By Kris Carpenter – @AFCfreddie8
At the time of writing this piece, The Arsenal were no doubt preparing for their huge clash at The Emirates with London rivals Chelsea. Head grounds man Reece Watson and his team were carefully trimming the pristine playing surface. Vic Akers was diligently making sure all team kits were clean, printed and put in place for the selected squad on the day. And of course, manager Arsene Wenger and his assistant Steve Bould were putting the players through their usual paces in training, assessing who should make that all important starting line up, our topic of discussion today.
Having been a member of ‘A Bergkamp Wonderland’ and hosting ‘ABW Radio’ for well over a year now, two of the biggest topics to crop up repeatedly are injuries and transfers: the two huge elephants in every Arsenal room we happen to wander in to (but, to venture out of, the often-popular negative viewpoints). I feel confident we no longer need to add signings in this current transfer window and the three players who, touch wood, are imminently returning to the first team squad could provide the reason why I think and believe this; three players that, in my view, will provide a massive boost to our title challenge.
Let me tell you why…
While I have long sat in the camp choosing not to get upset about whom we have not signed transfer wise, I do subscribe to the idea that if a high calibre player becomes available at the right price, the manager will act (i.e., Mesut Ozil). I do understand those that say “We only signed Mesut because Real Madrid wanted rid of him”; to a degree that is true, as was the case with Alexis Sanchez and Barcelona in a similar deal. These deals, however, still needed to done, and luckily enough we accomplished that task. There is no secret Liverpool amongst others were keen on Alexis and I am pretty sure our German assisting genius garnered plenty of interest before signing on the dotted line to light up the famous red shirt. In January you rarely get the opportunity to sign a world class superstar name, as clubs are reluctant to sell at this time and truth be told most players of that level are not keen to move mid-season (and given the amount of lifestyle change it entails who can blame them). So with that being said, assuming no further players are signed during this window (excluding the Mohamed Elneny deal), I look to the high class squad we already have and in particular three names that, when fit again, just could be those magical ‘Like new signings’.
Let’s begin with Danny Welbeck.
After a knee injury ended his season in late March 2015 and a further set back extending his lay off during pre-season, Danny Welbeck has been missed, in my opinion. A forward who in his first half season contributed four goals and three assists in just eleven Premier League starts after signing from Manchester United in the previously mentioned January window. This season was one in which both the player and supporters alike expected and hoped for big things, but his injury curtailed this.
In a season that has seen Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott form the only options as out and out forwards, the news Welbeck is set to return to full training next week (at time of writing) serves as a huge boost. I will leave the stats to our illustrious ‘Chief Blogger’ (Geoff Hollefreund @hollefreund) and instead just focus on my views that Welbeck’s a hardworking, industrious, goal getting threat that could provide a welcome boost to the final third options.
A player who, despite never hiding his desire to play centrally, has been deployed successfully as a wide right or left forward during his time at the club (have a quick watch of his highlights away at Manchester Utd in the cup last season, or indeed his bow at The Emirates vs United’s rival Manchester City). Naturally, it will take him a few weeks of training and slow adaption back in to the squad before we can expect to see him at full power, but it is my belief that having Danny available as an option from the bench or a starter away from home in tricky ties requiring some ‘elbow grease’ could be exactly what we need to take all three points. Providing the manager the chance to rotate his forwards could also prove vital to avoid burnout to the prior mentioned Walcott and Giroud. In summary, a Christopher Wreh type of four or five goals towards the back of the season could be the difference between winning a tight game and drawing it.
Moving on to Tomas Rosicky.
The little Mozart! What a player and what a shame we have been robbed of a man who was arguably the best attacking midfielder in European football at the time he joined the club ten years ago in 2006 from Borussia Dortmund. As with Welbeck, an injury sustained in pre-season was a real blow to a man who gives the squad so much. The news that he has played for the U21 Arsenal side today (Friday 22nd Jan) is truly excellent news, having already had a week’s first team training under his belt as well.
So what sort of boost does having ‘TR7’ back give the manager? Experience and drive are the two at the top of that list for me. A player with the ability and skill to drive a team forward with exceptional energy and direct forward play when in possession, Rosicky provides what few players at the club (if any) have in terms of talent. To pick the ball up inside his own half then with one swift burst of acceleration and close control pull the whole team forward and out of the defensive play in to a transition of attacking intent is magical to watch.
Goals and a goal threat are another two key parts of Rosicky’s game. Showing a talent for the spectacular goal from range (Hamburg 06/07), close control in tight areas before unleashing (Liverpool 06/07), and breaking the lines to finish a flowing move (Sunderland 13/14), he has the football brain to more often than not make the right choice and pop up at vital times. The other quality I feel he adds is leadership. Whether as a starter or sub Tomas is a talker, an organizer, a motivator. Having been lucky enough to see him in the flesh a several occasions, these are qualities often missed to the naked eye when watching a televised game.
To sum up on the gifted Czech orchestrator, adding another forward-thinking midfield option to our already talented set up can only be a boost for a title challenge. Providing much-needed depth in that area of the field and the professionalism of a player who has seen it all in his time at the club sets Rosicky apart from almost all others in the current Arsenal squad.
Finally, Jack Wilshere.
When discussing Jack it is hard not to look at his history of injuries and think to yourself ‘What if’. Just how integral could he have already been in seasons past for The Arsenal? Some say he may even have become captain after Thomas Vermaelen left the club for Barcelona in 2014.
Suffering a broken fibula in August of last year it is a credit to himself that Jack continues to keep a smile on his face and retain the high levels of motivation required when going through yet another period of rehab. Many are quick to write off such a truly talented midfielder and indeed a man who bleeds Arsenal, a real throw back to the days of a player burning with desire to succeed at a club he holds so closely to his heart.
So what qualities does Jack offer ahead of his return to action?
The one thing that leaps out at you is passion, a hunger to win and perform on all levels: ironically the one area of Jack’s game that may result in some of his injuries. That aggression and football brain to hold that key pass until the last possible second resulting in the opposition being tied up in knots is one of his trademarks. The England man brings so much to a midfield, showing an ability to transition between a defensive shield and a creative no10, sometimes in the space of ninety minutes! His ability to carry possession and draw a foul, whilst a worry in the injury department, does offer The Arsenal central area options, in particular in fixtures away from home when the opposition are pressing the back four.
The latest news that Francis Coquelin is close to a return to the starting eleven is as much of a boost to Jack as it is for Coquelin. In my opinion, Jack’s potential partnership with the Frenchman offers so much: a fine blend of power, technique and stamina required at this crucial stage of the season. I also hold the belief that having Coquelin next to Wilshere doing the dirty work and making those challenges to break up play could hold the key to Arsenal’s number ten getting on the ball more without as much opposing pressure and thus opening the spaces to pull the strings creatively.
In conclusion, Arsenal Football Club have missed three huge talents in the past six months or so, and having them back could provide the welcome boost required to get the much coveted Premier League trophy back in the cabinet. We as fans need to be patient, as that is an important part of having a player return to action and getting up to speed. Assuming they all come through their slated training programmes successfully and fit we have some real quality to call on, quality that can make the vital difference. There is no better chance to win the title than this season, so let us all hope the three returning to action have a big say in getting us what we crave and of course pray for – with no more injuries in the process!