OR…. stick with Per and Ollie….
That, my fine fellow BKers, is the question!
It is quiet on the blogs and maybe that is not a bad thing. It has been a testing few months for all of us, even for those who aim to live in the moment and prefer to focus on the positives. Two cup exits hurt, but it is the disappointing run in the league in 2016 that has left us battered and bruised. Of course the season is not over yet, and a fabulous final sprint in the league could still bring us the title; stranger things have happened. However, given the recent results and performances, it is better not to put too much hope in this. It is clear that we can only focus on our own game and rely on others slipping up; and the latter is quite a negative thing to do if you ask me.
For Wenger the remainder of the season is one of putting pressure on the teams above us whilst staying above the teams below us. He will also use this period to consider carefully where he needs to strengthen the squad and who he should let go off, as also he will believe that not winning the title this year is not good enough for this squad.
It looks like Arsene is making two shifts right now: one in defence and one in attack. Welbeck has been starting ahead of Giroud up-front and the BFG seems to have lost out to a Koz-Gabriel CB partnership. We have become more mobile and energetic as a result, and a good performance in defence and attack at Goodison provides a little hope of having entered a new era. But it is of course early days and the Toffees were not really interested in fighting us last week Saturday; and Arsene might well decide to start with the BFG or Giroud again in the upcoming games.
Yet I believe that Per’s days as our first choice CB will be coming to an end next season, if indeed not sooner. In a number of big games the BFG was anything but beastly and Wenger will have noticed this. We all know about the German’s imperfections but they normally are compensated by his organisational skills, ability to read the game and calm leadership… but disappointing performances against the Chavs and Barcelona at home, to name but a few, in which his strengths went missing and his weaknesses were cruelly exposed, have probably signaled the end to his first choice CB career at Arsenal. I love the BFG but it would make sense to find a new top class ‘organising CB’ to take us to the next level. Not easy to find the right player/ the new Sol Campbell, though, as good CBs are as rare as decent footie commentators; and I am looking forward to suggestions from the usual BK crew. 🙂
It is less clear what will happen to Giroud. Regular BKers will know that I am a huge fan of Ollie, as in the role he was given by Arsene and how he has made a big success of it. The holding CF, who carries a good threat himself, but also creates space for others and links up play with fellow attackers and the midfielders, is a conscious choice by Wenger. Ollie provides a fine pivot around which more mobile attackers can flourish. The problem is that nobody other than Ozil has flourished this season, with especially Theo and Alexis having a barren season. And if the system does not work, it is Ollie who gets the blame by those, the vast majority unfortunately, who cannot see beyond the ‘Ollie is no Thierry’ tag that Giroud will never be able to get rid off.
I have no doubt that Ozil has benefited from having Ollie as a holding pivot to make space and connect with; but I can also see that a more lethal finisher than Ollie could have let to even more assists. For me, the problem is with the ‘mid-wingers’ being so ineffective this season, as Ollie did OK with scoring 12 PL goals this season already. And scoring as many goals as possible regardless of anything else is not what Wenger is asking from him, please bare that in mind.
However, I also reckon that Ollie’s role in the team would have been more effective with a Bergkampesque nr.10 rather than the way Mesut plays in the hole. Mesut is a creator but not a predator, although Wenger has been trying to change this a bit. To make a holding CF really work, we need more goals from the central midfielders, especially from the one in the hole. Ollie lays off a lot of balls to his fellow attackers but only has four PL assists to his name. With Alexis, Theo, The Ox, Campbell, Rambo, Santi and Mesut scoring so few PL goals between them this season, it is clear that the ‘holding CF’ approach is not working; Wenger will have to decide whether to continue it, but then with making changes to our key attacking players, or by moving away from it altogether.
He may finally go back to putting a Thierry Henry type CF into the team. Danny Welbeck gives him this option to some extent, as he is very athletic and energetic and allows the rest of the team to move around the pitch with him. If he were to go for a more fluid, pivot-less attack, he is likely to get a top CF – known, or relatively unknown to us – next season which, in my view, Danny is not (yet). It is interesting that Wenger has been playing Danny as our CF recently though, and the result at Goodison may have convinced him to continue with this in the next few games. Time will tell.
I am good with both scenarios as long as it works. I want to get the best out of Alexis, Rambo, Ozil, Welbeck, Santi and Giroud as they are all fine attackers who could/should lead us to silverware. But something has got to change to make us a deadly attacking machine again, as scoring a meagre 1.6 goals per game, which would give us a paltry 61 PL goals by the end of the season, is simply not good enough, especially with the defence leaking a goal per game on average.
I am hoping Welbeck as CF will become a great success as he is such an exciting player to watch and has a smile to cure depression instantly, and it will be good to see what Wenger will do with the CF position in the next eight PL games. This, no doubt, will tell us a lot of what he will do in the transfer market this summer, both in defence and in attack.