How the hell can Arsenal keep every player fit?

And so the saga ends. Relatively quicker than the Özil one that dragged out for two or three seasons, the Aubameyang saga was concluded within two months, as the club confirmed it had terminated the contract with the player by ‘mutual consent’. Whatever that means.

And I say that because there are a myriad of different scenarios that seem to occur when a club talks about ‘mutual consent’ and in this instance the details probably do matter. For example, some are reporting that Auba has given up his mega contract in wages to play for Barcelona, forgoing the weekly reported £300k-per-week deal he was on at The Arsenal because Barca can’t afford it and he just wants to keep playing at the highest level. But I have become a footballing sceptic in these days and I wonder how much of that is true. Did he and his agent really tell Arsenal that the contract could be ripped up and the two parties could go their separate ways? I am doubtful. I suspect there has been some kind of cash incentive given to Auba and, if so, it is just another example of the Arsenal Exec team paying players to go away. It’s not a very good look.

However, perhaps it serves everyone’s interest to externally portray the situation to be presented as it is, because all parties get a PR boost. Barca get to announce that they still have such a top draw that they can attract big name players to take pay cuts to join them. The player gets kudos from  the media for not holding out for the big dollar and running down a contract, instead electing to play football rather than enjoy the no doubt lovely surroundings and food on offer at London Colney. Then to Arsenal, who get to – through the back channels – inform people of the mega savings that have been made in wages for the next 18 months.

The reality is that this has been a messy divorce and doesn’t really help us in any way. By it happening at the end of the window we did not have any time – or inclination by the sounds of it – to get a replacement in and as I said yesterday, whilst his power has faded for us, he still contributed to our season so far and the prospect of having to see Lacazette bumble his way around the penalty box this season hardly fills one with joy. Not to mention that his understudy is Eddie ‘Open Goal’ Nketiah.

Auba put a lovely message out to the fans which showed at least a fair bit of respect and love and for that he’ll get plenty of well-wishes. He joined us and bagged goal after goal for a short period of time and for that we have to be grateful. If anything we made the wrong choice in the summer of getting Lacazette, which is still a legacy problem today, but Auba came in and has been great for us until he wasn’t. You could tell the fans appreciation from all of the positive comments from so many fans and media pundits and so I guess from that perspective it hasn’t been as messy as it could have been. He helped to win us an FA Cup and for that his goals and contribution must be acknowledged and appreciated.

So he looks to a new future, we look to a new future, but ours probably has more apprehension about it than his. I don’t want to over egg the pudding, as they say, but I am becoming more and more fearful for what the remainder of the season holds when I look at the squad we have and yesterday evening I was on with Craig and Danny for the Same Old Arsenal podcast saying just that. I have faith in so many of the good young players we’ve brought in; I am pleased when I look at the first XI – Lacazette aside – and feel like it is a close-knit collectively who could certainly go on and win plenty of football matches if they can all hit form. But the biggest worry is the uncontrollable, which is namely: 

How the hell can we expect every single player to stay fit for the remainder of the season?

That’s  my biggest worry here. A late challenge on Tomiyasu, a dangerous tackle to Saka, a twist in the wrong direction by Lacazette, an ankle sprain by Partey; all of these scenarios are not beyond the realms of probability between now and May. Every time an Arsenal player hits the deck there will be a collective intake of breath by Arsenal fans. Every substitution will be greeted by the worry that it is not for tactical but potentially for injury reasons. And every time an injury occurs we will all look at Arteta, Edu and the Arsenal Exec team with frustrated metaphorical glares mouthing “this was entirely predictable” in their direction. 

You can legislate for fatigue injuries like hamstring strains, groin strains, etc. If you’re playing in many competitions that stuff will happen. But when you have deliberately taken out large chunks of your squad,  you have nowhere to hide if the worst happens to your players. And let’s be honest here, it’s not as if we don’t have players who haven’t picked up injuries before. Tomiyasu is out as we speak, meaning Cedric is currently our first choice right back. Gabriel spent time on the sidelines last season. Tierney is probably one of the most injury prone players in the squad. We’ve just had ESR out for a prolonged period of time just before Christmas. Partey’s Arsenal career has been littered with injuries and  even Xhaka, who has been seemingly indestructible at times in his Arsenal career, succumbed to an injury whichi kept him out for months earlier in the season. Why are none of these scenarios not considered a very real probability by the Arsenal hierarchy? Because we can all see it.

I get the rationale. I understand that some of these players weren’t good enough and I can understand that we needed to undertake this exercise. But not replacing players is asking for trouble. I just hope that after a really unlucky period of time for a couple of years, Arteta has a hell of a lot more of it as a manager over the next five months.

Catch you all tomorrow.

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How the hell can Arsenal keep every player fit?