Perhaps a bigger disappointment than dropping two points in our 1-1 draw against Norwich was the loss of Alexis Sanchez due to injury.
The Chilean has been skating on thin ice since his return from the Copa America; he barely had a break over the summer and, as a result, was far from his usual agile, sharp self in our opening games of the season. Many called for Arsene Wenger to give the forward a well-deserved rest but, despite his lethargy, the boss obviously saw him as too instrumental to the team to do so.
Even though Alexis found his form and subsequently the net again, in recent weeks, Wenger highlighted the player’s reluctance to take a break and admitted that it was probably time to rest him due to a slight hamstring issue before Norwich, but he didn’t.
As a result, we now have one of our most important players sidelined for weeks.
Could this be the final blow our season needed?
I want to say no. I really do. But, as optimistic as I like to be, it doesn’t look good.
Look, I know we’re still only two points from Man City at the top of the table. Statistically we’re still in a fantastic position with plenty of the season still left to play. However, the blow losing Alexis could potentially cause could be catastrophic.
The forward is one of, is not our most, hard-working player. He’s more than just goals and moments of supreme brilliance on the ball. He’s the motor that keeps our attack running. Alexis is the example. Without him on the pitch, I’m concerned about our motivation. He offers creativity when the rest, except Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, have run out of options. Losing him means we lose all of that.
A few weeks doesn’t sound like a lot of time to be without one player. However, he’s not just one player; he’s one of our most important in every game. Only one player comes to mind when I try to think of others on the team who have played anywhere near his level.
On top of that, there obviously are other injuries. Koscielny is another added to the ever-expanding list. Although we’ve got Ramsey back now, it’ll take a while before his fitness reaches a level where he can be the player he was before injury. The Ox is gradually coming back and of course there’s Theo to consider in the not-too-distant future, but they’re still not there. And they’re definitely not at Alexis’ level.
In addition, our form in general has taken a worrying dip. It’s arguable that this is also down to our long list of injuries but, although we were unlucky against West Brom, we’ve been missing something for a while now. We’re not zipping the ball around as confidently as we once were, we’re misplacing passes and generally not taking our chances.
The only glimmer of hope is that Ozil has continued to improve in front of goal and is now scoring regularly, but even I, the German’s biggest fan, am skeptical of whether the star can carry the whole team by himself.
Our next three fixtures are Sunderland (H), Olympiacos (A) and Aston Villa (A). These are all winnable, although of course so were our clashes with the Baggies and Norwich.
If we can just get through these and then potentially into the New Year, we could be on the home straight.
We have to be smart. Our defensive work has taken a noticeably nose dive in the last month or so and this is something we simply have to work on if we’re going to get anything from our Premier League fixtures. Dropping points due to ridiculous errors simply isn’t an option anymore. It’s tight at the top and there’s no room for error.
If we can defend as a team and stop those cheap goals rolling in at one end, we should still have enough fire power to score at the other and come away with the points. Playing Mesut centrally should mean we get enough chances, let’s not waste them.
As far as preventing even more injuries is concerned, that’s down to the boss. I’ve already ranted about our sidelined players until I’m blue (red?) in the face but it’s not something I, as a fan, can influence or help for that matter. All we can hope for is no more (for the love of God no more) and pray that our players, especially Alexis, make hasty recoveries.
We’re down but not out. We still have plenty to offer and with a fully fit squad we can beat anyone. Let’s march on, make the best of a bad situation, get our players back and show the entire league that we’re the Arsenal.
It’s not over yet.