There is no doubt that the first half sending off of ex-Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor had a massive influence on Saturday’s north London derby. The balance undeniably tipped Arsenal’s way when the Togolese striker lunged in rashly on Santi Cazorla. Arsenal’s eventual 5-2 win against Tottenham however provided an excellent example of what Arsene Wenger’s side is capable of when key men are fit and available for selection.
Arsenal’s pocket maestro, Jack Wilshere, is now well and truly back in the first team picture. Wilshere has been plagued by injury over the past 18 months – a period which saw him miss out on Euro 2012 with England, as well as an entire campaign with his club.
The victory over Spurs was Wilshere’s fourth match back in Arsenal’s colours and he has already shown the spark and bite which Arsenal’s central midfield has missed in his absence. Though Wenger will be wary of exposing Wilshere to too much too soon, he will be fully aware that an Arsenal team with Jack Wilshere is a more daunting beast than one without.
The second player who has returned with much aplomb in recent weeks is Bacary Sagna. The French full-back broke his leg in the home fixture against Tottenham last season and, having also missed out on Euro 2012, only recovered last month.
Carl Jenkinson covered for the missing Sagna admirably in the opening months of the season. His steady performances even earned him international recognition as he made his England debut against Sweden in midweek.
Sagna however is a much more accomplished right back. Not only is he reliable defensively, but Sagna’s explosive attacking potential gives the Gunners an extra threat going forward. Since his comeback, he has linked brilliantly with Theo Walcott down the right hand side, and the duo gave Spurs’ Kyle Naughton a dreadful afternoon at the weekend.
Arsene Wenger will also have been boosted by seeming to have a marginally wider array of goalkeepers to choose from. Wojciech Szczesny eased Arsenal’s crisis between the sticks by returning to action against Tottenham.
Wenger has had no choice but to play the inexperienced Vito Mannone in recent weeks and the Italian has been far from comfortable. In addition, Arsenal’s defence, lauded at the beginning of the season, has looked much flimsier recently – a fact which may well be down to a backline which has less understanding with the fringe goalkeeper. Szczesny’s re-emergence will have a calming influence on the likes of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
Despite suffering injuries to key players for the early part of the season, Arsenal still find themselves in a relatively decent league position after almost a third of the campaign. With Kieran Gibbs still yet to return too, the best of the Gunners could be yet to come.
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