Can We Win At Anfield?

But not for the good of your club!

It’s Arsene’s pre-match press conference. The start of the season has arrived and we’re facing Liverpool at Anfield. Arsene is asked how the team looks ahead of the big opening match. He responds:

“It has been a difficult week because we are not really capable of training. Naturally, Diaby, Song, Denilson and Bentdner do not train because they are injured. Ramsey does not train yet as well. We are without our Captain who was in Mexico, but also we are without, Walcott, Vela, Gibbs, Wilshere, Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri. That is what we must accept because of the international friendlies. But we have not been able to incorporate Cesc or Van Persie into the squad this week.

We will not have Rosicky or Arshavin on Sunday because they have come back with little problems. Of course we will not have Walcott because of the injury he suffered on Wednesday. We do not know how long he will be out, but again we send a player away in good form and they come back to us broken. It is difficult to accept because I believe Theo was very strong in preseason. Naturally he is devastated. Vela and Cesc will definitely be short for sunday because of the travel from Mexico. I will have to be careful with the others because it is very early in the season and we do not want to take risks. I still believe we have the quality to get a result. The spirit and belief is very good, but of course it is difficult when so many players are missing.”

With that, the press conference is over. The reality sinks in that we are starting another season facing injury problems and an ever changing team sheet. I hope that’s not the case, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

All summer the fans have been outraged by the Cesc situation. We waste our time complaining about what a player said to the media, or didn’t say to the media like it’s the end of the world. But really, that’s just talk. Cesc is back with the club. He’s staying with the club. And regardless of what he said or didn’t say, he’ll be an amazing player and captain for us once again.

Instead of wasting time being outraged over some media transfer orgy, maybe we should spend a little more time being outraged over an issue that directly effects the team’s ability to compete. Playing international friendlies 3 days before the season starts is unconscionable. It may well cost us a result at Anfield, and maybe more than that.

Teams that don’t practice well usually don’t win. And there’s no more important days of practice than the ones right before a big match. Players develop a rapport and rhythm with one another during that time. Strategies are implemented and crucial team selection decisions are made on the basis of those training sessions. But the days before the season starts won’t be filled with productive practices. They won’t be spent feverishly re-incorporating Cesc and RVP back into the side. They will be spent travelling with, and playing for, national teams. They will be spent in Russia, France, Mexico, Czech Republic, etc. And even if every player comes back fully fit, (what are the odds) there’s no chance that they will all be ready for Sunday. Carlos Vela has never played a game for Arsenal following international duty in Mexico. So on that evidence alone you can almost certainly rule him out, along with Cesc who will be playing against Vela’s Mexico in the Azteca stadium. (A place where altitude and pollution can destroy a player’s fitness for weeks.)

You really have to worry about Samir Nasri. Laurent Blanc will be looking to make a big statement in his first match as France manager. He doesn’t have a lot of experienced talent to choose from, and he’ll be desperate for a good showing. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Samir play 90 minutes under intense scrutiny and pressure. Considering how fantastic he’s looked in pre-season, it’d be a tragedy to see him robbed of an impressive debut at Anfield.

Theo is another concern. He’s looking fresh and healthy this summer and has a lot to prove after his England snub. But rather than having his chance to prove doubters wrong at Anfield, he’ll likely do everything he can to impress against Hungary. It won’t be a leisurely friendly for Theo. Rather, it’ll be a chance to let loose all of his South African frustrations.

Arshavin will be in Russia and Rosicky will be in the Cech republic. Neither are noted for their legendary fitness. Again, even if they return unscathed, it’s hard to imagine 90 minutes at Anfield from two players who rarely contribute 90 minutes under the best circumstances.

When you consider that Diaby, Song, Bendtner, Denilson, and Ramsey are all likely to miss the opener through injury, it starts to get very difficult to pick a team. RVP will be under pressure to play, but Wenger has already hinted that he’ll be short of training and likely won’t start. So that leaves only Chamakh as an obvious starter in front of the defense for a crucial match on opening day. Ideal? Hardly.

Losing at Anfield isn’t the end of the season, but as I mentioned in this blog just a few days ago, winning that match could be enormously important considering the matches that follow. Can we win at Anfield with the squad that will be available? I hope so. But this absurd international friendly date has made that less likely.

So maybe you can take some time off from shouting obscenities at Cesc because you’re upset about words in the media, and spew some of that venom at FIFA. Unlike Cesc, they actually pose a threat to our club and our chances of winning on opening day.

About Yankee Gunner

Loyal Arsenal Supporter, Obscure Television Personality
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