By Tony Attwood
Let me put that headline another way. Have you heard the one that says Arsenal are always awful in the first half of the season? You might have done as it has been in the papers quite a lot.
Have a look at this table from 7 December 2013.
What is interesting is that if you add together the second half of 2012/13 with the first half of 2013/14 we were the top team of the year 2013.
Of course no prizes for that.
Let’s try another one. How did teams do in the second half of 2014/15?
Here’s the top of the table
No prizes for the second half of a season either.
But what that says to me is that the concept of the need for wholesale changes to Arsenal’s team is wrong. We were the top team of 2013, and the top team of the second half of 2015. The only thing that stopped us winning the league either time around were the injuries we sustained in 2014.
Now, if you were reading my report of the Untold Awards’ Ceremony you might have noticed that among the negative comments about newspapers and their journalists, there was an award to Amy Lawrence for picking out the importance of the need for Arsenal to sort out the injury crisis.
And that is something that they seem to have done.
Of course I don’t have any special insight into what goes on with the Arsenal medical team, but the way that both Theo and Jack ran across to the medical team after goals shows there is something special happening.
This is not to say that Arsenal don’t need anyone at the moment, because those injuries may return and we may need more backup. But it shows me that in the last couple of years we have put together very long runs of excellent quality and skill, and the last one in particular was done once the injuries were overcome.
Avoid the injuries and we are challenging.
If this is the case what would be sad would be to change everything around by bringing in players to replace those we have, rather than bringing in players who can supplement those we have in case of injury.
This particularly means having players who can play in several positions. By ensuring for example that Ramsey can play out wide and in the middle. That Chambers can play central defence as well as full back. By bringing in youngsters, as with Coquelin and Bellerin who can play well, but will hardly be miffed if they miss a few games because they know they are the juniors in the squad.
Arsenal had 27 new injuries in 2015 from 1 January to 24 May. In the period from 16 August to 31 December the number of new injuries was 55.
Of course crude numbers like that don’t tell us much about what is really happening with the injuries – as I have said before the length of time out and the importance of the player, play enormous parts.
But in terms of crude numbers that is a fairly stark contrast, and it coincides with a total change of form in those two spells.
If the new medical team can reduce injuries that is a major plus for Arsenal. If we can also continue to build up the squad so that every position is covered not just once but twice, then that is better still.
Consider the position of centre forward: we have Giroud, Welbeck and now it seems Theo. Only one of them can play in the number nine role.
But Theo and Danny can play out wide as well. We also have Sanogo and Akpom. I’ve no idea how their development is coming along, but there is a chance one of them will come to the good surprising us all as Coquelin and Bellerin did.
If we were to go and buy a big name centre forward the chances are several of these players might start to agitate for moves. Of course the new man might be better than the rest put together, but if he gets injured we still need backup.
What we certainly don’t want to do is be like Liverpool with Suarez – take out one player and too much pressure is put on the rest.
Thus a combination of improved medical treatment and a flexible team in which players can move around within the squad to meet the need, seems to me to be the best idea.
This is quite different from the newspaper game of “here’s a big name, buy him, oh Arsenal miss out again.”
Indeed it is undoubtedly far too sophisticated for the press to get hold of, but it might well be a part of the way forwards.
Untold on Twitter @UntoldArsenal
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