Standing as we are, on the starting line of the new season, as at this same stage last season, I don’t know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic.
One thing I do know is that if we want to win silverware this season, there’s something that must happen.
It’s very simple, and with a bit of luck it will happen.
I am referring to something – not that we need, but rather something we must do without.
It’s something that all Premier League winners manage to do without.
What is this thing we must do without?
Long-term bloody injuries, that’s what!
Just take a close look at all the Premier League winning teams over the last few years and, whilst one or two have had their share of key players missing for the odd game, none of them experienced long term injuries to more than one player at most.
Yet in the last few trophy-less seasons we have suffered ridiculously long injuries to key players, including Henry, Gallas, RVP, Diaby, Rosicky and Sagna.
Some say it wouldn’t be a problem with a little more strength in depth, but I disagree. There is always a first choice eleven with any successful side – unless you happen to be Liverpool – and they have aptly demonstrated that rotation doesn’t work and they still can’t buy the title. No – chopping and changing players to fit in others – however good they may be – disrupts the fluidity of any good footballing team.
I know it would be nice to sign David Villa, Micah Richards, Robinho, Gareth Barry, Alonso, Shay Given and any one of the dozens of fine players we have been linked with, but in my humble view we have enough players to win us the title – providing most of them can stay fit!
Whilst I have been critical of ‘Basil’ Almunia in the past, it cannot be denied that he looked much better throughout last season once he was established. Lets not forget that fantastic save from git-face Keane against the Frillywhites at the Emirates. Fabianski has also showed us that he should be an able deputy.
We have the best two full backs in the Premier League and good experienced cover from Toure or Eboue on the right and Gallas on the left, plus good inexperienced cover from Hoyte and Gibbs. At their best there are no finer nor quicker centre backs than Toure and Gallas. And with Djourou, Senderos, Song and possibly even Nordvelt, we do have depth. Forget Flamini – yes he was brilliant for us last season but we already have a direct replacement at the club in Denilson. Unlike most pundits, I don’t regard Denilson as being like Cesc at all – he is much more like Flamini. I watched a rerun of one of last seasons games the other day and I reckon Denilson works just as hard as Flamini and has a more telling pass and is always willing to have a shot.
The trouble is we don’t have a back-up defensive midfielder in the squad other than Song (who seems to have been earmarked by Arsene for a central defender role) and this is an area we all know we must be rectified before the end of August. Sadly we cannot rely on Diaby’s fitness. He must be nearly as bad as Rosicky in that he seemingly plays two games and then misses the next four! Until we get a replacement we must presumably rely on (perish the thought) Eboue on the right, and perhaps Traore or even Kieran Gibbs on the left.
From what I have seen of him in the pre season games, I rate Ramsey as being more of an attacking midfielder – again similar to Cesc. We also have Nasri and Walcott, with Jack Wilshere and Mark Randall waiting in reserve.
Our strike force should be stronger this year with the addition of Carlos Vela who looks real class to me.
So up this point I would say that I was fairly optimistic in my forecast of the season ahead.
Then I logged on this morning to read the news that we have Cesc, Kolo, Nasri and Swiss Tony joining the usual sick notes (Diaby and Rosicky) and all will be unavailable for the first two or three games of the season.
So now I am pessimistic in the knowledge that if we sustain too many or long term injuries to key players, there is no way we will be able to win the league title this season.
How many other clubs in the premiership I wonder have 8 (a third!) of their first team squad of 24 outfield
Players unfit for the first games of the season.
All in all it has not been the most encouraging pre season when you consider we have only kept one clean sheet in the 9 games against quite a lot of poor opposition.
Still that one game was against Real Madrid.
I feel quite optimistic again now!
Come on you Gunners!!