One last chance
Don’t panic my Gooner friends. Jack Wilshere’s latest injury seems to have lead to a massive outpouring of grief, and the seminal writing off of Arsenal’s chances of reaching the top four this season. There is very much the feeling that Jack has been utterly crucial to Arsenal since his return to the side, but I think that might be overstating his contribution. Don’t get me wrong, it is clear that Jack Wilshere is the very heartbeat of this side. However, if he has had an impact since coming back it is simply that things would be even worse had he not been playing. It’s not as though we’ve had a storming run that has coincided with Jack being in the side. Moreover Jack’s stats are not especially impressive. For a player with his obvious skill and passing ability he has precious few assists to his name. His flat refusal to shoot most of the time (I know he’s far from being the only one) has meant that he has scored just the once. So aside from appearing to be the only player at Arsenal hurt by defeat I’m finding it slightly difficult to see what we’re that likely to miss. And to be honest, based on the last two matches, had we been playing well as a team he’d be looking at a place on the bench in any case.
I strongly suspect that this latest injury has been carried for a week or three, which would explain why our boy has turned in a couple of stinkers. What we won’t have without Jack is his perpetual motion and willingness to dish out a bollocking or two to the people around him. I have to say that I think the rest will do him good, while missing the Munich match and a pair of internationals will not harm Arsenal in any way. If we can get a win at Swansea without him and then have him back refreshed in a couple of weeks from now it might be no bad thing all round. Of course, with Arsenal's medical team we probably won't see him again before Christmas 2014.
Elsewhere it looks as though Wojciech Szczesny is finaly being given a long awaited and much needed kick up the backside. Arsene Wenger might call it a “rest” for Szczesny but he acknowledged his awful form by saying that playing many games this season has had an effect on him. I don’t really see why any goalkeeper would be “rested”. They don’t expend energy. David Seaman didn’t get “rested” until he was in his late 30s. Pat Jennings just played and played. Bob Wilson will tell you how he played all 70-odd games in 1970-71. There were no “effects” seen in their performances week after week. Now Lukasz Fabianski is back to stake a claim. Regular readers will know that I advocated such a move as soon as the older Pole returned for the under-21 side a couple of weeks back. Szczesny has been really very poor for over a year. I think Fabianski’s injury has prevented him from being recalled much sooner. If he gets through tomorrow without his customary mistake then Wenger will have a big call to make at Swansea. It’s worth remembering that Fabianski was in the best run of form in his Arsenal career before he damaged himself and allowed Szczesny to get his opportunity. I’m not saying that Fabianski is good enough for Arsenal, as the evidence is obviously to the contrary. But there is no doubt in my mind that he is no worse than Szczesny right now. If Szczesny’s main problem is temperamental rather than a lack of talent (I’m not convinced) then this will be just what he needs. If he’s simply not good enough (which is what I fear) then I hope we are bringing in a plethora of new goalkeepers this summer.
It’s obviously highly unlikely that we will progress to the quarter-final. With our defence we’ll probably have to score about eight times to get past Bayern Munich. Avoiding total humiliation, and maybe nicking a draw or a narrow win, is about the best that can be hoped for. That being the case I have no problem with not playing people who are carrying a knock or who need to be dropped for reasons of form, though it makes the resting of players against Blackburn seem even more stupid. I am concerned that our lack of squad strength leaves us with a very sub-standard shadow team, but that’s the way Wenger has taken us. If we go out tomorrow but win at the weekend I think most Gooners would just about take that right now. Enjoy the game. You never know, in football miracles often happen – just ask Bradford City, or anyone witnessing the recovery time of Gareth Bale.