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The only one with the ball will be the one missing

Ahead of this Sunday’s game against Manchester United, the latest injury news update does not help to reassure any nerves. We are already going through a bad run of 2 consecutive league losses at the moment ahead of the imminent arrival of the team that gave us a beating in August. We will now probably have to do it without the key individuals that have pulled us back to the top of the table since then.

Before this week, there were chances for a couple of players to be fit/return for the United game. But, either we all misread the information or that there’s a setback somewhere as none of those who are supposed to return are likely to return. At least that’s what was reported from Arsene Wenger’s press conference. However, today it seemed that Thomas Vermaelen and Thierry Henry has both passed fit to feature.

Somebody mentioned on twitter (sorry can’t remember who) that it was weird that there were no pictures of the team training, as per usually the case in the build-up to any game. Perhaps Wenger was trying to hide the availability of these players returning or perhaps all the cameras at Arsenal has gone haywire. Either way, this news has certainly returned some positive vibe in me.

However, we will still be without a specialist full back in the squad for tomorrow. Should Vermaelen be able to start, he will most likely go into the left back role with Johan Djourou taking up the right. The situation is hardly ideal. Our formation and style that we play depends a lot on the presence of full backs who supports from the outside/wide area. Yes, defensively we’ll be for the better with TV5 in the side but he doesn’t provide the driving runs up and down the flank.

It’s not the only the defensive solidarity that we will have to try to improve, but also the attacking side. The absence of such players within the starting line-up makes our play a little rigid with the attacking wide players needing to stick to the flank more to provide options. Prior to this happening, the likes of Gervinho and Theo Walcott could be seen moving in-field to allow the full back to overlap and thus providing better support to lone striker Robin Van Persie. By having to disregard the full backs, opposition left/right back are able to follow/mark Gervinho/Walcott in-field.

With Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna still a few weeks away, it does not look particularly promising on that front. Yes, I agree that when they return we will have some semblance of the game that we are accustomed to play. However, by then the points drop would make it very difficult to recover. I’m not saying that we’ll definitely lose without them but as can be seen in the last few games, our game is restricted without a proper full back.

While I can appreciate Wenger’s point on not bringing in another player because what he has now is 4 injured full backs, a number that is not short when all are fit at the same time. Yet, the in the result business, there’s no way we can afford to drop silly points just because we’re thinking for their sake and waiting on their return. Wenger compares it to the supermarket, or at least he doesn’t like us to think that buying players is anything akin to shopping for your groceries. This comes after his comments confirming what we already know, that he has not gone in for anyone yet.

We’ve already lost 6 points in January when no none has been brought in. Points that we could not afford to lose. There’s also no guarantee that those returnee will remain fit for the rest of the season. Apart from the dependable Sagna, others does not have a good history of long term fitness while at Arsenal. If we can bring in someone on the short term, even for a month or two, it would make perfect sense. The player would be able to fill in during these period and perform a job.

Seeing as we’re in such terrible state with the selection, one wonders whether Alex Ferguson will try to employ the same method that has been so successful to his side in recent seasons, maintaining a very good win ratio against us. The method of parking their men in midfield and snuffling out our game. Their outlet would be on the counter and that has been used to good effect far too often for any of our liking.

Perhaps the reason to do that for this game would be slightly different, in that it is because of how weak United’s midfield is. They lacked a real shield (defensive midfielder) as well as the creative influence in that area of the pitch. Paul Scholes may be a celebrated player in his prime but even when he wasn’t retired, his powers were dwindling. This time, I’m hoping that we’ll have a better plan to negate United’s tactics.

Match preview tomorrow. Don’t use the word “revenge”.