So the answer to my question ‘Can we keep those three fit until the end of the season’ (see below) was a rather simple ‘no’.
Poor old Cesc and his recurring hamstrung hamstring. The timing couldn’t have been worse but what can you do? If he hadn’t played we mightn’t today be just a point off the top and had the ‘string not gone last night then it might have gone after 20 minutes on Sunday. As Wenger said, it’s nobody’s fault and the best thing for it is an insouciant gallic shrug, a shot of Pastis and some rest.
According to the Opta stats flashing across my Sky Sports News screen (in between rather graphic images of Gerry Francis’s timewarp mullet), we have earned 2.25 points per game with him and 1.57 without, a 70% win rate against a 43% win rate, but I could get tangled up stressing about stats till the cows come home.
Last season, yes: we missed his absences badly. But Nasri’s form and Wilshere’s explosion onto the scene give us extra options this year. Arshavin has screwed his head back on, Ramsey is coming back and we do – lest we forget – also have the mercurial Abou Diaby to call upon (at least for a game, until The Next Injury).
What Cesc does give us is a burning will to win, the kind of which not all footballers possess, and he plays with that drive all the time. We will miss that. Who wouldn’t?
Above all though, you have to feel sorry for him and for Theo. Missing a final is an occupational hazard for a footballer but it must be bitterly frustrating all the same.
Anyway, there’ll be more thoughts and tweets on the cup final in the days to come. I’ll be dusting down my Kenny Sansom 1987 flat cap (traditional cup final attire) and loading the phone with a mandatory @feverpitch cup final mixtape. Lazy swine hasn’t done a new one for this final, but if I mention it enough, you never know…
Roll on Sunday…