Thursday, January 26, 2012
After an Awful January, Things Can only get Better?
I don't know if you've noticed, but January has been pretty awful so far. We've lost all three of our league games, and we've gone back to our old habit of throwing away leads. United swept us aside with an ease that was almost saddening, given how massive the games between the two clubs used to be. The one bright spot this month was Thierry's winning goal in the FA Cup, but, if we're going to look at this in the cold light of day, should we really have needed him to come on and win us the game in those circumstances, given the standard of the opposition we were facing? Nostalgic love for our heroes shouldn't blind us to the inadequacies of this Arsenal squad.
And then there's been the transfer activity, or lack thereof. At the start of the month, it seemed wise to most of us that we should be looking to at least get a player on-loan to cover for the fact that all four of our first-team squad full-backs were injured. But this hasn't materialized. Maybe he'll turn out to be rubbish, but the fact that Taiwo has gone to QPR till the end of the year shows that players were available in this position on short-term deals. Having to rely on out-of-position players has cost us games and goals - look at how many of the goals we conceded in our last three matches started from wide positions near the box. I've no doubt that if Sagna and Santos were fit that we'd be in fourth place at present. Sagna should return soon, as should Gibbs (but let's see if he has a set-back first), but that's still 9 points we've dropped due to inadequate squad management.
Then there's the lack of attacking options in the squad. Park finally made his premier league debut against United, coming on for a bizarre ten-minute cameo at the end. I wonder if we'll see him again before the end of the season. SSN reported that we made an enquiry for Rodallega today, but it will take a lot to get him out of Wigan at such a late stage in the window. There's also been the inevitable round of Hazard rumours on Twitter - I would love him to sign, having watched Lille a fair bit over the last few seasons, but I think he's a dead cert for Madrid this summer. Aside from that - nothing much. And while we have done nothing in the window, Chelsea have bought Cahill and De Bruyne, and I also expect that they'll conclude a deal for Shakthar's Willian before the window closes. It's deals like those which can be the difference between fifth and fourth come May.
So, we're relying on returning players and emerging players to be part of our push for fourth. Wilshere should be back soon , and Chamberlain has now forced his way into the first team. We can all hope that the Ivory Coast get knocked out of the AOC soon, as I think January has proved just how important Gervinho has become to the team, despite his profligacy in front of goal (as I write this, he has just missed a sitter in Africa). We also need Arteta back ASAP, as he has been a huge miss of late. Relying on an injury-prone player such as him to play every week was always going to be a risky strategy and I hope his knock doesn't turn into anything more serious. We have no-one else at the club (Jack included) who can control possession in midfield like Arteta does.
On September 1 I had high hopes that the January window would continue to see the overhaul of the playing staff that the summer window had haphazardly begun. Unfortunately it hasn't. And it seems that we are betting everything on hanging in there for fourth before we splash any more money. This seems an incredibly short-sighted strategy. If there was ever a time to speculate a little, surely it's now.
Instead, there's been a bit of an unnerving quiet around the club this week. Bits and pieces have slipped out in reaction to the booing on Sunday, including a full statement from Robin which backed Arsene, but little else. No hints at all that new faces might be coming in. One would hope that the silence is coming from the players closing ranks, trying to ensure they give a big performance on Sunday through total focus. Looking at the fixture list, most of our games in February are eminently winnable. All we can hope for is that the worst of the season is now over, but I continue to worry about the lack of depth in our squad. Let's hope I'm wrong - surely things can only get better?
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