We only have one more midweek fixture!

Walcott goes off injured

Hopefully we won't see this again this season if he can rest properly between matches

Looking at our fixtures for the rest of the season, I was struck by how favourable they look. Not anything to do with the opposition, but because we now only have one midweek match left (against Spurs on Wednesday April 20th). The fixture congestion Wenger was moaning about after our draw with Orient has suddenly eased considerably.

This would be a plus for most teams, but for Arsenal it’s doubly so as we seem to have the most brittle, injury-prone players in England. We always pick up injuries at this time of the year as the effects of a long, hard season catch up with us and it’s compounded this season by the fact we had lots of players at the World Cup. Fabregas and van Persie went all the way to the final and they especially have had niggling injuries all season long – that’s no coincidence in my opinion. Playing 7 or 8 games a month doesn’t give the body a chance to fully recover, hence Fabregas often tweaking his hammy, so having a week off between matches to rest and recuperate is a huge advantage in the title race.

For most teams it’s important to have your best eleven playing as often as possible. But for Arsenal it’s absolutely crucial because the chasm in class between our first choice players and the ‘reserves’ is huge. Fabregas & Song compared to Diaby & Denilson. Walcott & Nasri compared to Arshavin & Rosicky. van Persie compared to Bendtner/Chamakh. Szczesny compared to Almunia/Fabianski. The back-ups have let us down more often than not this season, performing well below par and being unable to produce the goods when called upon.

So it’s vital our first choice men play as often as possible.

If Man Utd go all the way to the Champions League Final they’ll have an extra five fixtures to play. Most crucially, our league meeting with them will be sandwiched between their semi final ties, whereas we’ll have a free week before and after that crunch match. Imagine if they have to play Barcelona on Tuesday, us on Sunday, then Barca on Wednesday! It’ll be tough for me, but I’ll be rooting for them against Marseille next week.

It must be noted that if we beat Man Utd on Saturday we’ll have one more midweek game to play as the Liverpool game will be rearranged. Also, if we reach the final we’ll have another midweek fixture as our home game with Aston Villa (ridiculously scheduled for FA Cup final day) will have to be rearranged as well.

However, a maximum of three midweek games (and only one if we lose on Saturday) over the final 10 weeks of the season is very manageable – the cloud of losing to Barcelona most definitely has a silver lining.

Fixtures

Saturday, 12 March – Man Utd (a) (FA Cup quarter final)
Saturday, 19 March – West Brom (a)
*Then an international break*
Saturday, 2 April – Blackburn (h)
Sunday, 10 April – Blackpool (a)
Sunday, 17 April – Liverpool (h) or FA Cup Semi-Final
Weds, 20 April – Tottenham (a)
Sunday, 24 April – Bolton (a)
Sunday, 1 May – Man Utd (h)
Saturday, 7 May – Stoke (a)
Saturday, 14 May – Aston Villa (h) or FA Cup Final
Sunday, 22 May – Fulham (a)

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