Fate is not without a certain sense of irony and, if the last month is anything to go by, neither is professional football.

At a time when Arsenal’s defensive struggles reached their zenith in December, the footballing gods intervened to steal away Rob Holding, the lynchpin of a back line that was wobbling its way from one game to the next.

Our defending duly lurched from frantic to desperate and on to comical before reaching a crescendo with humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

The West Ham game saw something of an improvement in our efforts, albeit in a game in which we were largely woeful, before, with the arrival of Chelsea, the tiniest pin prick of light emerged that resembled something like defensive solidity.

Cue the arrival of the footballing gods once more to strike down Hector Bellerin with a ligament rupture which, like Holding, will rule the Spaniard out for the remainder of the season and, potentially, into the start of next season too.

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Hector Bellerin begins his rehabilitation from a ligament injury.

If this turn of events was a book, you would have binned it after the first chapter. If it was a film, you’d have switched over to Eastenders and gone to put the kettle on by now. It’s so comically bad it’s untrue. Except, it isn’t.

Admittedly, since the arrival of Shad Forsyth, Darren Burgess, and a host of other back room medical and fitness staff, the club’s record in the injury department has improved. We dispensed with the annual run of serious injuries at key times in our season that became a feature of the early years at the Emirates Stadium under Arsene Wenger.

But that run of good work and good fortune has come to an end in a big way this year, as if the collective goodwill the club accrued over the seasons has been fired back at us in a maelstrom of turd-scented ligament ruptures.

Along with Holding and Bellerin, we also lost Danny Welbeck to a serious ankle injury earlier in the campaign, were without Laurent Koscielny for the first three months of the season and Henrikh Mhikitaryan cracked a metatarsal not long ago (the Armenian is due back in training this week).

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A brace supporting Hector Bellerin’s knee.

 

Unai Emery has had a lot to cope with and not a great deal at his disposal with which to offset the damage.

Our squad depth has meant that, at least in terms of numbers, we’ve had enough to fill the vacant positions but I don’t think anybody would say the quality to replace those we’ve lost has been there.

Bellerin’s injury will rule him out for the next six-to-nine months so the manager is going to have to continuing working on ways to squeeze more from less.

Set against the club’s oft-stated refusal to spend money on the squad this month, you begin to see just how tough it’s going to be to make the top four this year.

It’s far from ideal. In fact, it’s so far from ideal it’s positively shit, but it’s where we find ourselves and Emery must now draw on his nous as a coach and as a tactician to keep hold of that precious momentum built up in victory over Chelsea.

He must take the negatives and frame them as opportunities and defining moments for others.

The door is ajar for the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Carl Jenkinson, while others may find themselves an inch closer to the first team – Jordi Osei-Tutu, Julio Pleguezuelo, Zech Medley, Emile Smith Rowe, and Eddie Nketiah.

Injuries a miserable for some but they are a catalyst for others and, if Emery can coax out in some of our fringe players the sort of improvement which saw him make his name in football, we might just sustain our challenge into that mystical month known as April.

But it is going to take every bit of experience and know-how the manager possesses, however, because we are one or two more injuries away from having a deal of trouble on ours hands, particularly if Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should banjo a tendon or two while riding their tandem bicycle of friendship.

For now, all we can do is wrap the squad in foam, store them in a padded cupboard, and hope irony makes its way back up the Seven Sisters Road to Tottenham.

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Written by blogonyougunners

Journalist, blogger, and long suffering Arsenal fan, bound for all time to share the pain and misery, and occasional pin-prick of joy, that comes with following North London's finest exports.

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