It was inevitable that our extremely promising start to the season would fall to pieces within just 14 days, as Arsenal was eliminated from three cup competitions. Arsenal’s seasons often go awry in a short spell of time, and 2010/11 has been no exception. However, the team is still fighting to reach the top of the Premier League despite some untimely injuries – especially in defence.
The club is currently without any backup keeper for Manuel Almunia as we go into the last 10 (and arguably the most important) games of the season. Our first choice goalkeeper, Wojceich Szczesny, is sidelined for 6 weeks with a finger injury that forced him off the pitch during the game at the Nou Camp. Polish compatriot Lukasz Fabianski is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Following the injury to Szczesny, Wenger looked to recall our highly-rated keeper Vito Mannone – who is currently on loan at Hull- but the young Italian also picked up an injury last week. This left Wenger with no choice but to bring in another keeper until the end of the season. Jens Lehmann is currently without a club having retired from professional football over a year ago, but it looks like a deal to secure his services will be concluded within the next few hours.
“Arsenal have a goalkeeping crisis and I jumped at the chance to help them.”
Lehmann made 194 appearances for Arsenal from 2003-2008, and played every game in our “Unbeatable” season. For all that, he will forever be remembered for being aggressive and also as he was the first player to be sent off in a Champions League final. Personally, I am delighted to have “Mad Jens” back at the club, as I do not feel that the club has had a particularly strong goalkeeper since he left. He will also be studying for his goalkeeper training badges, with the possibility of becoming Arsenal’s goalkeeper coach next season.
Johan Djourou has been ruled out for the rest of the season after he was stretchered off at Old Trafford with a dislocated shoulder. Djourou joins Thomas Vermaelen, who has not featured since August, on the injury list. Squillaci and Koscielny have proven to be a relatively poor defensive partnership, so it is possible that Ignasi Miquel will make a few more appearances towards the end of the season.
Alex Song has not played since the match against Birmingham due a knee injury, and will not feature on Saturday against West Brom. Cesc Fabregas has had “a recurrence of his hamstring problem,” and may also be out for a few games. Theo Walcott continues his rehabilitation following an ankle injury, and is expected to be back in training next week.
Despite what people say, I don’t believe that we have a particularly easy run-in. We still have to play Stoke and Spurs away, and Liverpool and Manchester United at home. I reckon that we can only afford to lose 1 of the last 10 games if we want to win the league. Chelsea still have the potential to mount a title challenge, but this is quite unlikely.
Only a month ago, the media was questioning whether United could go the whole season unbeaten, despite some poor performances. After 3 defeats in their last 5 league games, the gap at the top of the table has been reduced to just 3 points (and Arsenal have a crucial game in hand).
In my opinion, United look a fraction of the team they were 3 years ago. The fact that such a weak team sits top of the league clearly shows just how poor their title challengers have been this season, and futher illustrates that the gap between the lower positioned teams and teams fighting for the title is closing. There are no easy fixtures anymore. Chelsea lost to Sunderland 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal lost to West Brom at the Emirates, and United’s unbeaten run was ended by Wolves.
We go into the title run-in in particularly good league form. The team is unbeaten in our last 11 Premiership games (since we lost at Old Trafford at the beginning of December), and has turned the Emirates back into the fortress it needs to be if we want to bring home some silverware. The title could go anywhere, but we will be hoping that 2011 does not represent yet another trophy-less campaign for the Gunners.