It is no longer news that the 2009/2010 English Premiership fixtures have been released. The main danger that lies ahead for Arsenal is not in the opening fixtures (which include playing Manchester United as early as the 29th August) but later in the month of January.
It is Arsenal’s performance during the early months of the new year which will may make or mar the rest of the season for us Gunners.
This might be repeated again and will not necessarily be due to the heavy and difficult schedule that lies ahead:
Arsenal play Everton home (Jan 9), Bolton away (Jan 16), Aston Villa away (Jan 27) and Manchester United home (Jan 30) during January but also face Chelsea away (Feb 6) and Liverpool home (Feb 9) within the eleven days after that.
No, it is the “agony” of the real possibility that during January Arsenal may be missing four players for the Angola 2010 African Nations Cup which runs from 10th to 31st January 2010.
These are Song, Toure, Adebayor and Eboue. There is the possibility of course that the last three (and Senderos) might not be Arsenal players by then…
Nevertheless if we are to believe Arsene Wenger that no players will be allowed to leave this season then we have to consider the effects the Africa Cup of Nations might have on Arsenal’s thin squad.
In that period we will be left with four central-defenders, Vermaelen, Gallas, Djourou and Silvestre. And if the African players are too tired or injured by the time they return we will also have to face the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea (in early February) without them too.
Any injury or suspension to the first two of the remaining players will force Wenger to field what are really second and third choice defenders. And we saw what happened against these teams when Silvestre for example had to fill in.
The question is: "Has Arsene planned for this?"
And there’s more. While the duo of Toure & Song are being missed in central defence, Emmanuel Adebayor could also, for the same reason, be missing from the attack.
Presently, Eduardo is injured and we cannot really rely on Bendtner & Vela for those crunchy ties. That will leave us with only Robin Van Persie available…. if he is not injured at the time.
But Arsene knows, right?