So a lot of us are quite disappointed with AW’s transfer dealings, or rather lack there of, and I too share that disappointment. It’s clear our need for a GK, probably a DM, and maybe even a striker, were all left unanswered. But some have gone so far as to write off our season already; I don’t think that’s called for, and here’s why.
In 09-10 we challenged until late in the season. I believe the day we dropped out of the race was March 27th, with our inability to take 3 points against Birmingham City (1-1). This was followed up in a game that cost us our captain for the remainder of the Premier League title push- v. Barca 2-2 on the 31st. That means we challenged up until 6 games remaining in the domestic season.
What we endured last season to get to that point was nothing short of disastrous, and our ability to cope was pretty sublime in retrospect.
Almunia – missed six (or nine?) games with a chest infection early in the season. Say what you will about him, he’s better than Fabianski (who was also simultaneously hurt) and Mannone (to his credit, played excellent against Fulham).
Nasri – hurt in pre-season training, missed all of August, September, and October.
Clichy – hurt in November with a back problem. Gibbs was hurt about two weeks later, a broken metatarsal, leaving us with Traore for a significant number of games. Perhaps more importantly, Gibbs did not feature again and had only 7 appearances in all of 09-10; 2 of which were Carling Cup.
Robin van Persie – Not enough can be said about the cost of this injury. His form was arguably World XI when he was cruelly taken out during international duty. Not even horse placenta could bring him back any sooner than April 2010 from that November 2009 tackle.
Gallas – Short enough at CB as it was, we lost Gallas from early Feb until we rushed him back early on Mar 31 for the Barcelona game. That desperate decision sidelined Gallas for the rest of the season. That same night also cost us Arshavin, who did not make the starting 11 until our meaningless final game in May vs Fulham.
Ramsey – Who can forget that horror tackle in February? Not only has that taken Ramsey out of action until the present day, it was also a psychological blow for the team, who did well to recover from it.
Fabregas – Our inspirational leader, and our best player last year, was also gone for the season following the March 31st game against Barcelona. Our dip in form following that was no coincidence; everyone knows Arsenal is that much better with Fabregas orchestrating from the middle.
Now this is just a list of notable injuries at key times. This doesn’t include the troubles we’ve had with guys like Bendtner, Eduardo, Rosicky, Walcott… 09-10 was hampered by injuries from start to finish. It’s no excuse, but it’s hardly ignorable.
To challenge that late into the season, in the face of a plague of injuries, was pretty impressive.
It should also be noted what we had to deal with in terms of scheduling. City – United, with an international break in between (Aug 29/Sep 12), Villa – United – Chelsea – Liverpool – Porto (Jan 27, 31, Feb 7, 10, 17), and Barca – Wolves – Barca – Sp*rs derby @ SHL (Mar 31, Apr 3, 6, 14). That’s a tough schedule, especially when you’re already fighting off injuries.
But other than injuries and a slightly unfavorable schedule, what was Arsenal’s problem in 09-10? In my opinion we did what we needed to do except against title rivals.
Man Utd: L1-2, L1-3 (6 points dropped)
Man City: L2-4, D0-0 (4 points dropped
Chelsea: L0-3, L0-2 (6 points dropped)
Liverpool: W2-1, W1-0 (all 6 points; but not a lively L’Pool side)
It’s always going to be hard to defeat those teams even without the problems we faced. But in 10-11, those sides are looking weaker, with perhaps one exception (City). Arsenal, on the other hand, has strengthened. While one could argue our GK situation is fragile, it’s not any worse than the side that pushed until March 27th last year. At the same time we have a revitalized Walcott, two hungry new CBs, an improved aerial attack via Chamakh, a rapidly-improving Nasri, RVP back (hopefully!) and of course, Fabregas still playing maestro.
I do not see 09-10 Arsenal as better than 10-11 Arsenal. I do not see 10-11 EPL opponents as improved overall compared to 09-10 season ones. And if we could push til March 27th last year, with only six games left in the domestic season, then we’re damn capable of winning the title this year if we play to our strengths, avoid a severe injury crisis (which should be easy to do relative to last year’s), and have faith in the squad (making our Arsenalized-Emirates an even better place to play).
So forget transfer drama, Arsene love/hate, the board, Emirates, etc for a moment. Let’s go cheer on our Arsenal and see if they can bring us back some silverware – on the face of it, it’s hardly impossible.
As posted on Online Gooner forums,here.