Francis Coquelin’s meteoric rise from forgotten man to Arsenal’s midfield lynchpin has been nothing short of Hollywood script material.
Kicking up dust at Charlton, the Gunners annual injury crisis meant that all resources were utilised. Coquelin was recalled from his loan at The Valley and from his first match until the catastrophic moment he was injured, he has shown he had all the assets required to make the defensive midfield spot his own.
Now, Coquelin is inevitably crocked. You can be sure as eggs is eggs that if a player takes to the field in an Arsenal jersey, then an injury is a foregone conclusion. Gooners are still trying to adjust to the Coquelin void – the blame game for Arsenal’s current personnel deficiency being the game of choice thus far.
Who is to blame is a moot point right now. What is up for discussion is how Arsene will fill the aperture in midfield. There has been oodles of speculation as to how Wenger will attempt to paper over the Coquelin crack, but seeing as the festive schedule is infamously hectic, who will come to Arsenal’s rescue until the January window opens?
The volatile Frenchman has been schooled in the dark tactical arts during his time in Serie A and is one of the rare voices who will lambast and organise. He has been the go-to choice for Arsene since the West Brom loss and does his job well, but can his body handle the rigours of a game every three days? The simple answer is no. Arsene will need to find Flamini an ally. With Arteta injured as well, could it be…
The Welshman made his first start since October in the 1-1 draw against Norwich, so match sharpness will be Rambo’s first target, but Ramsey has excellent stamina levels and has voiced his displeasure at being flung out on the right of midfield. His link up play is one reason for his employment on the wing, but his future lies in the middle. His box-to-box running is consistent and if a run of games can be achieved, then surely he can shore up the gap left by Coquelin’s hiatus? The only question mark surrounding Ramsey is his defensive positioning, as he has often been caught out attempting to aid the attack rather than be the shield we need him to be. Arsene has other options though…..
The left-field option, but Chambers could just be our saviour. Chambers made his bow in central midfield on the thirtieth of November in an Under-21 match versus Brighton. It was not only his debut in that position, but his debut at Under-21 level for Arsenal. It gave off an air of experimentation, with Wenger giving him a trial to see how he would fare. Any fan who has watched Chambers will tell you that his defensive nous needs to be refined, but his touch on the ball is far removed from conventional defenders. He may need a window of adaptation to adjust to the parameters of the role, but he could be the answer.
The problem is though, that the Premier League allows no time for adjustment. Every minute he will have to be switched on and be completely sure of his role. His baptism at Under-21 level shows Arsene is more than aware of how testing it will be for Chambers.
There is also Krystian Bielik who could come in from the cold and prove his mettle, and Glenn Kamara also has a point to prove after his horror debut in the humiliation at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday. There comes a point though, that adaptation and blooding youth aren’t sufficient.
January and a rescue in the form of player recruitment seems so far away, especially as Arsenal have six vital games in December. William Carvalho remains available, as does either of the Bender brothers and Krychowiak of Sevilla. These players though, will also face a period of acclimatisation. It won’t be a well-edited sitcom, with the new guy rushing on set and saving the day. So, we still need another option who can provide the protection our back four craves.
We can all point fingers and discuss whether Arsene failed in recruiting. From where all Gooners are sitting currently however, the team we all adore are in something of a fix and need an answer from the current roster. It is ultimately futile arguing the toss over blame.
You can recruit back-ups for our back-ups, but these players in normal circumstances will not get enough games and won’t be interested in being bench fodder for 55/60 matches. They want to play. It is impossible to predict where we will be injured, only that we WILL have an injury crisis. We could have recruited heavily in defence so to avoid a repeat of last season where Monreal and Debuchy filled in at centre-half, but we have been lucky with injuries in that department. No one could have foreseen it would be in defensive midfield that we would feel the pinch.
People will say that our reinforcements in that position are sub-standard, but that is down to opinion. I feel that Arteta and Flamini have more than enough to be able to cope with twenty games between them. Yes, Arteta had a horror show against West Brom, but match sharpness is impossible to gain without playing time.
These six games, if navigated successfully, will leave Arsenal in a strong position to push on in the New Year. It could also cut us adrift. Whomever comes into the side, they should have our support as a prerequisite. The team will need our support during what could be a make or break period. Let us hope that December will be an improvement on November.
I am afraid all the above options are not good enough to fill the void created by Coq!