Arsène Wenger said something very weird today, very unusual. He mentioned one of our players, Oliver Giroud in fact, being ahead of schedule. I'm not exactly sure what he's on about if I'm honest. What does that even mean? I'm pretty sure I haven't heard those words along with the word Arsenal in the same sentence before.
While we are on this topic, what is Aaron Ramsey playing at? He is supposed to be still out with a knee injury. So how it helps us having a crocked player swanning about the place like everything is ok is beyond me.
All unfunny jokes aside, it is great to see our players recovering quicker than usual. We are so used to hearing the prognosis from the manager and then adding an extra 4-8 weeks on top, at least I may add. While the whole prevention of injuries hasn't quite followed the behind the scenes shake up, at least not yet. Another area for improvement was that of recovery, and touch wood that seems to be going well thus far.
It could all be coincidence and nothing to do with Shad Forsythe and his methods but then again he could have had an early impact, it's difficult to say one way or the other. But the most important fact is that we are starting to get players back for selection. Theo Walcott is already back part of the group and training, as is Serge Gnabry but you get the feeling that the latter could be somewhat Campbellised. We love our injuries at Arsenal but chopping through enough wide attacking players so Gnabry can get a regular run in the side sounds a bit optimistic. I wouldn't be surprised to see us build him back to fitness before seeing if he can sink or swim on loan somewhere. Hopefully in the Premier League.
On the other hand Theo Walcott will be an integral part of the team but not just yet Arsène hinted today. He will likely gain minutes here and there, feeling his way back into the team and that seems like the sensible thing to do. The perfect scenario would be for Theo to get 15 minutes at the end of the game on Saturday and for the England forward to wrap up a convincing win with a goal. The old icing on the cake trick.
Another returning player is forgotten man, Yaya Sanogo. He had disappeared pretty much as soon as Danny Welbeck arrived at the end of the summer window. Before the signing of Welbeck he had been going through a difficult period, goals were looking very hard to come by and the spotlight on him seemed to be shining brighter each week. Hopefully the break away from the first team will have done him some good. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was taken out of the squad to work on his game before being brought back once more.
With Giroud's return only around the corner and Welbeck now an established Arsenal striker, it's going to be a challenge for the French striker to make a name for himself in the short term. He'll have to hit the ground running in a big way or he will have to be very patient especially as we have no more league cup to mix and match the teams.
Arsène seemed pretty sure that Gibbs should be ok for tomorrow but it's not all great news as Jack Wilshere suffered a kick on his knee (what is it with Arsenal players and knee injuries) and could miss the game tomorrow but it is not a serious problem.
Assuming that we get through the international break, huge assumptions I know but let's say by some miracle we do, then we are down to four injuries. Yeah four! like a normal club and stuff.
With so many players returning who are lacking game time, Arsène will have a difficult time trying to get them all back to form whilst keeping performance levels up. It's a difficult balancing act but an important one.
I have been thinking about our injuries and the potential impact on the start of our season. But all clubs have injuries, it is no excuse is often the response. Well I thought I'd compare us to Chelsea first of all to see what it all looks like. There are a few holes in this method but it's worth looking at.
Firstly I tried to pick out what I thought would be the two squads strongest elevens. I didn't include either Theo Walcott or Oliver Giroud into this because I am not entirely sure if Giroud is first choice anymore and in the case of Theo, well I'm not entirely sure why I didn't include him. Perhaps because he hasn't played at all this season but for sure including Theo emphasises the point a lot more.
With the Chelsea side, it is a little more difficult to guess because Maureen tends to chop and change between Willan, Oscar and Schürrle. So the Chelsea total would be higher if the manager stuck with one player, in the way that Arsene is more likely to do.
|DF AVG||569||DF AVG||769|
|MF AVG||423||MF AVG||794|
|FW AVG||556||FW AVG||516|
What is instantly apparent is that the Chelsea defence are pretty damn close to being ever present so far. Ivanovic, Cahill and Terry have played every minute of the 9 games so far. Azpilicueta has not played 140 minutes of those 810 minutes. Courtois has only missed 66 minutes and that was against us after having a knee to his head from Alexis. That big bloke in front of them, Matic has also played every minute of every Premier League game to date. Contrast that with Arsenal who have a defensive average of 569 minutes so far compared to Chelsea's 769 minutes.
While so many are dropping logs about our defence on a daily basis, it is in fact our strongest area that has suffered the most damage, and this does not even count Mesut Özil who I've counted as an offensive player. The Chelsea first choice midfield have played a whopping 371 minutes more than Arsenal's strongest trio.
The Chelsea attack is harder to compare as they have chopped and changed their personnel in the attacking areas and also they play a different system to us but Alexis and Welbeck have brought our average up as they (touch wood) have avoided the Arsenal curse to date.
Before high horses get rode on, I'd just like to qualify this with the fact that you need a squad and not just 11 players. I am also not suggesting that Chelsea have an inferior squad to Arsenal but no matter what squad you have to choose from, you are not going to be at your best or find consistency without your first picks. By the very definition, your best players are exactly that.
Case in point, Manchester City being beaten at home to Newcastle in the Capital One Cup. Most people would point towards Manchester City at having the strongest squad in the league. Right? Any objections? Ok let us proceed.
The team that played in midweek was packed with Internationals such as former Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna, Fernandinho, Džeko and Jovetic. You're talking real strength in depth stuff. They even had two out of four central defenders playing. Yet they lost to Alan Pardrew's Newcastle.
Why? Well I didn't see the game but look at the minutes played from the team.
|DF AVG||569||DF AVG||297|
|MF AVG||423||MF AVG||622|
|FW AVG||556||FW AVG||388|
Out of a potential 8,910 Premier League minutes that league cup team had only accumulated 4,514 minutes, just over half. So even the best squad in the league can suffer from a lack of continuity, momentum and partnerships.
I know it's easier to say that everything is rubbish and we are rubbish, the manager and board are rubbish etc but I get the feeling that there are a lot of factors at play here. A weaker squad were performing very well at this stage last season, in fact we were top of the league and would stay there for some time. Funnily enough the Sagna, Mertesacker and Koscielny were ever present at this stage last season. Gibbs and Monreal had shared the games if I'm not mistaken. Ring any bells?
I am willing to bet that once our minutes played average goes up from our best players then performances will improve and so will results. Two wins on the bounce hasn't been the most convincing but it's a platform that hopefully the lads will continue to build on tomorrow.
Scotts Menswear published their Away Days survey result which was off the back of a nationwide survey of any football fans in the country.
The purpose of the survey was not to find out about ticket prices but get a feel for the best away day experience in the country and what fans wear to away matches. As we well know our stadium is the dogs danglers and away fans have voted Ashburton Grove as the best away stand in the country. Unfortunately we were not voted in the top four for best atmosphere.
Tottenham are voted in the top three overall away day experience. At first I wasn't sure why this was but gathered it must have been droves of happy Newcastle supporters voting after picking up three points at Fart Hart lane for the second consecutive season.
Have a look at the full survey here.
Match preview in the morrow.