05 June 2014

Injuries to Wilshere and Ox are a Good Thing™

In an international match fraught with tension, on whose outcome a solution to climate change, racism, and the crisis in Ukraine no doubt depended, England and Arsenal suffered a setback when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was bundled into, causing his right knee to buckle and possibly damaging ligaments. The restults of a scan have yet to be released, but Ox is all but sure to miss the World Cup, a devastating setback to the lad just after earning a chance to shine. We very nearly suffered a double-dose as Jack Wilshere looked like he picked up a little niggle, although his may have been more of the crampy variety. It's a good thing that so much hung in the balance here, or we might be left wondering just why the match was played at all. More to the point, though, for as much of a setback as Ox's injury may be to the Three Lions, it may yet come as good news for Arsenal.

Awkward: Ecuador midfielder Carlos Gruezo landed awkwardly on the knee of the midfielder
Hear me out. I know we've come to expect the worst when it comes to injuries, but there could still be a silver-lining to this one. Flush off of an FA Cup victory that slayed the trophy-drought and silenced a good many critics. Arsène might be tempted to believe that the squad is in fine shape, strong enough to mount and sustain a more serious challenge for the Prem title. After all, as we've all told ourselves, we might have won it this year were it not for injuries to Ox, Diaby, Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski....um, I think that's it for the major ones. Hard to keep track, to be honest. I won't even try to list the various niggles here and there.

All of those injuries were ignored. In fact, the only response we saw from Arsène felt almost more like satire if not slap-stick when, in the January transfer-window, he tried to bolster a midfield decimated by injuries by signing a midfielder who was already injured. It feels like a screenplay of the sort that Ionesco or Godot might have written.

However, Ox's latest injury might serve as enough of a shot across the bow to jolt Arsène into some kind of action that actually amounts to something. For manager as averse to making ambitious moves in the transfer-window, setbacks, crises, and debacles do seem to light some kind of fire under the man. Källström might have been more a farce than a force, but it was something. In August, the capitulation to Aston Villa was followed by the signing of Özil. Prior to that, it was the injury to Kieran Gibbs that accelerated the singing of Nacho Monreal. Heck, this plucky l'il blog owes its existence to injuries and urgent transfer-business that sometimes follow.

While hoping and praying that Ox's injury is not serious, I do hope that it forces Arsène to see just how vulnerable this squad is. For as satisfying and exhilarating as the FA Cup victory was, there will linger a bit of regret (if not harsher feelings) around the idea that we might have done better in the Prem. When we were at full strength (sorry, Abou), we were top of the table. However, the heavy minutes logged by those who inspired us to get there—Ramsey, Özil, Giroud, and others—led to some increasingly jaded performances from some as well as outright injury to others. For a manager whose transfer-policy alternates between "no thanks" and "who's leaving/injured? Okay, fine, get someone from France on the line", this latest bad news offers a fresh reminder that, yes, reinforcements are needed.

If that's not silver lining enough, Ox's injury will likely prevent him from suffering further injuries during the more-intense action, heat, and humidity of mid-summer football in Brazil. This was a friendly match in Miami (no laggard when it comes to heat or humidity). While we're on the subject of who won't play in Brazil, Jack Wilshere's play against Ecuador was apparently lackluster enough that he may lose his place on the pitch, something that sits just fine with me if it means that he stays firmly planted on the bench instead of careening recklessly around the pitch. There may be unanswered questions about how much Jack has progressed in the last few years, but his progression as a Gunner will not be helped by logging heavy minutes in Brazil, subjecting those precious ankles to even more wear and tear.

Arsène will be in Brazil as a commentator, so there's hope that this give him a chance to consort and fraternize with some very good footballers. If Ox isn't going to play, perhaps he could drag himself along a few meters behind Arsène, sighing, groaning, and wincing every once in a while. "Hey, boss!" he could call out. "There's Edinson. Let's go talk to him!" And so on...

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