Life without Robin van Persie. It is a worst-case scenario that haunts Arsenal fans, whether due to the ever-present spectre of possible injury or the long-term instability generated by his as yet unresolved contract issues.
In a team stripped of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, the Dutchman is arguably the one remaining world-class talent and has proven as much during this prolific season, culminating in a triumphant hat-trick against Chelsea last weekend.
The trouble is, Arsenal don't have anything like an adequate replacement for their star player at present. Look at Chelsea's options: Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge, Romelu Lukaku. Look at Manchester United's: Wayne Rooney, Chicharito, Danny Welbeck, Dimitar Berbatov and, er, Michael Owen. Look at Manchester City's: Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, some guy called Carlos Tevez.
Yes, Early Doors knows Arsenal aren't up amongst these giants and unlikely top-four botherers Newcastle at present, but that is surely where they aspire to be. Though Van Persie has been banging in the goals with a regularity that would make Emile Heskey swoon, Tuesday night's match against Marseille proved the club do not possess a viable back-up for top-level matches at present.
And as Arsene Wenger himself admitted at Emirates Stadium following a rather disappointing 0-0 draw, Van Persie cannot play every game this season.
"He was tired, this was fatigue, that's why I did that," he said of his decision to rest Van Persie in his press conference, while ED sat in the corner stifling a giggle at the image of Gervinho as an Angry Birds pig that simultaneously popped up on its laptop via Twitter.
"You know we are playing 50 games in a year, he cannot play 50 games. He had a great chance when he came on - he tried to chip the keeper. Overall I believe you cannot just say one player makes the difference."
Wenger also chose to rest Van Persie for the home game against Stoke, when Marouane Chamakh auditioned for the role of leading man, or at least first stand-in, only to be as successful as ED imagines former Hollyoaks stalwart OB would be if he were angling to steal the role of Don Draper from Mad Men's Jon Hamm.
Chamakh instead chose to reprise his role as the invisible man against Tony Pulis's team of giants, with Van Persie being summoned from the bench to win the game, meaning last night the part went instead to Park Ju-Young. This was a big night for the South Korean, who in a quirk of fate must leave Arsenal after two seasons in order to complete national service.
Certainly his international service has been excellent of late, with six goals in four games for South Korea since signing for Arsenal, and Gunners fans had been largely restricted to viewing YouTube clips of his international endeavours, a mixed run-out against Shrewsbury aside, until a very impressive performance in the Carling Cup win over Bolton finally gave him some proper exposure and pushed him ahead of Chamakh in the pecking order.
On that occasion he operated expertly as the lone striker - scoring his first goal for the club - and adopted a similar role against Marseille. However, Park, signed from Monaco in the summer, was unable to impose himself on Ligue 1 opposition on Tuesday before being replaced by Van Persie after just an hour.
It was a disappointing display in truth, his most eye-catching contribution being a heavy touch in the penalty area when receiving a square pass from Theo Walcott that prevented him from testing Steve Mandanda. Wenger admitted that Champions League football had come too soon for the forward.
"He has done very well last week; tonight you could see that he lacks a bit the pace of the game," Wenger said. "He has not played enough games."
As Park readied himself for the hook, the sight of Van Persie jogging with intent back towards the bench brought Arsenal fans to their feet and the roar that greeted his arrival on the pitch dwarfed anything heard from the home supporters all night.
Van Persie has assumed the importance of Liam Brady, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry rolled into one at present, with a bit of Tony Adams thrown in, but the Dutchman could not produce the winner that his arrival seemingly heralded. What was a wonderfully open game in the first half petered out somewhat.
Marseille boss Didier Deschamps was unsurprised at Wenger's decision to leave Van Persie on the bench, even if it basically denied Arsenal the chance to secure first place in the group with a victory. Instead, at the end of the match, they looked very capable of losing for only the second time in 36 home Champions League fixtures.
Deschamps told the assembled press: "You know he is playing game in, game out but it is Arsene's decision. He already did it before going to Chelsea, he only came in with 30 minutes to go [against Stoke] and scored two goals. He is a very talented player. I am not going to ask Arsene to talk about my decisions, so I am not going to talk about his."
But do we need to talk about Arsene's decision to provide Van Persie with the weakest of supporting casts?
Park may yet improve as he adjusts to the English game - just witness the difference in quality between Edin Dzeko's performances this season and last - but if required immediately, for whatever reason, he does not look ready. Chamakh meanwhile appears a lost cause.
Arsenal fans hope it will not come to the point where they need to replace Van Persie on even a short-term basis, but if it does, they may be found wanting.
Has it got to the stage where we have to say 'come back Nicklas Bendtner, all is forgiven'?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Everything depends on Carlos. If he apologises to the squad and to me then everything will be as before. If he doesn't, then Tevez has a value that everyone knows and something will happen in January. He is totally unprepared and being badly advised," Mancini said. "I don't want it to be like this and I would be the first to forgive him." - Is Roberto Mancini really extending an olive branch to Carlos Tevez, or just making an extra claim on the moral high-ground when it is clear the striker has played his last game for the club?
FOREIGN VIEW: No Barcelona match seems complete nowadays without a record of some sort being broken, and last night was no exception. Lionel Messi scored his 200th goal for the club when he struck from the penalty spot in the 24th minute of the Champions League Group H match at Viktoria Plzen. Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes also wrote his name in the record books when he set a new club best for minutes unbeaten. He has not conceded a goal in 825 minutes, beating a mark held by Miguel Reina, father of Liverpool keeper Pepe, since the 1972-73 season.
Before that, Jim White and Andy Mitten will be filing their latest blogs, while we put Tottenham's Kyle Walker under the microscope with our video analysis.