From an Arsenal perspective it's been a fairly good week, as the team gained another three points in the Premier League, as well as progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup. The two victories this week would seem to have come at a price though, as Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, Alex Song and Denilson all picked up injuries. Added to that, there's the news that Lukasz Fabianski has had an operation on his shoulder, and he won't play again this season.
The latest news from the club is that Walcott has recovered from the knock he got on his ankle against Everton, and he will be fit to play against Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon. With his previous record of ankle injuries, I feared the worst for him, and Arsenal, when I saw him go down after a late tackle from Marouane Fellaini. Arsenal have a week off after the Newcastle game, and I would imagine that manager Arsene Wenger will decide to play him on Saturday as a result of that.
As for Alex Song, word is that he won't be available for that trip to Newcastle, after he received a whack to the thigh against Everton. He is a very important player for Arsenal, there isn't anybody else who can play the defensive midfield role as well as him. In recent games there seems to have been an understanding developing between him and Jack Wilshere, as far as the defensive side of Arsenal's game has gone. The defence has profited from this, with only one goal conceded in five Premier League games.
I would imagine that Abu Diaby will step in to Song's role on Saturday, but he is only just back from injury himself, and he is very injury prone too. If Song's injury is simply a dead leg, it should be healed by the time the game at home to Wolves comes around on Saturday week.
Arsene Wenger said that the predicted return date for Samir Nasri is still three weeks from the time he picked up the injury, which would mean that he should definitely be available for the Carling Cup final, and possibly the Premier League game at home to Stoke RFC five days earlier. That's of course assuming that he responds well to treatment, and doesn't have any setbacks. Earlier in the season, Nasri got injured, and he actually came back a week early from that injury, which was almost a first for an Arsenal player. Let's hope that he recovers just as speedily this time.
When mentioning the various players out injured Wenger never said anything about Denilson, so it's hard to tell the severity of his injury. From what I saw and heard it was a hamstring injury, but it's less severe than Nasri's, and he should hopefully be back sooner than Nasri. The only possible problem for him might be the fact that he played on for the last 10 minutes against Huddersfield Town on Sunday after picking up the injury, as Arsenal were already down to 10 men, and had used all their subs too.
Thomas Vermaelen is apparently four to six weeks away from a return to first team action, but considering the fact he was only meant to be out for a week when he picked up the injury in August it is hard to rely on him returning this season. It means that Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny both have to stay injury free, and try to avoid suspensions too. Sebastien Squillaci is available to cover for either player, but I would much prefer to see Djourou and Koscielny play together, as they have developed a very good partnership since they have been forced together this season.
Finally on the injury front Wenger said that Fabianski has seen a few specialists, and he needs surgery on his injured shoulder. It means that his season is over, and the goalkeeping duties will be taken over by Wojciech Szczesny, with Manuel Almunia as his back up. It's the chance the young Pole has being waiting for, and if he shows the world how good he is then he will probably keep that position to himself for many years to come. There will be a lot of pressure on him in the big games against the likes of Barcelona and "Manure", but I think he is up to the job, and I hope he shows it. I will be more than a little worried when Almunia is given a chance in FA Cup games, or if Szczesny gets injured, but there's not a lot that can be done about that now. I would like to know if Vitto Mannone has a get out clause in his loan agreement with Hull City, as he may well be needed before the season is over.
It's a little too soon to start making comparisons to Arsenal's injury crisis towards the end of last season, but I am getting a little bit concerned about the sudden surge in injuries. The fringe players haven't exactly covered themselves in glory so far this season, but they are going to have to start playing a larger role in the first team if Arsenal are to keep their challenge up on all fronts. The most important players for Arsenal are still fit and able to play, but if Cesc Fabregas or Robin Van Persie were to pick up an injury it could result in the wheels coming off, and that's not a situation Arsenal fans would be too happy about.
In other news the date for the FA Cup fifth round at Leyton Orient has been announced. The game will be played on Sunday February 20th at 4.30pm, and it will be live on ESPN. Arsenal have a Premier League game only two days later, so I think Arsenal fans can expect to see another team similar to the one that beat Huddersfield in the last round. They should be well capable of getting the result required, but hopefully they will do it with more style, drive and commitment this time.
The reserves drew 2-2 away to Chelsea's reserves yesterday, which leaves them three points clear of Aston Villa in the reserve league, despite the drubbing they got from Villa a few weeks ago. The goals were scored by Rhys Murphy and Luke Freeman, with Arsenal going 1-0 up, before falling behind, and only managing to equalize in the last minute. With the team going out of the FA Youth Cup to Chelsea from a last minute goal a couple of weeks ago it was some sort of revenge, as was the 1-0 home win over them in the reserve league last week.
With all the midweek games over it would appear that the biggest losers are Man City, after they twice lost a lead, and ended up drawing 2-2 away to Birmingham City. With The Spuds managing to win 1-0 away to Blackburn it would appear that City could be the only team that they have a chance of catching in the top four. It looks like Chelsea are coming back to some good form, as are Liverpool too, which is good news for Arsenal, as they both play at home to league leaders "Manure" in the first week in March. Hopefully they can end their unbeaten run, and make it easier for Arsenal to catch them as well.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.