Arsenal were victims of a vicious assault last night, battered and bruised from a demolition job at the hands of Barcelona, more significantly, Lionel Messi.
However, with half of the Gunners team missing through injury, you would like to think, had this team stayed healthy throughout the season, what Arsene Wenger's men could have been capable of.
In a season where every position has been decimated by injury, Arsenal managed to establish a place in the Champions League quarterfinal, only to be knocked out by the team on a mission to repeat their successes of last season.
Although many Gunners fans and people such as Wenger will look to the strength in the depth of this young Arsenal side, it is still clear that had they not had the injury woes they have had this season they could be in an even stronger position in the Premier League than they currently are, as they sit third, three points behind leaders Chelsea.
Many people are quick to point out that Arsenal's injuries are just bad luck and the nature of the game, however, what many people do not know is that Arsenal has been without key players, such as Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie, longer than Liverpool was without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres earlier in the season.
Liverpool is currently sixth, a staggering 19 points behind leaders Chelsea and in a dog fight with Man City, Tottenham, and Aston Villa for the final Champions League spot.
The Gunners have been without Robin Van Persie since he was injured on international duty with Holland in November. A key part of Wenger's system, Van Persie was Arsenal's top scorer last season and a key member of the team.
Other injuries include defenders Johan Djourou, who would serve as the third option at centre back if anything should happen to either Vermaelen or Gallas. Djourou picked up a serious knee injury in preseason training and has yet to see the field this season. Some reports however suggest he could return in three to four weeks time.
Kieran Gibbs, the promising young left back, is also out for the remainder of the season after he suffered a broken metatarsal against Standard Liege in a Champions League tie. He was filling in for the then injured Gael Clichy who had suffered a back injury. Armand Traore was then allocated to fill in as the third option at left back.
William Gallas who had formed a formidable partnership with Thomas Vermaelen had few injury problems all season.
Nevertheless, when he came back against Barcelona, he only lasted 43 minutes before he was replaced and confirmed as yet another casualty for the season with ligament damage to his knee.
The midfield has been an area of strength for Arsenal this season.
However, the terrible injury of Aaron Ramsey, who was beginning to earn significant playing time, dented Arsenal in an important area of the field. Fortunately Ramsey is expected to make a full recovery and be ready towards the beginning of next season.
The key injuries however have occurred to the ‘key’ players.
Cesc Fabregas, who has been incredible this season as the leader of Arsenal, has struggled to stay on the field consistently since Christmas, and it showed when he was finally dealt a hammer blow and would miss the rest of the season after re-injuring his knee against Barcelona in the first leg at the Emirates.
His last significant contribution to Arsenal this season would be the equalizing penalty to make it 2-2 at the Emirates. Let’s not talk about what happened in the second leg anymore.
Alex Song has been an essential member of this Arsenal side as a barrier to the defense, who has managed to stay healthy nearly all season, but with his latest groin injury it seems as if he could be out for a further two weeks.
Ever wonder if the result at the Nou Camp would have been different if he was healthy?
Other injuries include Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin who has had an on-off second season in the Premier League and who is reportedly out for around three weeks after he also picked up an injury against Barcelona in the first leg game.
Theo Walcott, who battled with injuries in the first half of the season, is now back and fully fit.
Thomas Rosicky has only managed to play a full 90 minutes twice this season, as he has suffered from nagging injuries throughout the season.
Nicklas Bendtner, who missed time in November to return towards the end of January, has since scored a number of important goals for the Gunners, most recently the game winner in the 94th minute against Wolves.
So let’s recap on the number of injuries to key players Arsenal has had to endure this season.
Yes, that’s right, there are a staggering nine players who have missed significant amounts of playing time this season.
Although it sounds as if I am making excuses for Arsenal, this is not the case. If anything Arsenal deserves admiration for still being in the title race and actually giving Barcelona a decent game at the Emirates and, to a lesser extent, at the Nou Camp.
In conclusion, my feeling is that had Arsenal managed to stay healthy for the entire season and avoid injuries, they could well be top of the league and possibly looking forward to a matchup against Inter in the semifinal of the Champions League.
We can all dream right?
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