Shortly after the season began our roundtable panel addressed the question of depth in the Arsenal squad. At the time, the view was largely pessimistic. But a continued run of good form shows that Arsenal have coped remarkably well.
Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini have had an enormous impact. Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta have returned to the squad after being out for a significant amount of time. Nicklas Bendter has shown that he could be a more than capable back-up to Olivier Giroud.
Still, the squad is missing a number of key players and we don’t expect to see them back for several weeks.
We asked our panel to re-assess the squad's depth to see if Arsenal's form and league position have given them reason to be more optimistic than before.
Question: Two months into the 2013/14 campaign, do you think Arsenal have the depth to make a run at all four major trophies?
The last time around I was fairly pessimistic in my response. Not much has changed.
While Arsenal has done a tremendous job covering for injuries in the early-going this season, I do not feel this team is prepared to deal with a similar run of injuries later in the year.
With a less taxing schedule now and more international breaks, the team has been able to cope with playing a similar squad game in and game out, however, if Arsenal are stricken with a similar rash of injuries later in the season, I think it could be hugely problematic.
As I said before, Arsenal surely have the quality to make a run in every competition they enter, but if this squad does not get healthy, the long road of being involved in many competitions could take their toll.
I agree with Josh's sentiments that the squad might be a bit short, but I am going to elaborate on those points. I feel that we have to worry about recurrence and measured drops in quality.
When a player has missed considerable time with an injury, they are prone to a recurrence or strains to areas of the body which were compensating for the imbalance caused by the initial injury. This is especially true where the completion of healing is not defined. For example, a cut to the head is healed quite definitively when the skin cannot be pulled apart; in contrast, are we equally as sure that a muscle strain/pull is completely healed? If a player were to injure their right knee and need to have it immobilized, could they not be placing additional strain on their left knee?
The issue at hand is not just about getting players healthy, but keeping the one currently fit from being injured at all. How many times over the last - say six - years have we seen a player get injured more than once in a season? Many players who have experienced one injury, invariably experience another that same year. Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby, Thomas Vermaelen, Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, and Kieran Gibbs are players who have had seasons with multiple injuries.
I would argue that having one injury in a season makes you more susceptible to having a second. Keeping players like Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny, and Per Mertesacker healthy are key as almost every other starter and bench player has had an injury this season already.
The other worry with squad depth is the drop in quality if a first choice player is injured. In some positions (left back, goalkeeper and attacking midfield) I would suggest that the gap in quality between first choice and second choice player is not very large. I'm suggesting that the drop in quality between Gibbs and Monreal is not bad. But if Giroud were to be injured, knock on wood, we would be relying on Bendtner who is still working on his form and match fitness. And while we all like Jenkinson, but we also agree that he's not at the same level as Bacary Sagna.
I want to echo the sentiments shared by Josh and Morgan. I did not expect us to be doing as well as are with the injuries we have at the moment. Not only are we at the top of the Premier League, but we are also topping the “injury league” with nine players out when the last international break started (Koscielny, Rosicky, Sagna, Walcott, Cazorla, Sanogo, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby).
The form we are in with almost an entire team of first team players out injured is amazing to say the least but it is something that we should not be taking for granted. There is no way to know if this form will be sustainable throughout the long season (we’re not even halfway into it) and it most likely won’t be. Having entire teams of players out at any time during the season is detrimental to the squad as a whole and it would limit the possibility of rotation.
Morgan highlighted the areas in the squad that need to be strengthened in order to be prepared for potential injuries. They include the striker and right back positions where there is a bit of drop in experience and quality. I feel they should be addressed during the next transfer window to remain competitive later in the season.
The views expressed above are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 24 Oct 2013