It’s straight back into the saddle tonight as we face Bournemouth at home, looking to bounce back from the miserable defeat to Southampton on Saturday.
It’s difficult to know what Arsene Wenger can do with his team, bar some fairly superficial changes he simply doesn’t have the personnel available to him to freshen things up the way he might like. So, it presents a physical and mental challenge.
The physical is obvious, playing so soon after our last game there are bound to be issues with fatigue and we know how that can affect performance. It will be a little under 48 hours for us, a little over that for the visitors, but I’m not sure that makes any real difference when the time span is that short.
The mental challenge is to not be affected by the 4-0 loss, but also to help overcome the effects of two games so close together – a kind of mind over matter situation. The legs will feel weary and far from their best, and today’s outcome be as much down to our ability to deal with that as anything else. Can we go that extra yard when there’s little left in the muscles?
Arsene Wenger clearly feels there’s enough freshness in the players he has, saying:
If you look at the number of games Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey and Joel Campbell played since the start of the season… even Olivier Giroud for a long while didn’t play games and Theo Walcott also has just come back. These players are not overloaded with games. It is not like they have played 25 games.
That might be true of Campbell (20) and Flamini (13), but for club and country Giroud has made 31 appearances this season, Ramsey 24 and Walcott 21. The issue really isn’t so much how often they’ve played this season, it’s about having to play again in such quick succession without the ability to rotate in any meaningful way.
Anyway, we’ll see what these guys are made of later on, kick off this evening is at 5.30
Speaking of our inability to rotate, there was more bad news on the midfield front with Arsene Wenger unable to put a return date on Jack Wilshere’s comeback. He said:
He will not be back before February, that’s for sure. I said February but honestly I don’t know. I let him do his recovery. It’s going slowly. Once he goes again, goes outside to train, once he is back again into sharp, hard work physically, you count five or six weeks, so at the moment he is not there yet.
The England man was injured on the eve of the new season by a tackle in training, and ultimately required surgery in September to correct the problem. After that it seemed that things were on track, and I had heard that he was slightly ahead of schedule, but this latest news suggests that yet another season is in doubt for him, which is a real shame for him and for Arsenal.
I have nothing but sympathy for him because his career, which showed so much promise and potential, has been blighted by injury. Most of those injuries have been sustained while playing for, or training with, Arsenal, so I’m always a little taken aback by how vicious some people can be about players who suffer these kind of ongoing problems.
It’s perfectly ok to be frustrated at the situation and the consequences it might have for the team. If you’re relying on a player who is hardly ever fit there’s no question it’s a negative, but it’s possible to express that without being a complete dickhead towards the player himself. I think we’re heading towards Diaby territory with Wilshere now, which is really sad as he’s still only 23 (he’ll be 24 on January 1st).
But this is no Winston Bogarde thing, he’s a young man who desperately wants to play and whose body won’t allow it. What he earns has nothing to do with anything. Whether he’s value for money has nothing to do with anything. On a human level it’s a genuine shame; but on a footballing one, we have to reassess our own squad and his place in it.
I suspect it’s why the move for FC Basel’s Mohamed Elneny appears to be imminent. We all joke about Arsenal doing business early in January, but it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen as the whole thing seems very advanced now. The delayed return for Wilshere has undoubtedly added some urgency to our transfer dealings, so that’s a positive in one sense.
As for Wilshere himself, if we’re looking at another month, at least, before he starts training properly again, and then the time it takes to get up to speed, his participation in this campaign is on a knife-edge. Hopefully he can get himself fit and make a contribution at some stage, because his quality as a player would be a great thing to have in the squad.
Overall though, it might to be time to look at him as a kind of bonus player, rather than somebody who we can count on, until such time as he can remain fit for a sustained period of time. Whether or not that can ever happen, your guess is as good as mine.
Right, that’s that. Live blog and all the rest later on for the Bournemouth game. Despite the misery of St Mary’s, it’s a chance to go top of the table. Let’s hope we can take it this time.