04 October 2013

Sagna's out for three weeks? Fine. Perfect, actually.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to face West Brom again (in the Prem this time), Arsène revealed that the hamstring injury that Bacary Sagna sustained during the 2-0 win over Napoli will put him out of action for three weeks. At first, this is
unsettling because of how well he's played, whether it's been as the right back or in the center. He's logged heavy minutes already this season, playing a full 90' in nine appearances. As such, then, it actually comes as a bit of good timing for Sagna to incur a mild injury as it will likely keep him out of action for France's home-match with Australia, and it comes at a time when our own fixtures look tame enough that Jenkinson should deputize competently. He may be but a babe in the woods at 21, but he was part of the squad that defeated Bayern 2-0, and continues to develop quite well.

Sagna, then, will miss the trip to West Brom on Sunday, a visit from Norwich on 19 October, and the visit from Dortmund on 22 October. As reassuring as it would be to have him for that last match, Jenkinson should hold his own well enough against West Brom and Norwich, and if he can remember the form he was in at times last season and so far in this one, he'll do fine against Dortmund. For what it's worth, Dortmund will come in at less than full-strength, as their own right-back Lukasz Piszczek is out for the season, İlkay Gündoğan continues to struggle back from a spinal injury and may also be unavailable, and manager Jürgen Klopp will be serving a one-match ban. It's not like Dortmund have suffered much in the absences of Piszczek or Gündoğan, nor have they missed a beat without departed midfielder Mario Götze—they're still undefeated and atop the table in the Bundesliga, and after their loss to Napoli in the Champions League will be looking for points wherever they can get them.

That said, I still don't mind (much) that Sagna will miss the match. He's 30, and a break from action should do him good, especially as we look ahead to a difficult string of fixtures after his return: Chelsea's league-cup visit, a visit from Liverpool, and trips to Dortmund and Man U. December is hardly any kinder, but let's not look too far ahead of ourselves...except to ponder our needs come January. Assuming we can continue to make progress in the league cup and in FA cup to boot, it's it looks more and more like signing another right-back is a priority. Between Sagna's age and recent injury history (let's not forget the twice-broken leg) on one hand, and Jenkinson's inexperience and limitations on the other, this looks like an area that we'll have to address. While it's true that Flamini can be asked to fill in at full-back, this is hardly an ideal or long-term solution. Ironically, Piszczek's injury came at a time when we were linked to him before this summer's transfer window. One might look at our injury-list and grumble that he'd therefore fit right in. Transfer-talk in July or January is one thing, but it's October, so there's little point in pondering who we might sign.

In the short run, we should be fine. Jenkinson can come on and turned in three strong performances already this season, and he's starting to show the competence if not the dominance we need in the back. With the increased stability in defense brought about by the continued partnership between Koscielny and Mertesacker, more-assured performances from Szczesny, and the communication and grit of Flamini, Jenkinson should be able to play with greater confidence. By the time he lines up opposite Marco Reus, then, he'll have had time to find his rhythm again after watching from the bench for the last few matches.

At first blush, the news of Sagna's injury threatened to cast a pall over our bright start. On the other hand, though, he'll be back by the end of October, by which time we should have also seen the returns of Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla, followed shortly thereafter by Podolski and then Ox. Therefore, our squad-strength and depth should return to full-strength or close to it just as our fixture-list intensifies. Not bad.

If you have any suggestions for a right-back target for January, by all means, weigh in. In the meantime, though, I hope you'll cast a ballot for me in the Football Blogging Awards' "best new blog" category. You can click here to here to vote via twitter or here to receive an email ballot. Thanks, as always, for your visit!