By Walter Broeckx
In a way it is strange that in the season that has seen us being top of the league more than any other team that so many fans suddenly have turned desperate.
I have no problem in admitting that things haven’t gone well the last weeks. But this is how things go. You got periods when a team can have a good run and you have periods when things don’t work out. Alas we have such a period now, just before the end of the season. I know a lot of people only remember the last result and throw away anything that went on before. Needless to say I’m not one of those.
Now I must say that this team never has been on full force this season. When you look back at it we never ever had the luxury to have a complete team ready.
Of course always having a lot of injuries is not only bad because you lose the players but it also puts extra pressure on the other players that are still fit. Rotating gets more difficult unless you would start players out of position.
I really think that if we had had just half the injuries we suffered we would be close if not at the top of the league by now. It’s not science of course but a fit Walcott would have had scored another 10-15 goals by now and probably assisted another 10 goals. A Ramsey would have scored a handful if he would have been fit.
But as it wasn’t to be we can only hope for better luck next time.
But the squad we already have, has great potential for me. They showed their potential for the biggest part of the season. But injuries have taken their toll and then a downward spiral can happen. A run of bad form, a heavy defeat and loss of confidence. That is part of the game.
When things go bad the most fickle turn their eye to the manager. So he has to go according to them. Neglecting the fact that it was the same manager that took our team to the top for so long. I wonder who they think was responsible for our good run for the biggest part of the season? For me it is clear: the same manager. The big difference is that in those days he had his best players available. And now he doesn’t.
And were are not Chelsea or City. No, we cannot have an equally good sub in each position. You have the first choice players who should do most of the season. And then you have the second choice players who should fill in. Our biggest problem for a few weeks is that 50% of those first choice players are not available or completely fit. And the second choice players have not to fill one gap. Or two gaps which can be done without real loss of too much quality. But they have to fill 5 gaps.
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And then you risk getting the results we have had lately. And you can also see the difference with the start of the season. In those days you can cope with the injuries better than at this stage of the season.
But I do think that losing 50% of your usual starting line up would have been hurting at any stage of the season. But now maybe a bit more than at the start.
I finally would want to point at the biggest loss we had over the last weeks. Özil has been out since the Bayern Munich match. And since then things have got worse. Because he is a player that you can give the ball to any time in the game and he will do something useful with it. Even if it is just running with it up to the oppositions corner flag when you need that extra time to reorganise the team when you are defending a lead.
It is his ability to see the pass before he even gets the ball that has opened up many chances for Arsenal this season. The mostly going unnoticed pre-assist as they call it.
Sometimes you don’t realise what you have with a player till he is no longer playing.
I still get furious about the ‘flop’ allegations that were aimed at him by the gutter media. As if he has to score or give an assist every match or else he is a flop. But what they don’t notice is how he kept the ball moving, drawing players to him and opening space for others.
Gliding past defenders as if in slow motion but oh so skilful. In a way he was a player that had a lot of influence on us grinding out results against the park the bus teams,
He helped the team more than just giving assists. Keeping the ball is also very important in our football. And he was mostly very good at that.
It is a big shame that the combination Walcott – Ramsey – Özil has had so few time playing together. Because when they did we usually did rather well. And we always looked dangerous to score goals. But to see that combination again we will have to wait till the next season. And I think that has been a big blow for us this season.
But it is something I am looking forward to see develop next season. Hopefully with fewer injuries….
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
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