Here we are, the treatment room is getting empty and players are slowly coming back. That’s quite a strange feeling, isn’t it?
After months spent with horrific shortages within the squad, it seems we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Bar Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Serge Gnabry – who I’m told has been abducted by aliens – Arsène Wenger will soon have all his players available: Mathieu Débuchy and Wojciech Szczesny made their comebacks yesterday, David Ospina is back in full training and Mesut Özil is expected to be back within a month.
However, there is a bit of troublesome news regarding Theo Walcott: the striker might easily be one injection away from another surgery (to his groin, this time) or might be back next week – reports are not very clear, you guessed it.
Back to the positives, anyway: how will Arsène Wenger shape the team?
Will all these long-term inmates walk straight back into the team?
I would say yes, and I can’t wait.
My feeling is that Arsène Wenger is dreaming of that long-awaited moment he will be allowed to field Mesut Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and one between Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud upfront.
I believe this is his plan.
With the Chilean and the German pairing on the left-hand side of the pitch, swapping position on and off the ball, the team could finally find the fluency and efficiency we have been missing since the beginning of the season.
Mesut Özil shortages on defensive side will be balanced by Alexis Sanchez’s fighting spirit and desire, while the Chilean would benefit enormously from the playmaker’s ability to pick his runs with his delicate touch.
Honestly, I can’t wait for that to happen.
Two excellent runners on the wings, one centre forward with an eye for a flick and a playmaker with a fantastic record in terms of through-balls and assists – could it possibly be any better?
I do believe that we will be a very different (and better) animal starting from next month, we all forget the impact that those injuries had on the team’s performances.
We might discuss reasons as to why we have this very poor injury record, although many of them seems to come from knocks, twists and tackles rather than muscles problems, but we should not oversee what difference those have made on our team’s performances so far.
Arsène Wenger has been unable to field the ideal backline for more than two games in a row, which is the main reason why we conceded so many goals and made so many mistakes. Their understanding is what made Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker a wonderful pairing, it’s not a surprise that the latter has struggled as much as he has during the former’s absence.
So many things happen on the pitch and for most of them you have no time to think, you have to trust your instinct and let the autopilot guide you: training after training, drill after drill, game after game you learn what each of your teammates does (or is expected to do) in any given situation.
If you change your partner that often, your autopilot fails and you are in danger.
Same if you switch position. Arsène Wenger said about Robert Pires that on the right wing he would have been an ordinary player, but moved to the left he became an extraordinary winger – and that was down to his preferential vision.
It might seem a small detail, but vision and reflexes change drastically for every player and might do a hell of a difference for self-confidence, accuracy and decision-making process.
What’s important at the back is as much significant higher up on the pitch: new players – and especially new strikers – have first to show what they can offer to the team and then adjust their runs, their move off the ball and their timing to their teammates’ ability and habits.
Sometimes understanding grows quickly – especially between very gifted players – sometimes it takes longer, hence being able to play and train together without discontinuity is key for the team to find the perfect balance.
Arsène Wenger and his players were denied this opportunity, or at least have been held back by the large amount of time spent in the treatment room by this or that player.
Also, having players unavailable forces the manager to play the same ones game after game, increasing the danger of new injuries – generating then a vicious circle.
It seems now we are finally getting out of this dark period, the light is starting to shine at the end of the tunnel.
We have some gap to shorten, I reckon it’s not going to be easy, but we have the quality to get there.
Time will tell, personally I would be careful before writing off this season already…