Following Arsenal’s comprehensive 2-0 win over Liverpool on Saturday at the Emirates they head into the toughest month of the season so far.
The fixtures are coming thick and fast this November and whilst Arsenal silence some of their critics last weekend, they must hold what they have against a number of quality sides in the next period.
Arsene Wenger’s side are on an unbeaten run of 9 games in the Premier League since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa and have lost just one game in the Champions League at home to the Bavarians.
However, despite their fine form and a string of top level performances, Wenger is still without a number of key players – last season’s top scorer Theo Walcott, youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, their most senior forward in Lukas Podolski, talisman Jack Wilshere and defensive midfield anchorman Mathieu Flamini to compound the injury to Kieran Gibbs on Saturday.
Young striker signing Yaya Sanogo has also yet to return with Serge Gnabry also sidelined at present – Arsenal are heading in to the toughest cluster of games yet this term and will likely have very little room for maneuver, resting or rotation.
The likes of Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, and Bacary Sagna are going to have to stay fit and recover quickly to keep the momentum of the campaign going but there is talk that Walcott and Flamini could return in the next week or so – potentially ahead of Sunday’s clash with the English champions.
It is unlikely the manager would take a risk with either one – I would suspect if either of them feature at all next weekend, they will be wrapped up in cotton wool to avoid a setback or another injury. Having Walcott back could be a huge boost for the Gunners, however. What the English wideman offers in terms of goals, assists, pace and space creation is pivotal to Wenger’s set up.
The imminent return of Flamini will give the boss the option of alternating between the French enforcer and Arteta or, perhaps even throwing them in together if the Gunners are aiming to protect a lead.
Arsenal showed their quality and conviction against the Reds on Saturday but they will need to get at least a couple of their sidelined stars back in the next few weeks to keep the momentum going and avoid fatigue and more injuries – Flamini and Walcott could return just in the nick of time.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald