It was a real blow to hear Alexis Sánchez won’t be able to shred the Spuds to pieces this weekend due to a hamstring injury. The Chilean has been our best player this season and leads the scoring charts with eighteen goals in all competitions and the prospect of him messing with the Spuds’ defence this weekend looked mouth-watering. Unfortunately, Arsene Wenger has ruled out any possibility that Alexis would feature on Saturday so we’ll have to beat our fierce rivals without our best player.
But maybe it’s a good thing.
Yes, big players are those who make young people love football and their respective football teams. Yes, big players make the difference and rewrite history books with their brilliance.
However, there are many examples when big players’ absence has not stopped their team-mates from beating their rivals. In the absence of a genius who is some sort of deus ex machine, players turn to each other and rely on the collective performance.
Thierry Henry is the best Arsenal player ever. During his career with the Gunners our biggest rivals were Manchester United and in that period Arsenal won at Old Trafford three times. Do you know how many matches Arsenal won at Old Trafford with Thierry Henry?
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The correct answer is: zero. Yes, we won it (the league) at Old Trafford in May 2002 but Henry didn’t play. He was rested for our FA Cup tie at Old Trafford the following year so he didn’t participate in that victory either. King Henry was injured for the largest part of 2006-07 so he didn’t feature in our 1:0 victory in the league over the eventual champions.
Apart from the bizarre fact that Francis Jeffers had more victories at Old Trafford with Arsenal than Henry, you might have noticed that all three games were won by the team and not by an individual who simply saved the day with a magical goal or two.
Of course, Henry was so good that he was capable of beating Manchester United with a magical goal, that volley in 2000 or two in our 3:1 victory at Highbury 2001, not to mention the winning goal in the injury time at the Emirates in 2007.
So, our players will have to put in another collective performance like at Etihad or last week against Aston Villa to beat Spuds at Shite Fart Lame. Without Alexis who likes to play a high pressing game our team will neither lose balance when defending nor focus our attacks on the Chilean.
And, finally, it’s the game against the Spuds. Beating them without our best player(s) will produce even more joy for us. Remember last season we won the game at SFL without Ramsey, Walcott and Özil thanks to that magical thunderbolt of Tomas Rosicky. Tom The Spud-beater might be the key of our victory again.
And Alexis? Well, he can watch the game from the stands and share the joy with his team-mates afterwards. He’ll torment Spuds in the years to follow!