21 February 2013

Of Knees and Needs

Well, I hate to say "I told you so", especially when I didn't quite tell anyone in so many words, but news out today is that Bacary Sagna injured his knee and won't play on Saturday against Aston Villa. No word on whether this is the same leg that Sagna had surgery on and has struggled with in recent months.

It's like I almost said in the build-up to the match Bayern--rest some key players to keep us at full-strength for 4th place. The UCL is a distraction at this point, even more so after the 3-1 loss. Would Sagna's absence have made matters any worse? Probably not by much, as both goals came from the left side, and Bayern was largely content to sit back for most of the second half to protect that lead. Maybe Sagna had injured his knee before Mandzurik's goal, or worse, on the actual play. I know that I didn't actually call for Sagna himself to be rested, because he did sit against Blackburn a few days before, but it's still upsetting to see that a key player will be out as we head into the home stretch. We should be able to maintain against Villa, but we have a trip to White Hart Lane after that to prepare for as well.

On-field issues aside, I hope that this doesn't complicate contract-talks. This just adds to the obstacles to Sagna getting a new deal--a leg that has broken twice inside of 14 months, a nagging knee injury (and this new one?), and a 30th birthday already in the rearview mirror (one week ago, in fact). As I said last week, he is to me one of the faces of Arsenal. Maybe his age and injuries will prevent him from pushing forward on attack, but he has shown that he can play in the center. At 5'9" (1.76m), he may lack the height of Mertesacker, Vermaelen, or Koscielny, but he has amply shown his aerial ability. Heck, I'm ready to switch him and Vermaelen now. Another thought for another day.

Without him for next week and with Gibbs still weeks away, and we now have to figure out who to throw on--Koscielny is still a bit gimpy but available, so we have Monreal, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, and an open right-back spot. Our options:
  1. Drop Ramsey to the back.
  2. Bring on Jenkinson, now available after his red-card against Sunderland.
  3. Call up Miquel.
  4. Throw on Squillaci.
Aston Villa will throw an in-form Benteke at whoever mans the ramparts, so we'd better be ready. Make your recommendation below the fold...