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Wenger Plans for the Two Weeks that Will Determine Arsenal’s Season

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Arsene Wenger is nothing if not strategic. To those who follow the professor closely, today’s announcement that Nicklas Bendtner is still three weeks away was no surprise. In the next day or two, I would expect an announcement that Cesc Fabregas will need another couple of weeks to fully recover.  Also, if Wenger is going to make a move during the January transfer, it will almost certainly be next week. Wenger is looking at the fixture list and realizes that for Arsenal to compete for the Championship this year, he will need all his horses fit and rested on January 27. Starting that day with Arsenal’s visit to Villa Park, Arsenal will begin the fortnight that will determine their season.

One month from now, Arsenal will be in the middle of a stretch of four games against the top teams in the EPL:

January 27 – Away to Aston Villa

January 31 – Home to Manchester United

February 7 – Away to Chelsea

February 10 – Home to Liverpool

For a team that plays regularly plays deep into the Champions League, Wenger carries a relatively small squad, made smaller by the long-term injuries to Robin van Persie and Gael Clichy and the absence of Alex Song at the African Nations Cup . The Arsenal second XI is far behind the second XI that ManU and Chelsea employ. Part of the reason Wenger always plays a developmental team in the Carling Cup is because he has to – he simply does not have the manpower from his first team to risk in this minor tournament. Over the course of a nine month season, Wenger has to husband his resources very carefully.

Before this late January to early February stretch, Arsenal does not have a game against any team in the top half of the table. Arsenal fans can expect to see a lot of Carlos Vela, Aaron Ramsey, Mikael Silvestre and perhaps even Fran Merida during this run. After the mid February game against Liverpool, Arsenal has five weeks before they play a team that is not battling against relegation, so if any members of the starting XI need to get over a pain or knock, they will have a chance over the following month.

As 2009 ends, Arsenal is in as good a position as they could possibly expected. They are within striking distance of both Chelsea and ManU, who both seem to be stuttering a bit. Chelsea will be losing some very influential players to the African tournament and Manchester United has some critical injuries that have kept them shaky throughout much of the fall. If he can emerge from that run of games against his biggest rivals still in the mix for the championship, Wenger will be positioned to return the big trophy to North London and vindicate the rebuilding strategy that has driven all of his decisions since his invincible season.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. segun Adeosun

    March 15, 2010 at 7:57 am

    As 2009 ends, Arsenal is in as good a position as they could possibly expected. They are within striking distance of both Chelsea and ManU, who both seem to be stuttering a bit. Chelsea will be losing some very influential players to the African tournament and Manchester United has some critical injuries that have kept them shaky throughout much of the fall. If he can emerge from that run of games against his biggest rivals still in the mix for the championship, Wenger will be positioned to return the big trophy to North London and vindicate the rebuilding strategy that has driven all of his decisions since his invincible season.

  2. Gunner JD

    December 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    This is an interesting take on probably the most important phase of the whole season for the Gunners, if I understand you correctly. Even if the likes of Fabregas and Bendtner WERE in fact match fit for fixtures that would take place BEFORE this critical period, you are supposing that the Professor would be disinclined to use them unless absolutely necessary, which is a bit of subtle planning I had not considered (but this is probably the reason Wenger is managing them and not me LOL). The trick then of course, is getting points without them.

    And I seriously hope that there is some spending right away when the transfer market opens. They need some physicality up front and in the midfield – a good strong midfielder who can impose a bit more of a presence while still playing the Gunners brand of football, and someone up front who can sharpen up the attack. An out and out striker, someone with some height and strength (not to mention some durability). It looks to me as though Arsenal are starting to adapt to not having RVP around, but they need to supplement the squad to keep pace with Chelsea and Man United. And they need to continue to get points when our amazing captain is not there to tear defenses apart singlehandedly. It’s one thing to blast the Hull City’s of the world when he isn’t around, but against Chelsea and United they will not be able to get away with that.

    To win the title they HAVE to win those games, plain and simple. There really is no way around it.

    In Arsene we trust.

  3. ovalball

    December 30, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    From what I have seen of Aaron Ramsey the more Arsenal can get him on the field the better. I know he’s young, but he seems ready to step up. More playing time during the span you mention can only help.

    • Gunner JD

      December 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm

      Prophetic words sir. Way to post that right before the Pompey match, where he put the game out of reach with an inspired individual effort to generate the 3rd and decisive goal for the Gunners, pretty much locking up the points. I hope Arsenal fans saw that play, as it seemed vaguely familiar to the exploits of a certain other midfielder we have…

      I said ‘vaguely’ familiar. Not just like him, mind you.

      And he wasn’t the only who had a good game. Portsmouth didn’t play with very much heart I don’t think, but the Gunners control and precision was particularly outstanding I was happy to see. Portsmouth never had the ball.

      • ovalball

        December 30, 2009 at 5:13 pm

        Think I’ll put my crystal ball away after that one. Nowhere to go, but downhill. 😀

  4. Brendan

    December 30, 2009 at 11:18 am

    You NEED to do something about the Jennifer’s Body ad… That thing runs every time my mouse goes near it. It’s EXTREMELY annoying, especially when I have the volume up listening to music.

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