Arsenal’s injury list is a long one, nine players to be exact. This normally calls for an injury crisis cry from the media, and initially glancing at this number, they may be right. However, when you look at the list more closely, specifically who is injured, what the injury is, when they were injured, and who else can play in these injured players positions, you could make a compelling argument that in fact, Arsenal’s injury crisis isn’t a crisis after all and that Arsene Wenger rather just needs to improve two specific areas. You could also argue that Wenger’s squad selection just became a little easier and is about to become much harder.
Lets break down Arsenal’s injury list. Two of these are long-term injuries that occurred at the start of the year, Olivier Giroud with a broken leg and Mathieu Debuchy with ankle ligament damage. Both were at the time starters and both won’t return until around the New Year.
Another two, both with knee injuries, have already been out long term. Serge Gnabry who last season showed flashes of his unbelievable potential and has a chance of being a star for future Arsenal teams, and Theo Walcott, who the past two seasons had finally been playing up to his potential, using his speed to both score and provide on a regular basis. Both are weeks away from making a comeback and both play in the same position.
Then there is another three, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and Yaya Sanogo. Ramsey, last season’s star player, will be out another month with another hamstring injury. Arteta damaged his calf to return to the treatment table for a second time this season; he could return to first team action soon after the international break. Sanogo injured his hamstring, although it is still not clear when this happened and coincidently occurred when Arsenal signed Danny Welbeck.
The last two consist of Nacho Monreal and Jack Wilshere, both of whom are still listed although Wilshere hasn’t actually missed any games and Monreal returned to the bench for the match against Chelsea.
There are a couple things that I notice when I look at this list. Most obvious is that six of these players were starters at the time of their injury. But then I took a closer look at the list and I realize that every single one of those players have more than adequate back up their respective positions now.
Olivier Giroud was the starting striker when he was injured, however, I believe that it is safe to say that by the time he comes back from injury, Danny Welbeck will be the starter. Giroud is very good at what he does and knows what he is good at. However, his lack of pace and ability to create on his own sometimes means that he is a limited player. Welbeck, on the other hand, can create his own chances and has the physical strength and pace that has some to comparing him to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.
At the time of Giroud’s injury, there was a genuine crisis at striker, as Welbeck was not in the team yet, and it became quite apparent that Sanogo was not quite yet ready for an extended amount of first team action. However with the addition of Welbeck, and Sanogo’s imminent return from injury, there is cover and no drop off in quality at striker. There is no injury crisis here.
Mathieu Debuchy is the next player whose injury seemed, at the time, a crisis. In fairness, the defense is in a crisis due to a lack of numbers, not even counting the injuries to both Debuchy and Monreal. But this crisis existed before both those injuries occurred and the crisis is therefore not a product of the injury to Debuchy.
In terms of an injury crisis at right back, there isn’t one, as Debuchy’s backup, Calum Chambers, has performed excellently all season. In fact, when Debuchy comes back, do not be surprised to see Chambers retain his place in the first team.
When looking at the injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta, you realize the incredible amount of depth in the middle of the field. Both are starters, however, Ramsey has not performed well this season, in spite of his goals and Arteta has hardly played due injuries.
Losing Arteta is not a serious issue because there is very little drop off in quality between him and his backup, Mathieu Flamini. The fact that there is little drop off in quality between these two players is telling of the fact that Wenger needs to and should have purchased a better defensive midfielder. Both Arteta and Flamini are excellent influences at the club and should remain key figures, however they should be squad rotation players.
Losing Ramsey has freed up Mesut Özil to play in his best and natural position, the number 10 position. Before this injury, due to the quality of players in the center of the field, Wenger was forcing his selections and making Özil play out wide, something that does not suit him and definitely does not suit the team. It has also allowed Santi Cazorla more playing time, both wide and centrally.
Cazorla looked phenomenal against Galatasary in Ramsey’s usual box-to-box position. This has also allowed Jack Wilshere to play with more space and more freely. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain too has benefited from Ramsey’s absence, as he is now afforded more playing time out wide, as Özil has moved into a central position. When you look at the players that are playing now that Ramsey is hurt, you realize that they are either world-class players or have the potential to be, in Wilshere and Chamberlain’s case. Ramsey had been performing poorly, therefore, there is no drop off in quality and Arsenal have actually not missed him due to the performances of Wilshere, Cazorla,Özil, and Chamberlain. The fast paced performance against Galatasary exemplifies this perfectly.
I am by no means saying that when Ramsey returns from injury he shouldn’t start, and I am definitely not saying that it is good that he is injured. Ramsey is still a phenomenal player and integral to Arsenal’s playing style. However, when he returns, Wenger cannot play all of these players together in the same starting eleven, because it creates an unbalanced starting eleven. There should be a much better rotation system to deal with all of these players playing in the same position. This would also prevent injury. The fact Tomas Rosicky hasn’t even been mentioned speaks of the quality that Arsenal possesses in the creative central midfield department.
The fifth starter that is listed as injured, Jack Wilshere, has not missed a game. Again, I see no crisis here.The sixth starter listed as injured, Theo Walcott, has been injured since January and the team has been able to cope with that for the past ten months. Chamberlain has performed extremely well in Walcott’s right wing position. The addition of Alexis Sanchez has only added to the depth out wide.
On top of all this depth in Walcott’s position, he is returning to full team action in the next couple weeks. This will not alleviate an injury crisis but rather create an excellent selection headache for Wenger. Hopefully he handles this headache better than he had earlier in the season, in reference to forcing his favorite players; Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, and Özil to all start and play out of position.
The other three players on the list injury list are back ups. Two of which, Sanogo and Gnabry, are far back in the pecking order and are ones for the future rather than immediate contributors. The third, Nacho Monreal, is the often-injured Kieran Gibbs’ backup. Monreal’s recent return will be welcoming to a depleted defense, not a defense depleted by injuries though but one depleted by a lack of depth and numbers.
No Crisis at Arsenal
All in all I see no injury crisis at Arsenal. Yes the list is long, but it is important to analyze the list. Rather than a crisis, this has been an opportunity for certain players to play in their preferred positions, namely Özil, and has proven the amount of depth Arsenal have everywhere besides in defense. Players such as Cazorla, Wilshere, and Chamberlain have benefited from these injuries as it has allowed them to play with more freedom as they are playing in their more naturally positions. This in turn has benefitted Arsenal.
If there is any crisis at Arsenal it is that they lack the numbers in defense. They only have six senior defenders in the squad. This is a crisis even without injuries and something that needs to be addressed. The same can be said of the defensive midfield position. There are numbers in this position and very little drop off in quality however the quality should be better and Wenger should invest when he finds the right player.
The one argument that can be made is that Arsenal does suffer from a ridiculous amount of injuries every season and have for at least a decade. The real crisis regarding injuries may be in their treatment of players and Arsene Wenger’s poor squad rotation skills. Apparently, they have addressed this by hiring the former German National team’s physio, Shad Forsyth. Earlier in the summer they claimed he would introduce new techniques and methods for detecting when a player was about to be injured, namely muscular injuries as those occur generally due to fatigue. Time must be given though for the results to be seen.
In other Arsenal news, Olivier Giroud extended his contract with the club last week. His new deal goes to the summer of 2018. This is excellent news for Arsenal, as Giroud has performed admirable in his 2 plus seasons at the club. He has become an integral part of Arsenal link up play and his work ethic nor his commitment have never come under question. When he returns from injury he faces a fight with Welbeck but this can only be good for the club as this competition will hopefully push both players and provide excellent depth in the striking department.
In more recent news, Arsene Wenger will not face any action for pushing Jose Mourinho. The two clashed after Gary Cahill’s disgusting tackle on Alexis Sanchez. Arsene Wenger went into the Chelsea technical area to see if Alexis was hurt only for his path to be blocked by Mourinho. Wenger tried pushed Mourinho while the two exchanged words. The officials spoke to both managers. Because it was an incident seen by the officials, the FA cannot impose any retroactive punishment. Cahill was somehow only given yellow for his challenge.