In the post I left ahead of the Blackburn game I mentioned that the injury situation at Arsenal was the worst I had ever seen it since I started blogging almost a year ago. I also mentioned how much I hoped that I would never have to post another quotation paragraph that included so many players unavailable again. Now, just four days later, I have to do just that. Take it away Arsene…
“Nobody is coming back from Monday night. Clichy might be out for the weekend. He has a knee problem and a tight hamstring. We have Sagna out for personal reasons unfortunately. Philippe Senderos has not practiced all week because of a thigh and a knee problem.”
I’ve never once had to swear on this blog but this is about as close as I’m ever going to get: “Fudge!”. Lame, I know. But seriously, what more could go wrong? Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have been two of the absolute stalwarts this season and their absence is certainly going to hurt us, while losing Philippe Senderos is a significant blow to Arsenal’s chances of winning both games against Manchester United and AC Milan a few days later. Although Kolo Toure is back from Ghana he’s also recovering from injury and is surely still less than 100%, not something you want from a player who is likely going to be forced to play two games in five days.
My main frustration with the injuries – aside from the fact that they will hurt Arsenal’s chances of progressing against Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup match – is that it denies supporters of both clubs the chance to see the best teams going at it. While players were surely going to be rested for the match I would have loved to see a mostly full-strength Arsenal and United locking horns for a place in the next round. Alas, with Milan just around the corner for Wenger’s injury-ravaged squad, it’s highly unlikely that this what will ensue.
Dom Crofts wrote a piece earlier today entitled “Defeat No Great Loss To Arsenal…” in which he states that regardless of the result against Manchester United on Saturday, Arsene Wenger’s side cannot lost. He ends with the final statement:
“Even if the Gunners go down 6-0 on Saturday night, Wenger knows there are bigger fish to fry. It’s a game which Arsenal can go into confident that no matter what the result, they just can’t lose.”
While I found his article quite entertaining – indeed, I encourage you to read it for yourself – I don’t agree with the underlying point he is trying to make. Sure, Arsenal are leading the league and, yes, they have AC Milan to play on Thursday next week. But this is Manchester United in the FA Cup and any sort of defeat is going to have far great psychological impact than a 5-1 Carling Cup loss to Tottenham Hotspur. If Manchester United do happen to beat Arsenal on Saturday, which they really should do now following the injuries to Wenger’s squad, Sir Alex Ferguson will make sure that every man and his dog hears about it.
While I don’t doubt the Arsenal players can handle that pressure I still think they need to put in a very good showing at Old Trafford to maintain their confidence. Unfortunately I just worry that with the defence disrupted and Emmanuel Adebayor likely to be rested they might just struggle a bit. Justin Hoyte and Armand Traore will surely come into the side and with neither player particularly impressing this season when selected I feel that Manchester United will hurt Arsenal out wide. Cristiano Ronaldo may have been quiet in the last couple of games but he will be licking his lips in anticipation at the prospect of taking on Traore rather than Clichy.
I might sound overly negative about Arsenal’s chances on the weekend but in reality I’m just disappointed about the ridiculous length of the list of unavailable players. Indeed, if the team that Wenger puts out contains all available first-choice players then I think Arsenal are a great chance to beat United at Old Trafford. But with Milan just around the corner and with so many players out injured it would be a massive gamble for Wenger to play them all. And if he doesn’t, then United deserve to go into the game as firm favourites, a real shame given how exciting the contest that was fought between the two sides earlier in the season was.
So, what to predict? It really depends on the Arsenal team that Wenger plays and given that I have absolutely no idea what that might be I’m going to refrain. As always, I hope Arsenal win but at the end of the day, it would take a brave man to bet against Manchester United, even despite their recent form.
I’ll keep smiling though because it’s all good.
What do you think?
Voice your thoughts on the FA Cup clash with United by leaving a comment.