Arsenal are a great team, one that plays some of the best football and this season, we've seen what can be accomplished with our best team. We looked invincible with the return of Fabregas and Van Persie, and everyone started to play much better, Clichy and Koscielny, especially. The excellent Szczesny took over from the great Fabianski and we suddenly had a near perfect first team with four targets in their sights.
Then somehow over the space of a few weeks, beginning with the win against Stoke until the cup exit against United, injuries and bad luck have left us with only the Premier League as a target.
However, this isn't something new, becoming almost a annual occurrence at the Emirates, the team is full of half measures. There's two contexts you can take this and Arsenal has a few of each, players who get injured and players who are too inconsistent.
First, we have the more injury prone players, Van Persie with all his quality has struggled to make more than 20 appearances in the last two seasons and has never appeared more than 30 times since he came. Fabregas has become more injury prone and like Walcott is enjoying his second absence this season. Vermaelen was injured in August and looks increasingly likely that he won't be returning until it's too late, after suffering continuous set backs. Four key players who can dip in and out out of the injury list for anything up to six weeks at a time and often more than once a season, is too much.
While the team can still play without these players, we're nowhere near as sharp without them and don't look like the contenders we need to be, to overcome United at the top. Djourou's massive injury was unfortunate, as was Szczesny's, coming at the wrong time but it's not the first time we've had a injury crisis this season.
During the January transfer window, all eyes were on Wenger as the calls for a new centre back were growing. With the then-impending return of Vermaelen, Wenger chose not to purchase. A few weeks later, injuries started showing up and we suddenly we having to deal with having only two defenders and a stone's throw away from having to draft Song into centre back.
Fast forward to the present, we now have three injured keepers and brought back Lehmann as a reserve. Almunia is hardly a safe pair of hands and a Arsenal defense without Djourou is much shakier. Now the main difference between this crisis and the defensive crisis is that we were equipped to handle injuries to goalies but were already on thin ice defensively as Vermaelen never recovered.
Consistency is key and the Premier League is a season long marathon. United never seem to suffer any major injuries and it rarely piles up the way it does at Arsenal. We have to look at the players we do have and make sure they are consistently performing, which is another half measure.
Almunia, Squillaci, Eboue, Rosicky, Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner and to a certain extent Chamakh and Arshavin. Looking at that lineup, you wouldn't have much confidence in them winning important matches. Each one has moments of brilliance, some more than others, but more often than not, under perform. It would be fine individually but with a few of them likely to be on the pitch at any given time, they lack the cutting edge we need. We've seen passes that weren't quite good enough, shots missed that were costly and other little errors that snowball into something worse.
We have 24 members in the first team, and have around six or seven out injured and I wouldn't trust around six or seven more in the squad. In my opinion there's a lot of dead weight and we need world class players who can play consistently well and throughout the season. Big money signings may never be part of Wenger's grand scheme of things but clearly something has to change. The only thing to do is wait and see, what happens come Summer, champions or not.
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