Arsenal: 9 Games in 8 Weeks, Time for Club To Stand Up, Prove Themselves Champs
Might not sound long, but in eight weeks time, the Premier League will be over, and we will finally see if Arsenal can prove themselves the Champions they aspire to be or the pretenders the critics have labelled us.
It won't come easily. We're still five points behind United, and though we have that game in hand, Arsenal have never been the most critical at key stages this season. Add in a four goal difference in United's favour, and Arsenal have to knuckle down and regain the focus that has deserted them in recent weeks.
We have our advantages and our disadvantages, and there's been plenty said about them in various other articles, so I won't waste my metaphorical breath with the subjects already outlined elsewhere.
The international break will be the last breather we have and the prospect of having to go to White Hart Lane in between games against Liverpool and away to Bolton will have fans worried. Initially, fans will think those games will be difficult to get nine points from, but depending on how are United doing, it could be a massive difference.
But that's not what I'm worried about. I'm worried about Wenger. With a eye on fatigue, he's going to have to rotate, and we've seen on a few occasions this season that a second string Arsenal isn't good enough. Will he make wholesale changes like against Wigan?
Maybe not. The Spurs are going to be difficult to beat, but the only positive factor would be if we have a near first team squad back to rotate between. Injuries to key players and another positional crisis would hurt us, and it could be the difference between three points or nine that week.
The break has given us the breathing room we've been needing. Cesc, Theo and Song are set to make a comeback. Van Persie should feature, though it's not the first time we've heard him getting injured and then starting the next game. It gets even more promising if we can get back Djourou and Szczesny earlier than expected; we are really suffering without them but a full strength mid would take pressure off a haphazard defence.
Until then, we face some dark times ahead. You can almost see a dark cloud over our defence with Squillaci and Almunia, black holes for team morale and confidence. Lehmann making a rather craptacular return to the reserves and Almunia being equally craptacular for the first team. We have a paradox in which both outcomes are that we are screwed.
Even with Cesc, Theo, Djourou and Robin in our team, it doesn't help that they are all prone to niggling injuries. We only have nine games left; they can get injured in the summer sipping champagne out of the Premier League trophy in some sunny country. Until then, no risks for players or managers.
In particular, we need to avoid the Barca second leg fiasco where a crocked Cesc played. It's been quietly swept under the rug, but Wenger should never have risked it, and Cesc should not have let his ambitions get in the way of clear logic. We need our key players, but they're not going to play at their best and only risk further injury.
Winning all nine games would give us the title, but all United have to do is make sure they capitalise if we fall. It's an uphill battle made no easier by some dubious decisions earlier in the season, but we have focus and no distractions. We're the only team in the top five who are only in one competition and will be hoping United's successes in other competitions give us the advantage we need.
At their best, Arsenal are almost unplayable, but at their worst, we're damn leaky and draw specialists. However, we're not at our best, on the way but not quite there yet; the fluent passing and free scoring have been absent.
Confidence is recovering, not quite as bad as it was a few weeks ago, and a string of wins would have the whole team playing at their best. We can't go on thinking there's always next season. Honestly, we find ourselves five points behind a United side who dropped a unusual amount of points away and a Chelsea side who threw away a five point lead after losing their assistant coach. Add in a more confident Liverpool, a more attractive Spurs and a City side who will enjoy their annual nine figure recruitment of mercenary players.
This is our best run in years and we have luck to keep us in it; it's now or never. I've seen "Arsenal need two or three world class signings" plastered across many articles, and I've been part of that group, but honestly, does anyone think Wenger will spend £40million? Does anyone think he'll sell all of the players who aren't good in the squad? Anyone else think at any given time we will have one long term injury and several smaller niggling injuries?
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