It was all going too well, wasn’t it?
On Saturday, Arsenal followed up last week’s excellent win against Bayern Munich with a hard fought victory over Everton. In doing so, we climbed briefly to the top of the Premier League for the first time since 1908 – or something like that.
It wasn’t all smiles and back slaps though, de facto first choice in the right wing slot, Aaron Ramsey having succumbed to injury during the Munich match. Opportunity, it seemed, knocked for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Here, at last, was an almost guaranteed run of games, no matter the 22 year old’s form. Which, on the evidence of Saturday evening, was something of a lucky break for him.
Except, of course, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doesn’t get lucky breaks. Anyone who’s watched him this season (and last) can testify to that. He treads on the ball, it leads to a goal, he tracks back, he scores an own goal, he produces a delightful chip, it bounces back off the bar, he takes a shot, it leads to a goal at the other end.
There’s a phrase which has been popularised by Twitter and Football365 in recent times. I’m sure you’ve all heard it, but the phrase “Peak Arsenal” is used to describe things like last season’s debacle against Monaco, or the fact that David Ospina costs you a victory in the Champions League when you have Petr Cech sitting on the bench.
Well, on Tuesday night, we saw peak Oxlade-Chamberlain. Given the number 10 role at Hillsborough, the Ox lasted all of two dribbles out of play and about five minutes before going down with an injury. To compound matters, his replacement – the plan B striker who has suddenly proven to be a very handy plan A – lasted about five minutes longer than the Ox before a calf problem ended his evening.
I don’t think I’m alone when I suggest that it is these injuries rather than our Sheffield surrender occupying my thoughts today.
Honestly, it’s starting to feel as though the Arsenal first team squad is in some bizarre version of a Final Destination movie. Thankfully, our players are not actually being chased around for 90 minutes by the Grim Reaper – although, that may have injected some urgency into their performances on Tuesday. It does feel though that no matter what Arsène might try to protect his players, they can’t really cheat whatever the injury bringing version of the Grim Reaper is. All that we can do is, maybe, change the order players get injured in. No matter what he does, they will all succumb eventually.
I do wonder too. Although not quite as adoring as our own Helen Trantum, I do love Arsène, but it struck me that his comments about Aaron Ramsey playing against Andorra for Wales were a touch disingenuous. Ramsey was injured against Bayern, having completed 90 minutes against Watford in between the Andorra and Munich games. Clearly, it’s Arsène prerogative to play whatever team he wants to and it’s his job to pick a team which gives us the best chance of winning a game. However, if you think that one of your players has played too much football, shouldn’t you try and protect him a little bit? I know there wasn’t much room for rotation, but if you want Ramsey for Bayern, maybe play the Ox against Watford.
Anyway, no point in crying over spilled milk now, but there is even less room for rotation. That is, of course, assuming the injuries to both Walcott and the Ox are going to keep them out for a while. As I write this, there have been no updates on either player. (Editor’s note: There has now! Both are likely to be out for three weeks.)
With away games in Munich and Swansea followed by a North London Derby next weekend, this sudden injury crisis couldn’t really have come at a worse time.
If both the Ox and Theo are unavailable, then we have not only lost an alternative centre forward but we only have Alexis as a viable wide option I see no option for the manager other than moving Santi Cazorla to the right wing but the thought of that literally gives me the shudders. Flamini and Coquelin in central midfield? Santi wide?
Trick or treat guys, trick or f’ckin’ treat.
If it wasn’t for his willing, but poor, display at Hillsborough, we’d be grabbing a mask and a cape (maybe) and thrusting both items at Joel Campbell. Maybe he is the man to profit from an extended run in the team? Yes I am clutching at straws here. Here’s another one… perhaps we could play Kieran Gibbs in midfield. If only Kieran Gibbs wasn’t playing like a man who can’t remember what a football is anymore.
Hopefully, by the time we pitch up at Swansea, or even by the time you read this, we will have discovered that Theo and the Ox were replaced as precautionary measures and are both available for the weekend. I wouldn’t bet on it though.