After transfer deadline day, the mood among Arsenal fans was surprisingly positive considering our domestic results thus far. A fistful of new signings offered the opportunity of a fresh start. The honeymoon, however, has not lasted long. If there was anything likely to puncture the morale of the supporters, it was injuries.
Surprisingly enough, the worst news has not come from participants in the dreaded interlull. Although both Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott missed their respective games last night with minor muscle strains, they’re not expected to be major doubts for Saturday. The worst news has come from two players who stayed at home with what we had believed to be relatively minor problems. Turns out, in true Arsenal fashion, they’re much worse than we feared. On Monday it was confirmed that Jack Wilshere will miss at least two months, and then yesterday Arsenal revealed that Thomas Vermaelen had undergone an operation which means he will miss at least a month of training. His likely return date is the home game with Sunderland on October 16th, meaning he’ll miss Champions League ties with Dortmund and Olympiacos as well as the North London Derby.
The news casts a slightly different light on our transfer activity – the staff would have been well aware of these injuries when negotiating for the likes of Mertesacker and Arteta – and means those players will immediately become integral to the side. The big German wore the captain’s armband for Germany last night (in a game in which Wojciech Szczesny was outstanding for Poland), and should be ready to go straight in to the team on Saturday alongside Laurent Koscielny.
In midfield, Alex Song will still be suspended, so Mikel Arteta should start alongside Emmanuel Frimpong and Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey was named Man of the Match in Wales 1-0 defeat at Wembley last night, and gave a commanding midfield performance as captain. With the departure of Cesc and Nasri on top of Wilshere’s injury, it’s clearly a huge season for Aaron. I don’t doubt his talent, but sometimes he seems to try too hard, playing 50-yard Hollywood passes when a simple ball is on. It’s easy to forget what a fantastic recovery he’s made from his broken leg, and perhaps he’s just a little over-eager to make up for lost time. If he can start to use the ball more maturely that will be a big step along the road back to where he was just prior to his injury.
Frimpong, meanwhile, has once again declared his intention to play for Ghana. Selfishly, I’d like him to play for England: a) because it means we won’t lose him for African Nations football, and b) because I’m an England fan! That said, he was born in Accra and his Ghanaian heritage clearly means an enormous amount to him, so best of luck to him. There are African Nations tournaments in January 2012 AND 2013 – the only consolation being that Cameroon are unlikely to qualify for this season’s tournament, meaning we won’t be entirely bereft of defensive midfielders.
Upfront, there’s a slim possibility of a debut for Park, who has scored again for Korea – that’s now four in his last two games. It’s clear he’s a decent technical finisher, and in a team like ours he’s certain to get chances. I actually think that at the end of the season we may look back on his signing as something of a bargain.
We may also witness a home debut for teenage flyer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The teenager has been in superb form over the International break with England U-21s, with this cameo against Israel particularly impressive, setting up all four England goals:
It sounds like he made a decent impression off the pitch too, when the squad decided to have an ‘X-Factor night’ bonding session. The Daily Mail claims:
“Arsenal’s man-of-the-moment Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – according to observers – ‘brought the house down’ when impersonating Will Smith by rapping the theme tune to his old comedy series, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.“
On a serious note, he looks a hell of a talent: quick, powerful with an eye for a pass. We shouldn’t let any disappointment that bigger names didn’t arrive cloud the fact we’ve signed a hugely promising youngster here.
We’re slightly fortunate that the injuries to Wilshere and Vermaelen come at a time when the fixture list is a little less daunting than it has been until now. In September we have home games with Swansea, Shrewsbury, Bolton and Olympiacos, as well as trips to Dortmund and Blackburn. In that period we are able to welcome back Song and Gervinho from suspension, as well as adding five new signings in to the mix. It is no exaggeration to say that, with our new look squad, all those games are winnable. What a different season it would look then.
Come on Gunners. Let’s turn this around. Starting on Saturday.