Injuries have destroyed us in the past, with many a campaign ruined after key players were ruled out for large parts of the season. We have suffered our usual glut of injuries once again, but they arguably haven’t hit us as hard as they usually do.
We obviously suffered slightly at the start of the season, with a number of players out injured, and plenty more feeling the effects of a World Cup held on the other side of the world.
There were far too many draws in our first few fixtures, and looking back now it’s easy to say that had we got a little more out of some of those games we would be right in the title hunt. The entire team (bar Alexis Sanchez) were underperforming in the early stages however, and having a player or two back from injury would have been unlikely to change that.
Our form has drastically improved in the new year though, and not only is the entire team playing as a unit, but several players are enjoying some of the best football of their careers.
There are a few names that have particularly stood out from the crowd recently, with Olivier Giroud, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, and Francis Coquelin all playing huge roles in our 2015 success.
It may be no coincidence that these four players have all enjoyed lengthy rests this season, with three of them spending time sidelined with injury, and Coquelin not really featuring regularly until post-Christmas.
Sanchez was our top performer in the first half of the season, and we relied heavily on his excellent form to keep us competitive. He has looked burnt out at times however, while those who spent time watching from the stands have looked rested and rejuvenated.
If you look back at recent seasons, you can clearly see the burden placed on Olivier Giroud. We were overly reliant on him, and after playing close to every fixture in a season he was understandably struggling. With the Frenchman out for months with a broken foot though, he has returned to action a new man, and has been in exceptional goalscoring form.
It’s impossible to predict how we would have done without our numerous injuries this season, and for all we know players like Giroud and Özil would have kept up their fine form and carried us to the title with games to spare.
It certainly looks like the rest has done the players some good though, and our upturn in form couldn’t have come at a better time. We remain in contention for the Premier League – no matter how slim our chances may be – and you could argue that the FA Cup is ours to lose. Our shock two-leg loss against AS Monaco has been the only major blip, but hopefully we can make up for it with some silverware come the end of the season.
Providing you can keep yourself in the race throughout the first half of the season, it can serve you will to find your best form in the latter stages. When other teams are fielding tired legs, you can take advantage. And with our boys running on full tanks of gas, that’s exactly what we are doing at the moment.
Ideally we would like to be firing on all cylinders throughout the season, battling our way to the top of the table and staying there. As we have seen in the past – both with Arsenal and with the teams around us – it’s difficult to keep performing at such a high level.
Chelsea have been struggling recently, and you only have to look at the second half of the season form of Cesc Fabregas to see why. They are suffering their fatigue and injuries at the tail end of the campaign as opposed to at the beginning, which is looking likely to result in a tense finish to the Premier League season.
To say our injuries have helped is is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the rest they have afforded the likes of Giroud and Özil look to be facilitating a successful end to the campaign.