Top of the league at the start of the year may well turn out to be little comfort for Arsenal as their injury list continues to conspire against them. However, while there is never a good time for an injury of the sort Theo Walcott has suffered, (ruptured anterior cruciate ligament), this could've been much worse. The January transfer window is open, and Arsene Wenger has both the funds and the positioning in competitions to lure players to The Emirates.
With Bendtner also sidelined, anyone purchased is almost guaranteed games, as Champions league and FA Cup duties detract from the league campaign which surely must be Wenger's priority this year. Buy a serious world class striker, and Arsenal's likelihood of success on any front is obviously increased. Giroud has been worth his weight in gold this season, but with Podolski being intermittent, and Bendtner being... well..., Bendtner, Arsene can ill afford to stay static in this much maligned window for purchases.
And yet, there is more to this than just player replacement. For all that Theo Walcott brings to the Arsenal side, I cannot be the only one to notice that, when he plays, the fluidity of the Arsenal team suffers. Watching the Cardiff game from the second tier at the Emirates, it was difficult not to notice that, for all of the possession, there was barely a shot on target. In fact, Arsenal totaled only 6 shots on target, of which 3 came (and 2 were scored with) on or after the 88th minute. Cardiff defended resolutely, but 3 shots, at home, against a team who were managerless and currently occupy a league position one point above the relegation zone, simply isn't good enough.
This happens regularly when Theo plays, but in the games preceding his return to the team, Arsenal were far more penetrative. Walcott brings pace to the side, and 1 on 1 is an excellent finisher, but he doesn't appear capable of playing the swift, one touch football that Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky and Cazorla thrive on, and so subsequently, when playing Walcott, the team structure suffers, and shots on target decrease, as less openings are created. Conversely, with Theo in the team, the shot conversion rate goes up, so it becomes very difficult to leave him out. What results is almost a catch 22 situation where, after a bad result, Arsene Wenger would be damned if he did, and damned if he didn't play him were he fit.
Now that decision has been taken away. With names like Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa being mooted in the press though, were someone of that caliber to arrive, it would be easy to see how he might fit with the early season Arsenal system of swift pass and move, which they should hopefully return to during Walcott's recovery.
I can't help but wonder though, should a move like that come off, will Arsenal then require the services of the England international come the start of next season, especially if Arsenal do go on to break their trophy drought without him?