives in hope though, saying:

In football you never know. We need to believe and stay focused. But we need to correct our bad defensive behaviour as well. We need to score an early goal.

So, score early against a team which doesn’t concede many and stop letting so many in ourselves. When he says it like that it’s quite simple really. Bayern are missing Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Boateng, but whether that’s enough to dent their style and effectiveness remains to be seen. I suspect their squad is probably better able to cope with a couple of notable absentees than ours. Anyway, we shall see tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta has delivered a fairly withering verdict on Arsenal’s season. Speaking in the Mirror he said:

There’s only a few trophies: after the championship, the FA Cup, the Champions League. There are so many clubs, so much competition, it’s tough.

We can’t be in that position, because we have the best basic structure I’ve ever seen at a football club, great philosophy, good players, we’ve got financial backing to do whatever we want, unbelievable crowds for the stadium.

But with 10 games to go it’s an impossible catch and that, for me, is not acceptable.

I’m not sure it’s necessary to add anything to that, too many of the results this season have been below par, and while the league is always going to be more difficult and more competitive than ever before, it’s the cup exits that define the problems we’ve had. Bradford and Blackburn, in one season, and in competitions we had a very good chance (on paper anyway) of going all the way in.

For now there’s little we can do other than get our heads down and fight like mad for the final games of the season, but after that serious questions need to be asked about how we improve things and ensure that defeats and sub-standard performances don’t happen as often as they have this campaign.

Right, that’s that. Team news and other bits and pieces throughout the day on Arseblog News. Back here tomorrow with a full preview of the Bayern game and more.

 

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