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The long substitution

It’s finally confirmed, the news that we did not want to hear. That Jack Wilshere has had a setback and would not be available in the date that we initially had hoped he would be back for. AC Milan’s games were touted as his return period but that will now have to be extended. The bigger question would then be, do we write off his season?

Having been so wonderful for us last season, playing so many games and performing at such high standards, the absence of Wilshere this season has been keenly felt. A player with the desire and that matches his abilities on the ball, a lion-heart in midfield. However, he hasn’t kicked a competitive ball in anger this season and with the extension of his comeback, Arsene Wenger and his staff should seriously consider a back up plan.

A back up plan which consist of writing off Wilshere for the rest of the season and finding a replacement player, either from the transfer market or promote within. No doubt, the second option is better left unexplored. Prior to this setback, Wenger has often referred to the return of Wilshere as a catalyst to kick-start our season. Last season, Thomas Vermaelen’s continuous absence and our reluctance to buy put paid to our hopes of the title challenge. History better not repeat itself this season.

I can’t tell you who is available in the market. I trust that the whole staff at Arsenal should have better information than a single person. We have to make a move now. There’s only so few days left in the window. At this point, even if Wilshere (who is better than Cesc, by the way) do make it back sometime in March or in April, the result we could have in between might already be telling. Wenger spoke in early January how we don’t want to regret not picking up full points due to lack of full backs. That did happened and again, history better not repeat itself here.

On the bright side, we will have Bacary Sagna, Mikel Arteta, Thierry Henry and Francis Coquelin back for contention for tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against Aston Villa. While I’m not expecting Sagna to be back immediately after his long time on the sidelines but it’s nonetheless great to have back one of the most underrated player in the Premiership. Potentially we could have Sagna on one side and Coquelin filling in at left back until Kieran Gibbs is ready.

But at the moment, to have Nico Yennaris on one side and Coquelin on the other is not too bad an option. It would definitely allow the central defenders not to play in those positions. Johan Djourou and Vermaelen on the best of their days are not full backs. Neither have the capacity to cover the side of the pitch from both the attacking and defending side of play. Clearly Yennaris and Coquelin are both not specialist full backs either but they are midfielders, who like Matthieu Flamini before them, seems a better fit in a full back role.

Whilst there’s no arguments over the lack of full backs impeding our style of play, recent matches has also highlighted the importance of having Arteta in the side. Without him, we’ve looked more than a little lost in the middle of the park. There’s no fluidity in the passing and an obvious vacuum in terms of the support to Alex Song and the defence. Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun has been tried in that position but neither has displayed the same effectiveness.

Speaking of Rosicky, it now looks like he might stay at the club beyond the end of his contract this June. Now, Rosicky was a real gem when he first arrived from Borussia Dortmund. Playing in the 4 man midfield with Cesc/Flamini/Hleb, they were a great bunch. Then injuries started taking it’s toll on Rosicky. The long term absence due to a “special” kind of injury robbed him of his better years.

Now, Rosicky will turn 32 in 2012. That’s reaching an age when Wenger takes a less interest in a player. By comparison, this season has arguably been Rosicky’s most productive season in years. He has not had many match winning performance but neither has he has many anonymous moments. If we were to retain his services, it would indicate that Wenger treasures his experience and thinks that he can still an influence off the pitch.

Decisions are the bread and butter for a manager. He was criticised for it during the United game and has since been defensive about it but seemed to have gained some perspective with each passing days. Wenger is right though. The fans react and respond proportionally to the performance of the team on the field. If the team starts to show some fight and puts in their shift, the crowd will reciprocate in kind.

Does it work the other way around? Does a player get a lift by hearing the crowd sing their name or the club’s songs? Are they players or are they players who are fans themselves? Or does not that matter anymore?

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