My fitness fears for Arsenal World Cup stars

Even the most ardent Arsenal critics would agree that, for whatever reason, our squad injuries over the last couple of seasons have been horrendous. It has been comparatively rare for Arsene Wenger to be able to name a full-strength, first-choice squad. If it wasn’t Van Persie who was out, we’d have a crocked back-four like at the end of 08/09. If our defence remained intact, we’d be missing our captain and midfield maestro. When Van Persie returned after a five month lay-off, Cesc Fabregas broke his leg. So, bearing in mind how unfortunate we have been in recent times, we can be justified to feel a certain amount of trepidation when watching this year’s World Cup.
Twelve Gunners will be heading out to South Africa to represent their respective countries and, as would have been expected, some of our best players are included in that list. Our World Cup dozen is Bendtner, Clichy, Diaby, Eboue, Fabregas, Gallas, Sagna, Senderos, Song, Van Persie, Vela and Walcott. Eight of whom are regular, first-choice players for us when they’re fit. Now, disregarding our recent injury woes, why should Gooners have more cause for concern than other club’s fans? Every club has to deal with their star players putting their bodies on the line during the World Cup, so what makes us any different?
It’s when you inspect the fitness of our South African troops that the apprehension grows. As we all know too well; if a player is rushed back into action before fully fit, he runs the risk of picking up another, potentially more serious, injury. It’s quite worrying then to think that Fabregas, Gallas, Song, Van Persie and Walcott have all only recently returned from spells on the sidelines. In particular, Gallas is pushing himself to prove he’s fit in time for France and Fabregas has barely recovered from the broken leg that ended his season. Not to mention how little football Van Persie has played since his return.
As things stand, the three players we simply cannot afford to lose for the start of the next season are Cesc Fabregas (assuming he stays), Alex Song and Robin Van Persie. The creativity and guile our team lacked during Cesc’s absence was painfully obvious to anyone watching. The disappearance of Robin’s sharp finishing haunted us almost all-season-long and the solidity brought to our team by Alex Song was sorely missed while he was out.
I’ve named these three players in particular because, at the time of writing, we don’t have adequate replacements ready to fill the void they would leave. Yes, we’ve just signed Chamakh, but isn’t it foolhardy to believe he could perform at the same level as Van Persie? Ramsey appears to be developing into a fantastic playmaker but still needs a couple more seasons before he can usurp Fabregas’ spot. As for Alex Song, his only backup is our youngster Craig Eastmond.
Indeed watching the World Cup could be a nail-biting experience for us Gooners. But there is something that can stop us hiding behind our sofas every time Giorgio Chiellini flies into a tackle on Van Persie – and that something is reassurance from Mr. Wenger. Nobody is truly to blame if one of our players is injured while on World Cup duty, however the club’s management does shoulder the blame if adequate precautions aren’t taken for such eventualities. By precautions, I mean signing a player or two who are able to successfully fill the boots of a missing player. Injuries must be accepted and no one is expecting a second Cesc Fabregas to step in, but we have to make sure we’re equipped to stay strong even in the absence of certain key players.
Undoubtedly, without further involvement in the transfer window, the 2010 World Cup has the potential to seriously damage our Premiership title bid before it has even had the chance to begin. But despite what some critics say, I don’t think Arsčne Wenger has that much work to do to protect us from the possible pitfalls the tournament could bring. The signing of Marouane Chamakh is a steady start to proceedings but we all need to hope that it doesn’t just end there. Most of us are expecting Wenger to introduce another centre-back before next season kicks off but it’s just as vital that we add another strong holding midfielder to our squad too.
With just a few carefully selected additions to the team, Arsenal fans won’t have to be on the edge of their seats worrying that they could bear witness to a season-crushing injury. Instead, Gooners everywhere can enjoy the World Cup in the knowledge that if something does happen to go awry, then we’d have the steel to deal with it this time around.

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