Ever since Shkodran Mustafi picked up a hamstring injury at the Stoke City game, life has been unbearable for Arsenal fans especially myself.
With back to back defeats at Goodison Park and The Etihad in one week, the perceived likelihood of taking the lead off Chelsea at the summit suddenly turned bleak as a mere 3 point deficit became a 9 point reality.
I must confess it affected my Christmas mood as all I could think about was the game against WBA on the 26th.
Getting 3 points is all that mattered for me to reduce that gap which I must admit also didn’t have the desired effect even after we succeeded in doing that as Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool all kept amassing maximum points during and after that week.
Even more painful was the fact that the 10 points gap between us and Manchester United had become 4 points.
In the midst of these thoughts, I started analyzing what must have caused this lag and make as many excuses as possible when I get to seat at the garden with my friends from rival clubs. The lack of fight in the second half of both games from a team beaming with confidence and leading at halftime was just beyond me logically.
It was during one of this sessions that it hit me for the first time.
Mustafi’s influence in defence and attack was irreplaceable. To be fair to Gabriel Paulista, he didn’t really put out a wrong foot in his defensive duties but that spatial awareness and drive that Mustafi brings simply left Paulista in the dust when their influence on a game is considered.
With accurate long range passes from the back, timely interceptions and ruffling off opposition strikers like against Diego Costa in the Chelsea game, my joy at his return to training this week couldn’t be more.
Losing Walcott to injury is painful considering how proficient he’s been in front of goal this season but the knowledge that players like Lucas Perez are waiting to impress anywhere across the front line brings me a lot of consolation.
It is about that time for him to enjoy a starting berth in this Arsenal side if the spirit of competition is to be upheld by The Boss. His eye for goal, uncanny resilience for loose balls in the final quarter of the pitch and his pinpoint cutbacks should be enough to argue his cause.
BFG a.k.a Per Mertesacker has also tickled my fancy with his strong leadership views on the Everton and Man City away games. I guess the leadership issues that have been milked by naysayers and pundits alike has been addressed to some extent.
I sincerely believe that with a little bit of luck Arsenal’s way in the form of bad patches for rivals, this group is capable of big things such as the Premier league crown and perhaps the Champions league title too. Hence as an Arsenal fan, I request my fellow Gooners to just ‘believe’.
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