Monday, 17 November 2014

Arsenal Injury Update

With the season already a third over it seems like Arsenal have yet again been plagued by injuries to key players. Their form has suffered and they sit sixth in the Premier League with a top four finish as their only real prospect. They also find themselveslves second in their Champions League group and it looks like they will get the wrong end of the stick when they qualify from the group which is still almost certain. 

It's a little depressing in mid November that the FA Cup is their only realistic chance of a trophy but I can't see any other trophy coming their way which means the cup has to be treated very seriously come the third round in January. There is always that top four place to fight for too and Arsenal are only one point behind the team currently in fourth place. There are those who would have us believe a top four finish is like a trophy because of Champions League qualification, but it isn't and it never will be.

The injury situation at the club has been hampering the team's progress for a few years at least and it just doesn't seem to want to go away. I know there are other reasons why Arsenal have under performed, but it's hard to believe those injuries haven't Been a telling factor far too often. With a few very good players looking to return to action soon hopefully those injuries will abate and Arsene Wenger will have a full squad to choose from.

Theo Walcott picked up his injury in the FA Cup third round victory over Spurs last January and he hasn't started a game for Arsenal in almost 11 months since that day. He's been on the bench for the last few games and came on towards the end of the defeat to Swansea in a desperate attempt to save something from the game. It didn't work and we will have to wait a little longer to see what we have been missing for almost a year now. There is a chance Walcott will play for England against Scotland in their "friendly" game tonight, but I would be surprised if he started considering he hasn't started a game for Arsenal. 

Olivier Giroud has divided Arsenal fans since he joined with a case for and against his ability to play the game at the highest level. The boss was prepared to go into the season with him as the only real striker at the club and only went out and bought Danny Welbeck when Giroud injured himself against Everton. He had just scored a very good equaliser to help Arsenal to an unlikely draw after yet another below par performance from the team. 

His injury was a very unlucky one and amazingly he is back in full training ahead of schedule. I'm still not fully convinced by Welbeck or Giroud for that matter, but hopefully the competition they provide for each other can spur them both on to better things. They're both capable of scoring their fair share of goals and Giroud's return can only be a goodt thing for the team.

Laurent Koscielny is the rock on which Arsenal's defence is built when it is at it's best and his absence has been sorely felt by the team for the last month. He went off on international duty with France in September and they sent him back without kicking a ball telling Arsenal his tendinitis was so bad he couldn't play. I don't know how long Koscielny had been playing with the problem, but his national side certainly brought it to the fore and I would hope Arsenal weren't making the injury worse by playing him when he should have been sidelined.

It seems rest is the way forward for him and it won't be too long before he's back in the team, but this Saturday's game against United will come too soon for him. If Arsenal are going to get over their defensive problems it's vital to have Koscielny in the team and the sooner he returns the better.

At the start of the season Arsenal only had six defenders to speak of and Mathieu Debuchy was the first of them to pick up an injury. His ankle injury was a very unfortunate one and it has meant Calum Chambers has had to play more often than was anticipated. Chambers has done well in the main but he was badly exposed in the defeat against Swansea and he showed he still has a lot to learn.

I wasn't overly impressed when Arsenal signed Debuchy, but I thought he did very well and his performances eased the pain at the departure of Bacary Sagna. The chances are he won't be back until the new year, but he will hopefully help to make the defence a much stronger unit when he returns. Until then Chambers is going to need more help from the rest of the team at times than he got against Swansea. 

Mesut Ozil is Arsenal's record transfer purchase and one of the most expensive players ever in the Premier League. He's a proven star of the game who was a very important part of the German team which won the World Cup last summer. That victory meant he missed Arsenal's pre season and still hadn't fully found his feet when he picked up his injury against Chelsea.

Ozil has had plenty of criticism from all corners this season as his performances didn't meet the expectations of a player of his undoubted ability. Maybe the rest from his injury will be just what he needs and he can come back stronger to help Arsenal in the second half of the season. It looks like he won't be back until early in the new year and his return can't come quickly enough for me.

Arsenal signed David Ospina to vie with Wojciech Szczesny for the goalkeeper's shirt after a very good performance for Columbia at the World Cup. Unfortunately he came on after Szczesny was sent off against Galatasaray and his lack of a proper warm aggrevated an injury which put him out for three months. At the moment Szczesny needs some competition to improve his performances and it's a shame Ospina can't provide that competition.

What I have seen of him so far has been impressive and I think he has a good chance of making the goalkeeper's shirt his own if Szczesny's performances don't improve. It can't be easy for Szczesny playing behind a dodgy Arsenal defence at the moment, but he has to take his share of the blame for the team's defensive weaknesses. I have no doubt about his ability, but I think he can possibly be a little complacent when he has no real challenger for his place.

That's a pretty long list of players who could all make a very real difference to Arsenal's current performances. With all of them available there would be some incredible strength in depth and surely the ability for the boss to rotate the team and rest key players when they need to be rested. I haven't totally given up on the team turning the corner this season and playing some really good football and hopefully the return of those injured players will help them to do just that.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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