Something only we know.
Paul will probably murder me for not only knowing, but quoting and bastardising a lyric from a song by Keane. Or, perhaps worse, a Lily Allen cover.
But Arsenal fans were driven up the wall this week by the club very much spilling the beans on a piece of information which up until that point had been very much a case of something only they knew: Danny Welbeck will be out until Christmas.
The gist of it is pretty simple – the club tried to get him back without surgery, it didn’t work, and now he’s had to go under the knife to fix his knee issue. It’s not another ‘we’re not quite sure what is wrong‘ a la Tomas Rosicky, it’s just a complication which can occasionally be expected with these types of injuries.
But there are a couple of drivers of that Gooner frustration, stemming from the twin questions of ‘Why didn’t you tell us before?‘ and ‘Why didn’t you sign a replacement?‘ Never fear, ladies and gentlemen, I have some (suggested) answers.
Why didn’t you tell us?
With Welbeck out for a lengthy stretch, the club have three choices. They can either decide that the squad is deep enough to sustain such an absence – after all, that’s the very point of having a squad – they can decide to buy a body, any body, to plug the gap, or they can probe the market for players who would be good enough for Arsenal in any eventuality with the possibility that they may not find anyone.
Option two and three are similar insofar as it means the club has been active in the transfer market, searching for players to sign. Going public with a long term injury to one of the first team squad in that very position is only going to do one thing to our negotiating position: weaken it. And this in turn is only going to do one thing to the price.
Now I’m not saying I want the club to be parsimonious with their cash – I love a £30-40m signing as much as the next Gooner – but equally I don’t want us to spunk all our hard-earned cash on a player with ‘potential‘ just because of one injury. There was not a single striker who moved in the summer who would have improved our team, which tells me there was simply no one available of sufficient quality. We are not in need of bodies for the sake of bodies up front.
Option one, of course, is likely to cause mass hysteria – Stephen Bradley wrote an excellent column yesterday examining quite why we’re all so upset to have not signed anyone other than Petr Cech this summer – but it raises an excellent point: how many injuries or suspensions can Arsenal sustain at any given point before it becomes a problem?
Why didn’t you sign a replacement?
Put simply, we didn’t need one.
Imagine the scene (you shouldn’t have to imagine too hard!): it’s the first week in September, and you’ve just found out Welbeck is injured for half the season. Do you:
(a) shrug your shoulders
(b) recall that Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck weren’t really fit at the same time last season either?
(c) go batshit mental that we can’t possibly compete with only five remaining fit and healthy options for our front three?
It seems to me that there’s a heck of a lot of option (c) going around at the moment, but we are not exactly short of stock up front. Yes, Welbeck is a loss because he is versatile and full of potential, but this is exactly why we have a squad. And as Lee so expertly pointed out yesterday, two of our forward options seem to be made of indestructible materials. (Now where’s the nearest piece of wood?)
Set menu or a la carte?
Even without Welbeck, we have to choose from Walcott, Giroud, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Campbell for the front three positions, all of who have experience at the top level and all of who can play a couple of different positions.
But let’s say the injury gods decide to smite us down in our very prime and we’re somehow unable to field more than two of those five in any given game, what then?
Well, we have had not a little success in employing the likes of Ozil, Ramsey and Wilshere on the flanks on occasion, and Arsene has shown a desire to do so every now and again even when not forced, to introduce some balance or to crowbar his desired XI into the same team.
Wilshere, for example, has had quite a bit of joy, particularly from a goalscoring perspective, in cutting inside from the right flank.
Ramsey has not overly impressed in the same berth, but it’s not that alien to suggest that he might have similar success on the left where he can similarly step infield onto his stronger right foot. It’s the same opportunity that has seen Theo perform surprisingly well when installed on the left wing, but it is a tactic that needs balancing with a wide-man prepared to actually stay wide.
But the important thing here is that any squad would struggle if four or five players from their forward line were out simultaneously – there comes a point when it ceases to be about poor squad management and is simply a case of bad luck beyond anticipating.
If Chelsea missed Hazard, Willian, Costa, Oscar and Pedro all at one time, they would be in a very similar position. And City without Aguero, Bony, Sterling, Navas and Silva would also be an entirely different proposition.
We talked at length on this week’s podcast about whether Welbeck is the answer to our centre forward options, but the consensus was that while he has potential he is a long way from fulfilling that potential. All this means that the issue of his injury is more about exposing the club to a lack of squad depth rather than his individual talent.
Ultimately, we have to trust that Arsene knows what he’s doing – he knew who was available, and how they stack up against our current squad. But then, he’s given us something to moan and argue about over an otherwise tedious international break – perhaps we ought to be grateful to the man!
Either way, it’s not the armageddon we’re being led to believe. Memories are short, maybe we would do well to remember how happy we were to sign Petr Cech earlier in the summer.
Now that’s something we all know.