Arsenal were strong title contenders going into the last international break sitting 3rd on the ladder keeping touch with the superior Chelsea and possibly being able to overtake the powerhouse that is Manchester United. They were also sitting pretty in the Champions League having already qualified and still had positions in the domestic cup competitions it was starting to look like the season where Arsenal might finally get back to winning ways by adding to the trophy cabinet which has remained empty since 2005.
Arsenal was then exposed when Robin Van Persie was injured while on international duties with the Netherlands. Robin was tackled heavily by the tough and gritty Italian defense albeit in an International Friendly after only 10 minutes. The initial assessment was 6 weeks on the sidelines for Van Persie a huge loss but one which offered light at the end of the tunnel via various cup competitions which he could return for. One question remained though how would Arsenal go in the English Premier League in the absence of their ‘World Class’ striker? who could continue the amazing league form that Arsenal had built up?
Fingers point towards Eduardo the Brazilian turned Croatian to provide the striking firepower for the Gunners a man who sustained a horrible leg injury in 2007 has effectively worked his way back into the first team but has not yet found the consistency and class he had 18 months ago.
With second string striker Bendtner on the sidelines Carlos Vela is the only other out and out striker in the first team squad the young Mexican was a key signing for Wenger but is still developing and is not yet ready to take to the week in week out standard and pressures of the Premier League. He could be effective off the bench but it will make things tough for Eduardo to work with the youngster if Wenger plays him for 90 minutes.
Arsenal will have to look to their experienced midfield group in an effort to produce goals the likes of Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott, Nasri or even Eboue could fill vital attacking role left behind by Van Persie. It will be tough for Wenger to get the balance right after having to remove players from midfield but it can be done it may just take time. Arshavin is the most likely to fill the role after impressive performances in the past on the left, right and central attacking positions if he can stay fit after a recent hamstring injury.
5 Months out puts a sour look on anyones face
It gets worse…
Arsenal headed into Mondays game with Chelsea with the news that striker Robin Van Persie’s injury was much worse than originally thought and that the striker would require surgery to realign ligaments in his ankle. This resulted in Van Persie not being out for 6 weeks but 5 months on the sidelines causing a media and club frenzy with everybody asking the question, Who is going to fill the role of the man that has scored 7 goals and provided 7 assists in the English Premier League more than a 3rd of Arsenals goals for such a sustained period?
The answer against the bitter London rivals was no one. Arsenal lacked a forward target one which could hold up the ball and produce a magical turn or a magnificent strike from a difficult position. Wenger used 6 of the seven people mentioned above to try and continue the impressive rate of 2.77 goals per match but to no avail. 5 of the 6 did not play the full 90 minutes a display which shows the club is quickly looking for a replacement in the ranks a replacement which it not so easily found.
Match time and performance vs Chelsea
Arshavin – 90 minutes – Had a goal disallowed but admits he has not been playing well.
Nasri – 64 minutes – Started the match on the right wing was subbed for Rosicky
Eduardo – 56 minutes – Lone striker and really struggled without Van Perise poor choice
Walcott – 45 minutes – On for Song in an attempt to change the game at half time not quite 100% after sustained time off via injury.
Vela – 34 minutes – On for Eduardo did not have a huge impact few or little chance for the young Mexican
Rosicky – 26 minutes – On for Nasri still coming back from injury not 100% fit and firing
These performances resulted in a 3-0 loss to the league leaders Chelsea, the loss itself was not the problem it was the lack of scoring attempts by the Gunners that has the club wondering whether it can sustain its top 4 position in the league and have a real attempt at any major trophy. Only time will tell as injury prone midfielder star Tomas Rosicky put “The next match is vital” and he is very much right.
Arsenal had gone 7 matches undefeated with Van Persie in fine form but have slumped to two straight losses after the international break. It leaves the Gunners with a vital match against Stoke City at the weekend a match which is by no means easy at the Emirates. Arsenal managed a 1 Win – 1 Loss record against Stoke in there inaugural season a feat which may be equally as difficult to match. Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Stoke in their opening league encounter from two Rory Delap long throws that left a bitter taste in the mouth of Arsene Wenger and a red card to substitute Robin Van Persie. At home Arsenal managed a 4-1 win on the last day of the season when little mattered to the Potters, Robin Van Persie was pivotal in all 4 goals that day providing Arsenal an easy win with his assists and goal.
Stoke will have strong motivations this time at Emirates at they push for a Europa spot early in the season. The Potters are second on the clean sheet list with an impressive 6 for the season only trailing to league leaders Chelsea. The boys from Stoke have also improved away from home this season managing to lose only 1 of there last 7 away games and are in good form ahead of the clash having secured 11 of 18 points in the last 6 matches.
Arsenal will be looking to return to form at home but may struggle against a class defense when their attack is trying to reshape for the 5 months ahead without Van Persie. Wenger sees things differently with the transfer window fast approaching he sees it as an opportunity to find a replacement but with limited funds (14 million pounds last window) and lack of trade bait it will be extremely difficult to find a suitable replacement for the one and only Robin Van Persie.
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