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The only fit first team fullback left

With everyone safe and sound back at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger conducted his pre match press conference today. The topics which he covered can be seen here. As with any presser, the more important topics usually covers who’s out and who’s back in the squad. Strange how the two new ones to join the injury list are the ones which did not travel out for international fixtures during the break.

Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson are those in question and there’s a varying degree of understanding of the extend of their absences. The former is scheduled to do a hernia surgery and could be out up to 6 weeks. While the latter has a stress fracture in his back and will require a certain week(s) of rest before actual analysis could be done and see what is the next step required.

The biggest problem with the new injuries is that Jenkinson was the only available recognised right back in the first team. With Bacary Sagna not expected to return in 2011, there’s a shortage in that area. Most likely, we’ll see a return to the starting line-up for Johan Djourou in a role that he played against Marseille and Chelsea.

It’s not the most desirable of outcomes but we’ll just have to make do at the moment. If/when further information is known on Jenkinson, the decision would likely impact any thought process going into the January transfer window. Given how things are at the moment, a versatile full back who can play on both flanks would be most welcomed. It’s a shame for Jenkinson though. He was expected to get a run in the side and has been progressing nicely in recent weeks. Hope he recovers quickly.

On the other side of the back four, Gibbs’ absence means prolong usage of Andre Santos. Saying he’s had mixed results thus far would be just ironic. Seeing as he usually plays differently in the same game, if you compared the first half versus the second. Perhaps it’s the fitness, that meant he can’t run up and down the field for the entire 90 minutes. Could just as easily be that he was advised tactically to do different things in the second 45 minutes and he followed the instructions to perfection.

That said, as we go into the festive period, there will be an increase number of games for Arsenal. It would not be feasible to expect Santos to feature in everyone of those games. Whether Wenger chooses to switch Thomas Vermaelen to the left and depend on the combination of Per Mertesacker-Laurent Koscielny in the middle or go with a separate option is still unknown. If we discard buying new player as the option, the separate option would be Ignasi Miquel, who is no stranger to that role having played there in the Carling Cup match.

Then there’s the story of a legend returning to Arsenal. Thierry Henry was captured both in still pictures and in video, training with Arsenal. Am I surprised? No. This is not the first time he’s done that and I just don’t see the hype over this every year. Lest we all forget, this is not the first time that he has called up Wenger to request to train with the team. It’s just a way for him to maintain his fitness and nothing else.

Now, before you throw Sol Campbell at my face, let’s look at a couple of things. Sol was asked because at that time, we had a shortage of centrebacks. At the moment, we don’t have such problem in terms of strikers. Robin Van Persie is practically flying, Park Ju Young has remained in good goal-scoring form albeit for his national side and Marouane Chamakh is available for selection against Norwich.

We can’t live on sentiments alone. No Gooner out there will say that they do not want to see Henry wearing the red and white once again. But the fact states that he has been plying his trade in the MLS for close to 2 years now. With all due respect to the American league, the standard is very much different to the Premier League. Add his age and reduction in physical prowess, I’m inclined to say no to his return as a playing staff.

Currently, we have a team that plays. When I say that I mean a team that functions as a collective form and I do fear that bringing Henry back will change that. When there’s a marquee player in any squad, there’s a tendency for the rest of the team to always look for that player when choosing to pass. It happened in Henry’s last couple of seasons with us and it happened with Cesc Fabregas too. There’s the danger of doing happening with RvP now.

Why I don’t like it is because such actions would create a reliance. A sort of dependency of the team on that particular player. If that marquee player doesn’t perform/shine, the rest of the team struggles. At the moment, the balance in the team is right. Each and every individual player taking responsibility at their respective areas/role of the pitch. On the opposite side, this also creates problems for the opponent, who can’t concentrate their tactics/marking on a solitary player.

Match preview tomorrow. Glad club football is back.