Arsenal’s Insult to Injury

I made a conscious decision to avoid the blogosphere in the wake of Saturday evening’s result. I will therefore assume that the doom and gloom merchants have withdrawn somewhat and we can all now focus on getting the much needed three points this weekend at The Hawthorns.

As we are no longer encumbered by pesky midweek European nights, there is not a lot to preview on the pitch so attentions turn to a lengthy preparation for the West Brom game. Perhaps most worryingly is the news which emerged yesterday, that Alex Song will miss another game.

When he was first marked as an absentee two weeks ago it came out of the blue and it was assumed it would only be short-term. We should now realise that short-term injuries are a rarity at Arsenal. When a player is out it’s best to forget them until next time you actually see them on the pitch.

The same is true of Walcott. After his injury three weeks ago in the Stoke rugby match, it was reported that he had a chance to make it back for last week’s fix-up in Barcelona. That didn’t happen and absence from the United tie is now followed by enforced lay-off from the must-win West Brom match. Add to this the stop-start nature of Vermaelen and Fabregas’ recoveries and it does beg the question, why does this keep happening?

It’s hard to know who to blame. Are the medical team guilty of making the wrong diagnoses or are they pushing players too hard in rehab? Could it be Wenger’s fault? Le Boss always seems keen to estimate a player’s return date which in turn gets everyone’s hopes up.

From a PR point of view it might make more sense for Wenger to be more circumspect and rule people out short-term or long-term, no more of this prescriptive ‘he will miss two games’ business.

Could it also be the fact that many of our players have their own Personal Coaches that are not governed by the club. Cesc, for example, has his own fitness coach, Juan Ferrando. Is this a hindrance for Tony Colbert? (Above with RVP)

To my mind, our injury record has been our single biggest impediment in the last four seasons and is another stick used to beat us by sections of the media. It might help matters if we didn’t keep setting ourselves ambitious deadlines which, when not met, give the impression that a player is more badly injured than first thought. This makes our medical staff look incompetent which I’m sure they’re not. It also makes us look disorganised and desperate, clinging to what might have been if only everyone was fit.

Having said all this, there has been some positive news on the injury front as the Swiss FA released a statement about the fitness of Johan Djourou:

“The shoulder injury to Johan Djourou is less serious than feared on Saturday and announced by the coach of his club. ‘The Arsenal defender and member of the Switzerland national team was submitted to thorough medical examinations on Monday. At the end of a long exhausting day, Johan Djourou had new hope that… his season is not over yet.”

If Djourou was to return by the end of the month that would prove a huge boost to the team, not to mention us supporters!

Finally, it was confirmed yesterday that Crazy Jens is to return. This seems a wise move from Wenger. Lehmann will only be here as backup but his presence in the squad could be invaluable. He probably won’t make it onto the pitch, if all goes to plan, but he could be a big plus in the dressing room.

It did seem that the big German could intimidate his defence by putting them under such unforgiving expectation; look at Senderos for an example of someone who couldn’t quite master the mental battle. That said who wouldn’t want the Invincible No1 patrolling the training ground, imparting his insight into just what is required to get over the line?

When I heard that Wenger was planning this move I thought about my favourite Lehmann moment. Was it the finger tip save from Solskjaer in the dieing moments of a 1-0 win at Old Trafford? Was it the gravity defying recovery from Raul in the second leg of our victory over Real Madrid’s Galacticos?

Nope. It was when we won the league at White Hart Lane and he got so angry that he’d conceded a penalty to Robbie Keane, and with it a 2-0 lead, that he refused to celebrate the title. It’s that sort of bloody mindedness that might just see us back to the top.