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It’s Not Quite As Bad As It Seems
While the injury to Robin van Persie was disturbing news this past weekend, let’s try not to go overboard. Posts on message boards and the like have been raging about how our season is over, etc., etc., etc…. That is hardly the case. Yes, he has been in the form of his life with 8 goals and 7 assists in 15 matches. And, yes, it is deeply frustrating to see Robin, once again, injured over an international break due to a crunching tackle. But we have options, and all is not hardly lost just yet.
Early prognostications had him being out for anywhere from 2 months to the rest of the season (wind-up from The Sun, anyone?). The reality is that he will be out for about six weeks. That would see him return just after the New Year. In which case, he will miss the Chelsea match, Liverpool away, two meaningless Champions League group fixtures, and league matches against Stoke, Hull, Burnley, Portsmouth, and ahome match with Villa. The first four are currently 9th, 10th, 17th, and 20th in the table. Not exactly an intimidating fixture list there. Chelsea have a few injury problems as well, while Liverpool… well, they just suck.
While it is frustrating to have more attacking firepower out injured than the bottom half of the table combined, we still have many options. For one thing, this is why we bought Eduardo 2 years ago. Questions about the player being able to “step in” seem to me to be ridiculous. Okay, he missed a couple of right chances against Spurs, but I have faith that a proper run of matches would see him repeat his form of January 2008, when we were faced with a similar situation. Also, Nicklas Bendtner will be back from his groin surgery by the second week of December (go easy, Baroness, go easy!). Theo Walcott will be returning to training next week and should be available by the end of the month.
In the side, we have Arshavin who could play up top if necessary and it would be ridiculous to forget Carlos Vela, whom the manager has named when asked about being shorthanded up top after the van Persie injury. Vela has been out for weeks but he is also near a return. So we have options. Meanwhile, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are both questionable to be fit for the match at the Emirates and Drogba was pulled from the Ivory Coast’s starting XI this past week. The fact is that we should be able to win every one of those games with Eduardo, Arshavin, and Rosicky or Nasri as our front three. And by the middle of December we will have Bendtner, Walcott, and Vela fit.
The most frustrating part about it is that it was, of course, a ridiculous, meaningless friendly. It’s time that the federations are made to pay compensation for using the players and also for injuries which occur in non-competitive matches. The club, and the supporters, invest way too much money in footballers for the current system to remain the same. We have a club/country setup that is a remnant of the game’s pre-modern era. The rest of the game has changed and the way the club/country setup works must be brought up-to-date. Clubs are no longer sending players who they pay a minimum wage to and have to work in the off-season. Clubs now spend millions of pounds training young players or on transfer fees. These players are from a financial perspective, quite literally, investment properties.
That a federation can come and borrow a player for a game which means nothing and send him back injured for six weeks ahead of a crucial match with not even so much as note of apology is ludicrous. The federations don’t care one bit about the clubs but then complain about how the clubs try to keep players from them. Well, why wouldn’t they? Federations have the sweetest deal of all… they have a team of stars on call that they didn’t have to pay anything to train or buy. Wenger’s analogy of the players going off on international duty is like someone borrowing your Ferrari for two weeks and then returning it in such a condition that it needs to be in the shop for six weeks is spot on. I’m not advocating an end to international football, but to have the player go away for the third international break of the season already for a meaningless friendly is reckless and it must stop.
Personally, I really feel for van Persie. Some like to say he’s made of glass, but, unlike Rosicky, who gets injured getting out of bed in the morning, his injuries are almost always caused by another player. He had his first true full season last year and led the club with 20 goals in all competitions. Free from major injuries, we began to see the real potential of van Persie. And in the first 3 months of this season, we began to see that potential realized. There is no more devastating trio of attacking players in the Premier League than Fabregas, Arshavin, and van Persie. The fact that he has 7 assists to go with his 8 goals means we not only lose a goalscorer but a provider as well.
Bumps in the road are inevitable over a long season and we need to show that we can deal with them. And, while the whole team isn’t riding on his back, we are counting on Eduardo to do exactly what we all know he can do and for the rest to pick up the slack, if necessary. Van Persie’s injury is frustrating but it’s not devastating. The club is more than deep enough to cope, especially when our minor injuries are all cleared up in a few weeks.