October 20, 2012
Guess who’s back.
Jack is back.
Tell a friend.
Okay, you don’t have to tell a friend if you don’t want to. I’m guessing they probably already know. Because despite the fact that he is, according to Le Boss, only 80% match fit, despite the fact that he’s apparently only a late inclusion due to Francis Coquelin’s last minute withdrawal from the squad due to injury and despite the fact that the likelihood is he won’t even step one foot off the bench this evening the fanfare surrounding Jack’s return is nonetheless echoing through these Marble Halls and beyond.
The usual caveats apply. We shouldn’t expect too much of a player who’s just missed through injury almost as much football as he’s played in his senior career. Though an entirely different scenario we’ve seen with Aaron Ramsey just recently how long it can take for a young player to get his groove back. And equally we’ve seen how quickly fan optimism can turn into frustration when the performances don’t match the hype. But you wouldn’t be a proper Arsenal fan if you didn’t allow yourself the faint twinge of excitement this morning to see the name Wilshere back on the matchday squad sheet.
And although speaking before the decision had been taken to include Jack today, Arsene Wenger sounded confident that Jack will avoid some of the pitfalls associated with a return from such a long lay off:
You can have apprehension after a serious injury. In your memory you have a moment where you have been hit and you will try to avoid getting in the same position again …The other problem – with Eduardo for example – was that he had a restriction of his ankle movement, which is a massive problem for a football player.
Jack has none of that – he was not injured in a specific tackle. He had a stress fracture that came slowly, so he has no memory in the game of having been kicked by anybody or injured by anybody. There is no specific position where he got injured.
All the same, where Ramsey is concerned it seemed to be his speed of thought on the pitch that was worse affected by his time out. That split second extra that it takes to size up your options can be devastating in the heat of a Premier League battle and we’ve seen what a detrimental effect that can have on a midfielder’s game. Jack is bound to take some time to regain his touch, his speed of movement and his speed of thought. But on the plus side he is one of the most naturally gifted players I’ve seen for all three of those attributes and it didn’t take him long to find his feet when he initially broke through into the first team. Hopefully he’ll find that transition as straight forward this time around.
It seems wrong to speak too much about a player who, let’s face it, is unlikely to feature this afternoon so I’ll avoid sinking into a reverie about what a Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere midfield might feel like for a while at least. Jack’s positive news aside we are lacking a number of players this afternoon.
Gibbs is still out with the knock he picked up against West Ham so Andre Santos needs to step back out of the shadows today and show us what squad depth looks like. While others have taken the plaudits, Gibbs has been a quiet revelation at left back this season. Defensively and positionally he seems to be benefitting from Steve Bould’s attentions and going forward he’s been a real threat. Santos is more than capable of providing decent back up but I’m never entirely sure what we’re going to get with him. His bombarding runs down the wing can strike fear into the heart of his opposing right back but it’s no good if he’s too out of puff to get his arse back in position. You wouldn’t want to take that attacking instinct out of his game entirely because he can be so dangerous but hopefully he shows the intelligence this afternoon to not leave us exposed.
Laurent Koscielny has picked up a back injury on international duty so the rest of the back four picks itself while Coquelin’s knock and Diaby’s continued absence means Aaron Ramsey is certain to continue in midfield.
The biggest question mark for Le Boss is whether to give Giroud the chance up front or revert to Gervinho but I think after his heroics against Spain in the week he’ll opt for the Frenchman. I think we’ll line up like this:
Jenks – Per – Verm – Santos
Art – Rambo
Gerv – Caz – Pod
Norwich haven’t picked up a win in the league yet this season but as ever our biggest enemy could be complacency. It’s games like this after an international break and a limited training schedule and with a good number of injuries building up that we need to be focussed and make sure of the result. We lie seventh in the league and nothing less than a win is good enough to keep us in touch with the top four.
Today begins a period of 19 games in the ten weeks to the end of the year and it’s ten weeks that will define whether we’re proper title challengers this season or scrapping for Champions League places once again. We need to be switched on straight away.
Tell a friend.
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