The Barclays English Premiership clubside, Arsenal, one of the traditional “big four” teams (which include Manchester United FC, Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC) has not won any football silverware since the year 2005. The manager, Arsène Wenger is however expecting to win some this year; but with many of his players on the injury list and his reluctance to sign-on new ones, that expectation may be far-fetched.
Notable players on the Arsenal’s injury list include Gael Clichy, Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie, Kieran Gibbs as well as those on and off the list. (The team’s mainstay, Cesc Fabrègas about two weeks ago had to come off the bench at the cost of an aggravated injury, for a two-goal, twenty-odd minute stint that ensured a win over Aston Villa.) Emmanuel Eboué and Alex Song are also away on Nations Cup duty in Angola.
The challenge for the team is not so much the number of players out on injury or assignment as it is the depth of personnel in the affected player positions. For example, at left back, Clichy, out injured for quite a few weeks now has seen his replacement, the yet-to-mature Gibbs joining him; their replacement, a tentative Armand Traoré had such a horrid time with the Everton winger, Donovan in last week’s encounter, with one of Everton’s two goals in the drawn game coming from his side.
However, nowhere is the dearth of personnel more evident as in the forward positions or outright strikers, and Wenger, after several denials has acknowledged that much
; but many observers have questioned even the quality of his full squad of strikers. Wenger recently countered with arguments about his boys’ impressive forms during practice sessions as well as the club’s highest goal tally so far in the league. Such forms however, have not translated to any meaningful silverware in the past four years and the overwhelming goals total may be a false comfort: of the 53 goals scored so far by the team, only about 18 have been by strikers. While goals may be aplenty against the little clubs, team Arsenal seems to choke against the biggies. The lack of credible outright strikers was so glaringly obvious in the 3-0 loss to Chelsea, the 2-1 loss to an out-of-form Manchester United, the 4-2 loss to a fire-up Manchester City and even the 1-0 loss to lowly Sunderland; and these losses really do add up. True, Ashavin and Eduardo are good strikers, but it is doubtful if they are in the league of forceful and intimidating game-changers like Drogba and Ronaldo. Erstwile Arsenal players such as Thierry Henry, Flamini and Emmanuel Adebayor reportedly left the club because of Wenger’s reluctance to sign quality players even as the likes of Emmanuel Petit have urged him to do so. Fabregas has reportedly requested the same of Wenger; and with Barcelona, his proving ground, launching spirited efforts to sign him, Fabregas may yet become the next to leave if the team remains without any silverware.
More worrisome for restless Arsenal fans is Wenger’s reported voltface on signing a new striker in the current transfer window, citing the imminent return of Bendtner. Not that they have been forceful and intimidating game-changers but with van Persie out for three more months, expecting laurels in the UEFA Champion’s League, the FA Cup and the Barclays Premiership with only (injury-troubled) Bendtner as outright striker may just be a pipe dream.