Is the squad too thin
Is it really that hard to rotate sensibly?
I know I bang on about using the kids more often, but quite frankly, I think that time has past. We have a core of players that are going to have to carry us until January at least. And even with any signings, most will get their introductions in the first couple of rounds of the FA Cup. Even the best players are going to need an adjustment period. So, for at least two months we are likely to be using a pick from 15 or 16 players. That is providing those who do come back from injury don’t suffer any relapses?
The key period is this coming month, while there are still mid-week games to be played. So here is a player-by-player guide of how to navigate our way through this difficult fixture list.
Goalkeeper – Szczesny. No need to rotate except in the Cup matches, or for injury.
CB – Mertersacker. Again, a seasoned professional who will happily keep going through all the serious stuff, barring injury.
CB – Koscielny. Solid player, but if fatigue is creeping in, he needs a break. The next two games could be ideal for such a break?
CB – Vermaelen. Needs playing time, alongside Mertersacker preferably. Play him the next two games and he will be nice and sharp for the four games that follow, in case of injury or suspension.
LB – Gibbs. Just had a bout of ‘flu, no need to rush him back. Let him sit out the next game, and do a half game the next one. Then play according to who lines up ahead on the left – see earlier comments.
LB – Monreal. Excellent game last time. Keep him in to prove he can do it against a side that provides a sterner test, which I am sure he will. I would also be tempted to play him in the away leg at Napoli, keeping Gibbs fresh for the league games that follow.
RB – Sagna. Difficult one. Needs to play unless he has a fitness issue. Perhaps taking an early breather in games we have under control?
RB – Jenkinson. Just at the moment he is a bit of a gamble to play from the start, as he has a tendency to get forwards, and get caught out, partly because opposition in the league have realised he is easy to gang up on and get a turnover. Self perpetuating, not playing, not getting into games in good form. Needs a solid back up ahead of him in any game he starts, but maybe use him ahead of Sagna for the last 25 minutes?
MF – Arteta. No problem. Can play when needed.
MF – Flamini. No problem if he keeps out of the card game?
MF – Ramsey. Should need a break, but physically shows no sign of slowing down … until he gets a thigh or groin problem. Best solution is to do some first hour, last 20 minutes, rotation. The next six games look too important to miss out unless he has a physical problem. However, the odd game, perhaps against Hull, could refresh him against mental fatigue?
MF – Wilshere. Looked in the last game to have relaxed a little, and let his talent do the talking. Ideal timing to come into form before these crucial matches. Also, ideal player to alternate with the above for mini breaks of not playing the full 90 minutes every time? Not forgetting the ankle tapping that will go on, without, it seems, much support from referees?
That is the defensive side stretched to the limit, but with luck they may just see it through?
Bench support could come from Yennaris and Hayden, but neither are getting any first team game time. One or the other should be on the bench, just in case?
MF – Rosicky. Needs to pick his games where he is absolutely needed, or to be the ‘go to’ sub in every game when tired legs and minds are flagging?
MF – Cazorla. Could play most games, but I would prefer he sits some out to be the Ozil back up, and not start when the above does, unless there is an injury crisis.
MF – Walcott. Could be about to be the most important player in this whole midfield set up … if he stays fit. Certainly start him against Cardiff, possibly bench against Hull as they are likely to be a PTB side that will not give him space to work in until late on? Therefore keep for the big league games, and bench at Napoli. They need the win, so space in the second half could open up nicely for him?
MF – Podolski. Will be useful if he is ready before the New Year.
ST/MF – Gnabry. I think we have seen enough of him to know he will be a player in this period. Much will depend on how the midfield is shaping up. He will not play at the same time as Walcott, unless he does have to step up for Giroud. Personally, I do not see that as a major problem, and can easily be tried out at the back end of the next two games if we have the scores under our control. However, he will more likely alternate with Walcott, unless we have the double pivot running, and the AMF’s are playing wide. He does need some playing time, so from the bench with this next match against Cardiff, and the full hour or so against Hull. Then take it from there, as required, but play him regularly.
ST – Giroud. Big problem if he gets a long term injury. He seems to be able to take the physical game okay, but there were signs of mental fatigue during the last intensive spell? We have a few players who could step in, but all have a ‘but’ about their suitability. So he plays until he drops. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that?
The alternatives are:
Bendtner – the most ‘like for like’ player but unlikely to get a good fan reaction.
Akpom – Inexperienced, but has been in good form at the lower level.
Sanogo – Struggling physically at the moment, but has the potential to be good next season.
That leaves: Walcott, Podolski, and Gnabry. The latter gets my vote, preferably with the other two in the line up.
Does that analysis worry you more?
Have your say on other possibilities…
Written by: Gerry