While I am tempted to write and rant about another player to come down with our own version of King Tut's curse (incase you haven't heard, David Ospina is now our for three months, thus leaving us with just our selfie-taking Polish shot stopper as our only recognized keeper till the New Year), the current issues with the first-team are far more worrisome than having Damian Martinez start in goal later today against a young and talented RSC Anderlecht side. No no, the issue at hand here that slapped me in the face was the realization that while we really only have six first-team defenders (as if any of us could forget that), we have SIXTEEN midfielders...that is, if you consider wide players as midfielders, which many do.
|We don't have poor players, we have too many of one type. On top of having too many midfielders, we have too many creative players...and it costs us (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)|
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation comes down to when you consider just how long a "normal" campaign for us really is. Thirty-eight league fixtures, a minimum of six Champions League matches, two domestic cup tie's if we get knocked out early on and not to mention the international breaks that come into play. All told, the MINIMUM amount of fixtures many of our players have to deal with (when taking national team duty into account) is around fifty or more - if you don't get called into contention for your country, you're looking at forty-six if there are no extended cup runs of any kind. Sure, the overstocked.com midfield may be able to cope and be rotated (wait...we rotate? Hah, no we don't), but the defense will be dragging their tired legs come January.
Perhaps it's a little telling that Per Mertesacker decided to retire internationally aged just thirty. BFG was quoted in saying that he wanted to concentrate on Arsenal fully, and given the paper thin nature of our options at the back, that was clearly for the better. However, unfortunately for us, the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs are all stalwarts for their respective countries, and even young Hector Bellerin and Isaac Hayden are in the fold at youth levels. Having your players prized away for national duty is part and parcel with being a big club, but when you are a supposed big club, shouldn't depth in quality in all areas of the team also come with the package? Well, not at Arsenal it would seem.
To go along with our issues at the back, we really only have two strikers that are worth their salt - Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, and with Charles De Gaulle's hair impersonator being crocked till around January, our only real striker right now is Welbeck. Sure Joel Campbell and Lukas Podolski COULD feature up front, so could Alexis Sanchez as well as our third choice striker option Yaya Giraffe, but how many of those could come in and do a quality job in that role? This brings us back to the point at hand - depth in quality, and squad balance.
|Vastly understrength and in for a tough battle to remain fit, our back-line may as well be Leonidas and his 300 Spartan vanguard|
Despite the blatant imbalance that currently exists, this can still all be rectified come January...if we are willing to spend. We missed out on a few defensive targets in the summer window, but we have been linked with a renewed interest in Dutch international defender Virgil van Dijk from Celtic, who would be available for less than 10million...music to Arsene Wenger's ears. Unfortunately, it's going to take more than one addition at the back to make things right, however any further potential course of action would depend on our standing in Europe at the time - any chance to progress to the round of 16 will certainly have to see us strengthen further.
Many have resolved themselves on already throwing in the towel on our campaign despite it not even being November yet. It's true that it is hard to see us ever truly giving Chelsea or City a legitimate run for their money, and with United bereft of European distraction and hitting some sort of decent form as of late, it's looking more and more like we are in for yet another dog fight for fourth...or so we hope. Southampton under Ronald Koeman now offer another potential threat, and Liverpool are likely to rediscover their form especially when Daniel Sturridge returns to first-team duties - to be blunt, we run the risk of finishing outside of the top four unless we get the balance right.
Arsene Wenger, to his credit for better or worse, truly believes in the side we have at the club - he's done so for quite a while now. Having your manager maintain belief in your ability is incredibly important it's true, but such faith becomes unfounded when your teams consistently lack balance in all areas. It always seems with us that we either have too many of one type of player (for example, we currently have far too many creative players), not enough players in one area of the pitch (in the case of this season on defense) or both at the same time. Truthfully, it's becoming hard to see how Le Prof can keep faith in a team that is not given two legs to stand on in a fight it cannot be expected to win.
It may be difficult, but I have not thrown in the white towel on this season just yet, despite how tempting it really is. Personally, I am willing to give us till the end of the January window in the hopes that we can fix what i broken and get the equation right. I love this club, so I truly feel that I owe it to myself, the players, the staff and the fans to try to remain optimistic, but these are trying times and its becoming increasingly difficult to keep the faith when you look around us and see so many clubs doing it right when putting methodology into practice.