We are back from our mid week champions league triumph with morale sky high. And why not. What with a run of 11 matches undefeated in all competitions, 6 successive wins in the epl and feather weight Middlesbrough our weekend opponent. Surely it’s another stroll in the park. Or is the stage perfectly set for a rude awakening?
If truth be told, every premiership match holds a gritty promise. Who would have thought that Burnley would cave in only in the last second by the hand of fate (pun intended). Or that the Swans would have us collectively praying that the referee goes for his final whistle. Wenger has to get his line up spot on, the team don their battle gear, and the Emirate in full voice.
Wenger’s philosophy is always to focus mainly on his strength, buoyed by his faith that his team would respond intelligently to whatever they find on the field. He believes that intelligence should not be too restricted, too structured. That is why Wenger, you can bet, cannot be engrossed with the fact that Middlesbrough is 17th on the epl table, swimming in relegation waters. He probably doesn’t even know that in their 4 away matches they (Middlesbrough) have collected 5pts against their 1 pt at home. Wenger would tell you that factoring too many details would make the wrong answer jump out. So my bet is that he is ignorant of the fact that Cristhian Stuani who plays as an attacking midfielder is their top goal scorer with 3 goals while their striker Negredo has scored only 1. If he knows much about Daniel Ayala a central defender or George Friend at left back then understand that scouts have told him about them. Wenger prefers to spend his energy knowing his players and his team.
For example he knows that his team is transiting into a more vertical, quicker passing pattern of play with a lot of player movements and interchanges. He knows that Iwobi is an excellent vertical ball carrier blessed with a accurate well tailored passing skill. He knows that Alexis at centre causes chaos in the ranks of the opposition defense that allows Ozil and Walcott to make runs into abandoned spaces with the keeper at their mercy. He knows that Theo is a goal-hound. When he sights the posts he begins to snarl. He knows Musti is a boy for a bit of a game. He knows that Le Coq is angry when he sees an opponent with the ball. I mean angry. The one he wonders about is where Bellerin gets all that energy for all those sprints. These are where Wenger’s attention are. But he is also keen to get to know more about pairings and combinations.
Getting to know the different pairings and combinations is every managers biggest headache. You know why? The next match is always a cup final. You dare not loose. It precludes all experimentations. But then managers cannot play the same players all the time. Physically and mentally the players cannot stand up to the strain of all the matches all competitions all season long. Also there is the issue of right man management of the squad. These are some of the major details of the treacherous terrain that a manager has to navigate to name a line up.
What does Wenger do versus Middlesbrough? He wants to win the match. He does not want to include tired legs. He is keen to try out new combinations. He wants to appease restive players in the squad. Luckily next midweek cup match has lessened the pressure for him of the restive players. New combinations can wait. Why fix what ain’t broken. From Wenger’s visible XI only Bellerin, Musti, Kos, Le Coq, and Ozil played the the full 90 minutes in the match against Ludogorets that we had won before the hour. All signs are pointing to the fact that the visible XI would be back. Santi has declared himself fit.
Predicted line up:
——- Cech ——–
Bel – Must – Koz – Nacho
—— Coq – Santi —–
——- Mesut ——–
Theo ———— Iwobi
—— Alexis ———-
Bench: Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Ox, Jeff, Perez, Elneny
By Pony Eye