It’s easy to predict Liverpool running all over Arsenal, what with all the Reds’ new signings and the Gunners’ injuries, suspensions, and defections. Both teams will be cautious as they try to gel and avoid slipping further behind Manchester Red and Manchester Blue. Liverpool, with a couple injured exceptions, is stocked to the gills with players anxious to impress, while the news and the media—not always one in the same—would have you believe that Arsenal is decimated, dejected, and demoralized.
(How a draw on the road and a win at home in 4 days, in the midst of so much speculation and criticism and supposed turmoil, are the signs of a damn crisis, I’ll never know…)
My guess is that pundits and fans alike are, from a Gunners point of view, much more pessimistic about Saturday’s match than the Arsenal players and coaches are. One doesn’t have to look too far into the past, no further than last season even, to be reminded that Arsenal is not in a new predicament. The Gunners’ present situation isn’t great, but I see it as just a bit worse than the status quo for the last 3-4 years. Can anyone tell me how many times in recent years have their first choice XI been healthy at the same time? Isn’t this team accustomed to Band-aids and patchwork?
The argument against me would be: “That’s exactly the problem. For too many years, Arsenal have had so many injuries, too few signings, and they always come up short.” Point taken, but I’m writing about Saturday, not the entire upcoming season.
Rosicky and Arshavin provide experience, suffocatingly quiet leadership, and a sense of nearly hypnotic, “day at the beach” calm. They list as their hobbies: “dribbling directly into opposing legs”, “appearing exasperated”, and “falling down a lot”. But both are capable of a few strokes of brilliance once or twice a month, and younger players are going to look to them for answers, so I expect them to rise to the occasion.
The Sagna-Walcott-RVP connection can be lethal on ANY given day. Vermaelen is back (and don’t forget, he can score). Aaron Ramsey’s stock is rising almost daily. Perhaps Bendtner will even make an appearance before jumping ship to one of the unnamed teams who don’t seem to exist and who really aren’t that interested! (Better him than “Bambi”, aka Chamakh.)
For now, let’s forget Cesc, Nasri, the other absentees, and the lack of “big name” transfers coming in. Granted, left back and defensive midfield are HUGE concerns for Saturday, as is the frightening lack of depth on the bench. (Sure would be nice to have Eboue back right now.) But come kick-off, viewers might expect to see 9 familiar Arsenal faces, plus one Frimpong and one Jenkinson. That ain’t so bad, is it? Add to that the notion that, save for Bendtner, every Arsenal player at the Emirates this Saturday will be one who actually WANTS to be there, and we might just have ourselves a game!
These guys are good. They’re coming off a win, unlike their opponents this Saturday. It’s the home opener. I’m not worried.