By all admissions, Arsenal's start to the season has not been the brightest one. In terms of injuries and suspensions, it has not been the smoothest, either. As usual, injuries to key players have hampered Arsenal's start with the likes of Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen becoming croppers.
That aside, Arsenal's discipline has hampered their starting lineups, with the club holding the most cards in the league, including two straight reds and one postgame suspension for a stamp by Alex Song on the ever notorious Joey Barton. This has all contributed to weak starting lineups, aiding humiliating defeats like the 8-2 defeat against Manchester United. As a result of such unprofessionalism and, some would say, misfortune, Arsenal FC sit 17th in the Premier League after only notching four points from five games and conceding 14 goals.
Optimists say it will only get better, but of course, how could it get any worse? Relegation? Surely not. Of course Arsenal have enough about them to steadily and eventually climb up the table, but there is more than a question mark over Champions League qualification, and some would say the Europa League could be out of their grasp also.
One thing is for sure, boss Arsene Wenger will be dipping into his transfer fund for more than a few reasons. One reason is because the team still lacks, and have lacked for a while, true world-class quality. Another reason is that this January 2012 is the month the 28th African Cup of Nations will be taking place in Gabon and Equatorial New Guinea.
The January transfer window opens on the 1st of the month and the African Cup of Nations begins on the 21st, but the players will need to link up with their international squads beforehand. Many teams worldwide will be hit with this, but let us focus on Arsenal.
Potentially, Arsenal could lose four first-team players: Alexandre Song, Emmanuel Frimpong, Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho. All four are big losses to the first team and squad. An Arsenal midfield without Song does not bare thinking about as we have seen already how easily the team has collapsed without him. As for Frimpong, he is Song's rightful understudy, and Gervinho is a player who has offered some attacking diversity, though, not always successful. Chamakh has the potential to partner the mercurial Robin Van Persie.
This will probably mean game time for the likes of Alex Chamberlain, Chu-Young Park and Francis Coquelin, but if Wenger is serious on making an impact, he will purchase proper cover.
Wenger has always coped pretty well with the African Nations Cup over the years, but this season is a crucial one, and Wenger's men will face Manchester United at the beginning of the African competition.
As if Wenger needed more complications in his battle to restore Arsenal's (and his own) pride.
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