By Avenell Dave
Looking at the bench for last Wednesday’s Champions League game against Barcelona and then seeing how they performed against Orient, the big concern for me is how much strength in depth we really have.
Our first XI is a match for anyone, that is for sure, but below that, do we have the consistency or prowess to win games?
It was there for everyone to see last night how much of an impact losing Cesc Fabregas had on the team.
Yes, you can argue that we should be mentally strong enough to step up and that in Denilson, Abou Diaby (when fit), Kieran Gibbs, Maroune Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, we have enough talent to cope.
But it doesn’t work out like that, does it?
Whether it is that the players aren’t good enough or simply lacking the sharpness required at the top level, we don’t have like for like players – only Andrey Arshavin has come in and looked good in recent weeks.
The price of being as successful as we have been this season is that the games come thick and fast – and you only have to look back to how we collapsed in 1980 to see how easily success can turn to failure.
Stoke were clumsy last night and some of their tackles were lazily reckless, but while they are certainly the most primitive of teams to face us in recent months, they’re certainly not the dirtiest, whatever some fans would like to think.
Injuries are part and parcel of football and while I’m gutted for Cesc that he is likely to miss the final, we need him against Barcelona and to rush him back would be folly.
What concerns me is how we cope with a Birmingham side who will fancy their chances against us – particularly in the air – at Wembley on Sunday.
Cesc’s departure highlighted the fact that however good he is, Samir Nasri does not carve out the chances that Cesc does, and while Jack Wilshere was also brilliant last night, he too creates far less than our captain.
Wenger has a job to do in the summer ensuring not only that we retain our current first team, but that some of the fringe players are replaced with more reliable and talented individuals, particularly when we have players like Henri Lansbury in our ranks who is starring at Norwich this season.
Whether Cesc, Laurent Koscielny or RvP make it or not on Sunday, there is still a huge amount to play for this season and their long term fitness is more important than one game, even if it is a cup final.
The substitutes have to step up and show what they’re worth – and help us lift silverware as well as prove that they deserve a future at The Arsenal.