Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Reports of the death of Arsenal's season are greatly exaggerated

Picture courtesy Rob(TM)

The apparent news that Johan Djourou could be back in a couple of weeks could save Arsenal's season, if it proves to be true.

Arsenal have very quickly cleared their fixture list for the rest of the season in the worst possible way. The players' confidence will undoubtedly have been knocked by the unfortunate events of the last couple of weeks, but if they can recover they can go on to win the league.

First we lost the Carling Cup final in disappointing circumstances after a calamitous mix-up between Djourou and Szczesny in the last minute gifted Birmingham a lead with not enough time for Arsenal to come back.

Then we lost to Barca in the Champions League. A lot of opinions have been expressed about this, to put it mildly. What is not in doubt is that van Persie's sending off was at the very least extremely harsh. Everyone and his Labrador seem to have expressed an opinion on this, but the truth is that no-one (including the referee) could have known for certain whether RvP heard the whistle and he therefore deserved the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder whether we are still feeling the backlash from the referees' old boys club network since Fabregas allegedly called the referee a cheat in the match against Everton back in November. Certainly we have not had very much luck with officials' decisions since. Apart from the Barca match, the matches against Newcastle and Sunderland also saw some incredibly bad decision-making which went against us.

Whether we would have beaten Barca had van Persie not been sent off is something we'll never no, but we were in the lead at that point and Barca needed to score two goals to go through, so I would have fancied our chances. But it was not to be.

Then there was the FA Cup match against ManUre last week. I really can't work out how we lost that match. We don't ever seem to get the run of the ball against them. We always seem to outplay them and end up loosing. On the surface it just seems to be bad luck, but it's happened so many times that you wonder if there might be some fundamental reason such as tactics or some kind of mental block on the players' part. If there is a reason though I'll be blowed if I can work it out. The fact that Van Der Sar was man of the match probably says something. (I'm just not quite sure what.)

However, if we can get enough of the walking wounded into action we are still in with a chance of the title. Alex Song should hopefully be fit for the next match against West Brom, which would be a massive boost.

Unfortunately I don't think anyone would be surprised if Vermaelen is out for the rest of the season, which is why Djourou is so crucial. Squillaci is not as bad as some people seem to think. A lot of players struggle in their first season in the Premier League and I have seen enough from him to make me think that he could yet be a good squad player in the longer term. He should be good enough to get us through the match against the Baggies, but I would be much more confident if we had JD back to play against Liverpool (17 April), Spuds (20 April) and ManUre (1 May).

Fabianski and Frimpong we know are out for the rest of the season, so we can forget about them. We have been given emergency dispensation to sign another keeper till the end of the season (possibly Jens Lehmann), so that's the back-up keeper sorted.

However long Szczesny is out for, we will miss him, but Almunia has done well since coming in and we can only keep our fingers crossed that he continues to do so, and that Chesney is back before the end of the season.

For Emmanual Frimpong we'll just have to make do with Denilson and a half-fit Aaron Ramsey, but we've missed him for the whole season anyway, so it's not like it will make any difference.

That leaves Fabregas and Walcott that we don't know about, and these two are likely to be key. Fabregas looks as if he will be out for a few weeks and Arsene Wenger has been very quiet about Theo for some reason. Doubtless he has been concentrating on the players that are fit to play, which is fair enough.

We look to have so many more options when they are playing, with Theo's pace and finishing and Fab's movement and passing ability. If those two can get back playing soon, our season will not be over.

Bring it on!

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