The International break has served up a hefty right hook to go with yesterday’s sneaky left jab, with news emerging that Theo Walcott’s ankle injury, sustained against Switzerland on Tuesday night, is worse than first thought.
Three times worse, in fact.
Indeed, reports are that that Theo sustained ligament damage and will be out for six weeks, meaning a (hopeful) return to action at around about the same time as Robin van Persie, who sustained the same injury.
[Insert gratuitous profanity here]!
This news is so frustrating for a number of reasons.
One, Theo has started the season in great form and another significant injury will put his development on hold yet again. Will we ever see him become the player we all know he can if he keeps getting injured? The same goes for van Persie, incidentally.
Two, why does this always seem to happen to us? And why the bloody hell do the medical staff (although it was the English national medical staff and Fabio Capello in this case) insist on telling us a player is likely to return earlier than they actually are. It’s just cruel!
Three, the combination of Walcott and van Persie’s absence means our ability to rotate in the early part of the season and thus the effectiveness of the 4-3-3 formation, is hindered. Less players equals less rotation equals tireder players equals less pressing and more chance of injuries. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.
Leaving aside points one and two for the moment, as they are effectively out of our control, it will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger manages the players he does have available over the next six weeks, which includes our first three Champions League games and a very important match at Stamford Bridge.
Currently we have seven players available who can fill the front three positions: Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Eboue, Carlos Vela and Abou Diaby. I would like to see Wenger start each and every one of those players at least once over the next six weeks and rotate them often to maintain as much freshness as possible in the absence of Walcott, van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner.
The biggest decision for Wenger over the next six weeks will be knowing when to rest Chamakh. The manager’s choice to drop the Moroccan to the bench against Blackburn gave a strong indication that he would like to keep him from getting mentally and physically burnt-out at this early stage of his Arsenal career, so it will be interesting to see how the manager decides to play this one.
Behind the front three our options are strong: Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas are ever-presents, Denilson is back from injury, Jack Wilshere has the ability to make decent contributions in the “lesser” games and Diaby is also there. We should have enough in midfield (and defence, incidentally) to provide a platform for the various front three combinations to make their mark.
Things are going to get interesting from this weekend onwards. We’ve made a very good start to the season, 7 points from 9 including two away trips to Liverpool and Blackburn is an excellent return, and it is vital we continue to collect the points we need to hang around the top of the table. As I’ve indicated, the tricky thing for the manager will be maintaining the freshness in this squad whilst still picking up points.
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