As we enter yet another international break, it’s going to be a long 2 weeks break between our last game and the next one. Right after we ended the last interlull, it was important for us to pick up as many points and as many right results that we can get before this latest interlull. The win at Anfield preceded the last break and it was felt then that the break came at wrong time. Now, after our comeback against West Ham, the same feeling lingers.
Between the two breaks, 7 matches were played and I think we had a quite good period of results. 5 wins, a draw and a defeat can definitely be considered a pretty good run of results. That defeat to Chelsea was damaging in that it increased the gap between both teams but it was encouraging to see how well we responded to that defeat. 2 wins on the bounce is is not much to shout about but an Arsenal sides of previous seasons could easily have crumbled after going behind at Upton Park.
Looking at the fixtures, the next international break after the current one, doesn’t come until the middle of March. If we harbour any ambition of winning the league title, this will be the most crucial part of the season. We may not have to necessarily win all the games between now and then. Though, you won’t find me complaining if we do win every single one of those potential 36 games that we could be involved in. If we could just be thereabouts, I would say around 5 points behind the league leaders (worst case scenario), then we could very well be challenging for the last part of the season.
The toughest game between that 2nd half of the month of March until the end of the season is obviously the Manchester United game at home. Which means that the crux of the important games (matches between direct rivals) will fall between the 20th of October to 16th of March. I wouldn’t expect us to field the same side in every one of those 36 potential games. There will be changes here and there. When it’s the Capital One Cup, or an FA Cup match against a lower league side or the dead rubber games in the Champions League.
That’s when the squad strength comes into full view. Players whom we can depend on, to contribute when players needed to be rested or suspended or worse, drops out due to injury. Some of them are already working their way back to fitness. Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong continues their progress and added some more precious minutes of game time under their belt. The former had 74 minutes while the latter played the entire 90 minutes as they ran out with the U21 side against Reading.
The side selected by Terry Burton yesterday also consisted many other players whom we are already familiar with. Andre Santos and Francis Coqeulin both played the full 90 minutes. They are with the first team and have played the occasional games here and there but probably lacking full fitness. While the quality of opposition is not the same, the workout will still do them a world of good. Yet, I’m guessing the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Bacary Sagna.
The French right back played in his first match since he picked up an injury against Norwich in May. It is a welcome sight indeed as Sagna is undoubtedly one of the most consistent player in our side but rarely gets the headlines. The consummate professional, Sagna always gets on with his job without much fuss, any fan would struggle to remember when was the last time that he was the worst player on the pitch.
In his stead, Carl Jenkinson has been the beacon of light in our “resurgent” season. Resurgent being used in the lightest of senses. The English right back has benefited from prolong minutes with the first team and has shown remarkable consistency in his game. So much so that had he been called up to Roy Hodgson’s latest England squad, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Yet, Sagna should still get the nod ahead of him if the choice comes to that.
That is not a slight on Jenkinson’s qualities. Just that at the moment, Sagna is still the better player. Given what we’ve heard and seen from Jenkinson, he will be level headed enough and be respectful of that decision. To him, instead of being hurt by being dropped to the bench, I’m sure he will take it as a challenge to further improve his game. Just like the situation is with Wojciech Szczesny and Vito Mannone, if the former is fit, he plays.
To think that by the time the next game comes around, Wilshere’s name could be in contention to at least be on the bench. Now, that’s a strong enough image to last this Arsenal-less 2 weeks.