Injuries and suspensions shouldn't disrupt Arsenal

Posted by Sam Limbert

When Jack Wilshere was ruled out of immediate action for Arsenal ahead of the Champions League match away at Bayern Munich, many were understandably concerned about Arsenal's chances of putting a good run of form together for the rest of the season. Wilshere has been hyped up by many in the English press, but he is a player that deserves that hype for his consistently excellent performances for the Gunners. In a season of irritating inconsistency, Wilshere's absence looked likely to be costly.

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As it's turned out, Arsenal have won every match since Wilshere's injury. That's not to say there's a direct causality to Wilshere's absence bringing about an upturn in Arsenal's form, but it has been down to other members of the squad stepping up and filling in for the Englishman. In the run-up to this weekend's match with Norwich, despite his impending return from injury, there were no guarantees for Wilshere that he’d go straight back into the starting XI.

However, as Wilshere is able to testify to, the injury merry-go-round is a strange thing at Arsenal. Just as Tomas Rosicky was finding some form, he needs a fitness test to see if he can feature against the Canaries. I've said a number of times in recent weeks, that form should be the key selection criteria at this stage of the season, rather than reputations. However, if Rosicky isn't fully fit, it isn't worth risking him suffering further before the end of the season.

With Wilshere coming back into the squad, there is the possibility for a straight swap in the centre of midfield. If Rosicky doesn't make the starting XI, Lukas Podolski or the returning Theo Walcott could replace him, with Santi Cazorla moving into the middle; however, Wenger shouldn't upset the balance of a winning team, meaning Wilshere could benefit from the misfortune of others and reclaim his starting place.

Having been able to name an unchanged team last weekend, even if Rosicky's hamstrings get him through a fitness test, Arsene Wenger will have to make at least one enforced change due to Per Mertesacker's suspension. Like with Wilshere in midfield, Arsenal have a ready-made replacement in Thomas Vermaelen. Having seen Mertesacker and Koscielny build a good partnership in the centre of Arsenal's defence, the club captain will feel under pressure to use this opportunity to perform well against Norwich.

Wenger said of his captain: "He is a great man and I didn't make him captain by coincidence. I knew there is something mentally special there. He responds in positive situations and in less positive situations like when you don't play." It's time for being special mentally to shine through for the skipper because Norwich ruffled a few feathers when they drew 3-3 at the end of last season at the Emirates, with their goals coming from some dodgy Arsenal defending.

With Champions League qualification back in Arsenal's hands with seven games to go, now isn't the time for defensive lapses. With neither Chelsea nor Tottenham playing in the league this weekend, Arsenal could be third by Saturday evening. It would set the Gunners up nicely for Tuesday's tougher test against Everton at the Emirates.

With just the two enforced changes from injury and suspension, Arsenal's form shouldn't be disrupted and the quiet charge up the league can continue. While many a Gooner, myself included, afforded themselves an extremely hearty laugh at Emmanuel Adebayor's penalty miss last night, there is still a lot of work to be done to finish about Tottenham this season. Arsenal have had a game in hand on Spurs for a while now, but that is eradicated in the next week, and Tottenham will soon have a one game advantage themselves. This means that now is the time for Arsenal to edge ahead in the race for fourth, even without some of their form players.

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