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Crucial Loss of a Cruciate

By Santosh Benjamin :  23/02/2009 :  Comments (9) :
I wondered whether to write this soon after the game when my sorrow of losing Arteta was still fresh or to wait until I heard the extent of his injury. As evident, I opted for the second so that I could compose myself. I heard today that it is his cruciate ligament that's torn and he will miss the rest of the season and in all likelihood the early part of the next season too.

As my wife and I sat down to watch the game at Newcastle, I felt a strange confidence that we could win despite having a further depleted squad. With Cahill and Hibbert missing, Jo and Yobo returned to the starting line-up. That meant that Jags moved to right back. That somehow didn't bode well for me as I felt that Jacobsen/Neville/Gosling coulda done a better job there. Newcastle had Martins, Smith and Viduka on the bench and their recent arrival, Lovenkrands, started upfront with the useless Amoeba (actually an insult to the amoeba as that organism can at least do something usefull!).

The game had just started when Gosling got the ball, dribbled past a few defenders and unleashed a decent shot that went just wide of the right post. The signs looked good for us, I was thinking. I couldn't have been further from the truth as Arteta went down in our own half after having made a challenge. The obvious serious damage was evident from the tremendous pain that was on his face.

As we all waited with bated breath, he was stretchered off, still writhing in pain. Castillo came on for him and the game went on. The shock seemed to slow us down as we were very tentative on the ball. Thankfully, Newcastle weren't looking too threatening themselves. We then got a corner that Baines took, Yobo nipping in at the near post with a glancing header that Steve Harper got fingertips to. The second ball fell to Bassong who cleared off the line.

Baines was then involved on the left when his cross found Jags free at the back post but Jags failed to control his volley and struck it wide. Then Newcastle had a great chance of their own when Lovenkrands was played in one on one with Howard and, as I expected the ball to be in the back of the net, he placed it just wide of the post.

Both Steven and Ryan Taylor seemed intent on fouling us to kingdom come as they spent their time on the right hand side doing just that. Ryan Taylor had a couple of free kicks after that ? one went over the bar and the other was unfairly tapped into the goal by Amoeba who had fouled Howard in the process.

As half-time approached, Anichebe lost possession of the ball but tracked back and regained possession. As he drove forwards, Nolan made a tackle on him and Vic went down in a crumpled heap. Crikey, I was thinking, were knee injuries contagious? The ref called Nolan towards him and as his hand came out of his pocket, I saw that it was a red. Nolan looked shocked as he trudged off. (So did I to be honest... initially.)

I then saw the replay and the food in my stomach threatened to come right back up. The more I saw the tackle, the more I was convinced we had a broken leg on our hands. (Is that too many body parts for one sentence?) As Vic hobbled off and then slowly came back on, I was temporarily reassured. I then saw Fellaini coming on and knew that we had possibly lost another player in Vic.

Half-time seemed too long for me as I waited for the lads to come back and give the Toon a real run around. I heard from the commentators that Nolan had waited in the tunnel and apologised to Vic and they had hugged. I appreciated the effort but those kinds of tackles can end careers ? thankfully Vic got away.

We started the second half brightly enough and Newcastle made a change with Jonas Gutierrez coming on for Duff. After a good initial spell, we looked lethargic for the rest of the half. Saha came on for Gosling but made hardly any difference, bar a shot on goal. Jo went missing for large parts of the game but I can't blame him coz the service to him was non-existent. Newcastle threw on Martins and then Smith but they too looked unlikely to score.

I was hoping against hope that we could sneak a goal in from somewhere but that goal just never materialized. Fellaini looked slow but managed somehow to get himself in the ref's book (for a rather innocuous challenge if you ask me!).

As the match drew to a stalemate, my thoughts returned to Arteta as he had apparently been sent back to Liverpool for a scan. We could have closed the gap on Arsenal and Villa but lost that chance as Mikel went off.

Player performances:

  • Howard: Wasn't call on to do much today.
  • Jagielka: Looked out of place on the right. Poor crosses and hardly any overlapping play. Needs to get back into the centre of defence where he belongs.
  • Lescott: Was pretty good bar a mistake in the second half.
  • Yobo: Commanding headers but felt like he had stolen Jags' place.
  • Baines: Did well with what he was dealt. Growing in confidence.
  • Neville: Did pretty well given the circumstances.
  • Rodwell: Looked composed when passing the ball but needs to remember he isnt Paul Scholes when he lets loose from 30 yards out!
  • Gosling: Looked a bit tired in the second half but would have left him on to be honest.
  • Anichebe: Wasn't as good as last week but tried his best... till he got his leg mistaken for a tree by Kevin Nolan's axe. May not play for a while.
  • Jo: Was apparent that he needs service and possibly Cahill alongside him to excel.
  • Arteta: With a torn cruciate ligament, he will be out for a fair amount of time. The wishes of all of us are with him and those close to him as they help him through this tough time.
  • Castillo: Poor distribution. Solid player but no creative spark at all.
  • Saha: Looked slow.
  • Fellaini: Looked a bit short of pace and energy.
I'm not sure how a manager with a threadbare squad copes with the loss of his best player. Who will fill that role. A lot of questions remain ? Fellaini? Castillo? Rodwell? Osman? Pienaar? I'm not sure what the answer is but I hope we can train and work something out by next weekend and perfect it against West Brom so that we are ready for the FA Cup QF against Boro/West Ham the week after.

We have always played best when our backs are against the wall, but it's never been against a wall so terrible crumbly! I hope that the crowd sings/chants for Mikel at the West Brom game to show him how much we miss him. Let's keep winning for Magic, Magnificent Artful Mikel Arteta... COYB

Reader Comments

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Steve Connor
1   Posted 23/02/2009 at 16:28:14

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Given the thoroughly depressing news about Arteta and the fact that we are all a little bit low, hopefully this will cheer you up.

Click on the link or copy and paste to see the funniest goal ever scored in a merseyside derby from last weeks 'mini derby'....pure quality!

Chris Brigden
2   Posted 24/02/2009 at 18:52:33

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Artetas injury leaves a two-horse race for our player of the season.
The two Phil’s - Jags & Neville;
with Neville just edging it IMO.
Blair Johnson
3   Posted 24/02/2009 at 20:25:25

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I don’t think the loss of Arteta is going to send us plummeting down the table. Our first XI could be Howard, Hibbert, Jags, Lescott, Baines, Osman, Neville, Fellaini, Pienaar, Cahill and Jo ... with Nash, Jacobsen, Yobo, Rodwell, Gosling, Van der Meyde and Saha on the bench this still looks pretty sound. We have some fairly low stress opponents in the next few games ... Osman, Fellaini and Pienaar need to step up their creativity to replace the guile of Arteta ... we’ll be OK... COYB!!
Ian Tunny
4   Posted 24/02/2009 at 22:49:04

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Moyes will just have to pull another gem out the bag from somewhere, but I never thought we would find anyone half as good as Gravesen. In Moyes I trust!
Alan Kirwin
5   Posted 24/02/2009 at 23:25:21

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It was a strange game on Sunday. They were so there for the taking, but we just ended up so disjointed & disorganised that we couldn’t do it. Just 1-0 would have at least kept our momentum going towards Villa & Arsenal.

Agree with the analysis regarding Newcastle’s industrial approach. The Taylors in particular seemed to think it was the 1930’s.

Losing Mikel is a shocker, but I hope & think we can maintain our form. On the basis that we have an excellent defence, and now have some options in attack with Jo, Anichebe & Saha, it is basically down to how we optimise our midfield.

It’s not that bad to think we can choose from:

Neville, Pienaar, Fellaini, Cahill, Rodwell, Gosling, Van der Meyde, Castillo. We also have options to use Baines on the left.

As I said on the other thread, when we play so called "lesser" teams I would opt for 3-man defence (Jags, Jobo, Jolean) and make up for the loss of midfield quality with a 5th body.

My big concern is Fellaini. The kid is clearly suffering from this back/rib injuiry and not moving freely. He has the presence to stamp on games, but last thing we want to do is risk the kid’s long term health.

So, we lose Mikel. But we are getting back a number of other players at a crucial time - Fellaini, Saha, Pienaar, Osman. Time for everyone to step up to the plate and give it everything. If we fans do the same then everything is still possible.

I actually can’t wait for next week’s game. A good win will help everyone to settle down again and set us back on course. Shit happens, time to get back to work and do it for Arteta.

I can just hear the first drum riff of Z-Cars. The smiles are returning...
Andrew David James
6   Posted 24/02/2009 at 23:46:32

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Santosh - excellent article yet again.

Seeing the tackle from one angle (the one on the telly in live action) it doesn’t look that bad but close ups and subsequent photos show how badly wrong Nolan got it.

I recall thinking in August, November and January "we’ll be okay as long as we avoid injuries to key players". This season has probably been a nightmare for Moyesy as he might’ve crossed his fingers when we didn’t spend much last season. Sadly it’s all come back to bite us. But the long term view with Fellaini could well pay dividends. Many fans have come on here unhappy with him but the pundits all like the look of him...
Kurt Knight
7   Posted 25/02/2009 at 01:40:33

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The guys will rise up again, it?s been a great season. Two months ago, everyone wanted the Spainard dumped because he could not place set pieces ? the results since prove the guy leaves his model girlfriend alone and follows the ToffeeWeb posting like religion.

Send Nolan to the US, there is a place called Alabama where the lads are happy to teach him some manners.
Nick Lewis
8   Posted 25/02/2009 at 17:59:08

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I’ve been trying to find a silver lining ever since Sunday. And by God I think I’ve done it. If Mikel Arteta had continued in the vein of form he’s been in these last few months until the end of the season, a very rich club would have offered us Blue Bill crazy money for him, and we’d have lost him for good, not six months. Accentuate the positive my blue brethren, as Count Basie would probably have said.
kevy quinn
9   Posted 25/02/2009 at 18:43:38

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Ian, Tommy Gravesen was the most inconsistant twat ever to pull on the royal blue jersey! Cant stand the fella hes an ignorant twat who wudnt sign an autograph for me years ago then i met him again last summer when he came to Belfast to play for Celtic against a local team here again he didnt sign anythig for the kids. Sorry rant over lol as for OURteta never watched an everton match like that before for 87 minutes i was completely depressed /gutted you knew it was bad news. Get well soon Mikel and hopefully when you get back we have european football for you.

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