Something Important May or May Not Happen Sometime in the Near Future!!!
I am a blogger. I write an Arsenal blog. I do this for three reasons:
- I am obsessed with Arsenal Football Club
- I am opinionated about Arsenal Football Club
- I am optimistic enough to believe that other people might want to read what I write
I write an Arsenal blog to share my thoughts in the wild hope that you, my wonderful, clever, handsome reader, will be affected by my opinions and analysis. I do not, however, consider myself some kind of ersatz journalist. It is not my job to break the news. It is my responsibility to opine about it.
By my count, Mark Schwarzer has had nine medicals at Arsenal. He is now the most medically scrutinized man in the western world. Or perhaps he hasn’t had a single medical. Maybe it was Shay Given that had the medical. Perhaps the medical was performed by Per Mertesaker while he was signing his new Arsenal contract. Joe Cole never signed for Arsenal, but he played against Arsenal on opening day so that’s almost the same thing. Now it’s being widely “reported” that we’re about to sign Squillaci. Surely that will happen. Just like all the other moves happened. Then again, perhaps no one really, genuinely knows what’s going on at all.
We all want to know who will be the next Arsenal signing. We crave any hint of information about Arsenal’s transfer activity. But news should be verifiable. It should be reported in a responsible manner and backed by primary sources. Sadly, that kind of rectitude is too often lacking in modern journalism. Newspapers seem willing to report on any football topic based only on rumor or innuendo.
But when blogs make it their job to report the news, it is even more dangerous. I realize that some bloggers do have a genuine connection to the team and possess inside information. And I appreciate the desire to share that information with the desperate, panting masses. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong forum. News that is held to no standard of truthfulness or accuracy ceases to be news. So let’s take a deep breath, leave news reporting to the diminishing number of media outlets with some element of credibility, and use our breath for shouting at the top of our lungs about the latest calamity… Samir Nasri is injured.
It’s almost comical at this point. The equation for Arsenal injuries is maddeningly simple. Pick a player with immense potential. Wait for the moment when it finally appears that his potential will be realized. Then cut him down with an injury that halts his progress. In this case, Nasri had surgery to repair a damaged meniscus in his knee yesterday. The official website claims that he’ll be out for one month. However, if he is only able to return to training in one month, then it could be fully six weeks before he’s ready to be a starter again. And that should be perfect because he’ll be able to replace the next player who will be leaving with an injury.
Nasri’s injury is problematic for a number of reasons. The first is the most obvious. He had a tremendous preseason. He looked active and effective in stretches against Liverpool. And he was set for his first pairing with Cesc Fabregas at the weekend. That creative duo could be devastating. But now we will have to wait at least a month to see it, and hope that Nasri can pick up where he left off.
The other problem with an injury like the one to Samir, is simply that it disrupts the team’s development. Teams need time to gel. Players get used to one another and that comfort level leads to better performances. Arsene Wenger himself has said that changing even two players in the side can disrupt the performance of the team as a whole. But with Arsenal, the lineup is constantly changing. Injuries prevent players from learning to play with one another and force players into the starting lineup that simply aren’t ready.
We have a maturing team, but when players are out injured, we are forced to rely on our younger players once again. And we have seen over the past few seasons the many pitfalls of relying on a team with a dearth of experience. What I find laughable, is that some fans met the news of Nasri’s injury with excitement. Some suggested that this was just the opportunity that Wilshere needed to step up. That’s simply ridiculous. If Jack Wilshere’s name was Radoslav Virgolatz, would anyone be “excited” about Nasri’s injury making room for him? I doubt it.
The fact is, we expect to challenge for the title. If we’re going to do that we have to win our next five matches. It’s really that simple. We can’t afford to lose to Blackburn, or Bolton, or Sunderland, and expect to earn the necessary points to win the league. We need experience in those games. We need players that know how to stay focused for 90 minutes and not take any opposition lightly. With Nasri out, it means more playing time for Wilshere, or Diaby, or Denilson, and we know what we can expect from those players; inconsistency. We simply can’t afford that. I’m not suggesting that they aren’t good players with massive potential. They are. But this is not a season for occasional performances. For our sake, I hope Wenger relies on the more experienced Rosicky while Nasri is out.
Most pundits seem to think that this season will be more wide open at the top of the table than usual. I think that the title race is between United, Chelsea and Arsenal. The winner might simply be the team that is able to put its first choice eleven on the pitch most frequently. And that’s a scary thought for Arsenal fans. But at some point, if we want to challenge for the title, we simply must have our best players on the pitch together. We have a good team and a deep team. And it speaks volumes about our depth that we have been able to stay in the top four the last two seasons despite an outrageous number of games missed through injury. But if our ambitions are higher than the top four, we need the injuries to stop.
We need look no farther than the starting eleven at Anfield on Sunday to realize the gravity of this situation. We started Eboue as one of our three forwards. We started Jack Wilshere for the first time in the Premier League. We started Diaby at DM. At Anfield! On opening day! And we still earned a draw! Impressive on one level, but devastatingly disappointing on another. Just think what could have been achieved with Cesc, RVP and Song. But that’s been the story in our big matches over the past few seasons. Look at the starting lineups for matches against Chelsea, United and Barcelona and it’s really no surprise that we were on the losing end of those encounters. Too many second or third choice players, forced into big situations before they were ready. And those losses don’t come with asterisks denoting our lack of key players. They’re just losses. Painful as any.
The only absurd part of this discussion is that there’s probably nothing that can be done to change anything. Something is obviously amiss at Arsenal’s training ground, but the club seems powerless to correct the problem. One way or another, however, they have to figure it out and make changes. Otherwise we’ll be sitting around in May, lamenting another “what if” season lost to injuries. We’ve been there before and I don’t think anyone wants to go through it again.
Get well soon Samir.
A quick word about Arsenal fanshare. Fans will now be able to buy partial shares of the club through a program endorsed by the club and the AST. For £95, a fan can purchase 1/100 of a share of the club. Some have argued that this is merely cosmetic because the total ownership will never be more than nominal. But over time the accrued shares could reach a meaningful level. More importantly, it’s a way for fans to own a piece of the club they love, and have some rights to participate in the experience of ownership. It’s just another way to protect and participate in the operation of the club we all love. I say bravo.
One final bit of comedy to brighten the mood. Young Boys 3 – 2 Tottenham. Commence uncontrollable laughter. I realize that Spuds have a very good chance to qualify. I realize that they recovered a desperate situation. But that doesn’t change the fact that they lost to Young Boys. Harry Redknapp called it a great loss. Sorry twitchy, but there’s nothing good about losing 3-2 to a side that wouldn’t earn promotion from League 1 in your first Champions League action in decades. And you know what? I have a sneaky suspicion that Spuds won’t get it done at home. It’s a massive match, with crushing pressure. I figure them to collapse under the weight of it. Here’s hoping.