Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Sunday's likely team against Manchester United is very likely to be worse than the team that lost 8-2, as both Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen will not recover from calf injuries in time. Tomas Rosicky and Ignasi Miquel will start in their place, with the latter making only his second Premier League start. Against Nani.
At this point, it's hard not be extremely frustrated with Arsene Wenger. One problem that this team has been the lack of fullbacks; Bacary Sagna is the first to return in two weeks time, as will Kieran Gibbs, but the latter is extremely injury prone. Arsenal have perhaps been unlucky in that Gibbs, Andre Santos, Vermaelen and then Francis Coquelin got injured, but it is now January 19, and there is no excuse for not having gotten a left back. A perfectly fine left back, Taye Taiwo went to QPR on loan today, someone that Arsenal were apparently interested in. Ignasi Miquel was fine against Nathan Dyer, but still had positional issues. He also has a lack of pace, which is problematic for a fullback. Oh, and he'll be up against Nani, one of the best players in the Premier League. Ignasi Miquel should not be playing on Sunday. Arsenal should've signed a player on loan. If that player had then gotten injured, well, alright, but Miquel is Arsenal's 5th choice left-back. It seems ludicrous that Wenger wouldn't sign someone with Andre Santos out until April, especially with the likelihood that Kieran Gibbs gets injured again, and the need for Thomas Vermaelen to play centre back, not left back.
Mikel Arteta is someone that Arsenal's midfield relies on to maintain the shape and balance of the side; he seems to be the only Arsenal midfielder that can control the tempo of the game, and hold the team together. Arteta though, is 29, and hasn't made over 35 appearances in all competitions since 2007-08; the other player that could theoretically replace him is Jack Wilshere, but he too is out, and, long term, seems more of an attacking player. Abou Diaby is perma crocked, Rosicky is more of a playmaker, so Arsenal really don't have a replacement for Arteta. Without him, though, it seems that Arsenal will lose the midfield on Sunday.
Arsenal face a real test for 4th place this season. Tottenham are already 10 points clear, and could be 13 by the end of play on Sunday. Chelsea are 4 points clear, with the possibility of being 7, as they have a winnable game away at Norwich. Without making signings and improving the squad, Arsenal will likely not finish 4th this year. Whatever one's own personal opinion about playing in the Champions League is, finishing in those places in vital for keeping players like Robin van Persie and attracting quality players to the club. Arsenal, though, are weak in midfield, and without Arteta, look just as lost as the side that shipped in 8 goals against United. Whether Wenger swallows his pride, and stubborness, and makes signings, or if it takes a home thrashing, remains to be seen. But something must be done, and waiting for Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs will cost Arsenal points now when they can no longer afford to drop any.
I accept that signing players isn't always the answer. But in this case, the internal options are not good enough. Arsenal will be playing at least 3 players out of position, and one player who has been out of form for 18 months. They've already lost to Swansea and Fulham doing the same thing; now it's Manchester United.
Lineup against Manchester United, August 28, 2011:
Szczesny; Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny, Traore; Coquelin (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Ramsey, Rosicky; Walcott (Lansbury), van Persie (Chamakh) Arshavin
Likely Lineup against Manchester United, January 22, 2012
Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel; Song, Ramsey, Rosicky; Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin
Subs: Almunia, Yennaris, Squillaci, Benayoun, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park, Ryo/Henry (possibly injured)