On Multiple Fronts?
(Or, a wider look at our squad as we wait for tonight’s Europa League match…)
Sorry, but this was the most recent squad photo I could find…
…And look at it. It’s not the current squad. Without too much trouble one can pick out the departured, the injured and the guys who are unlikely to ever get a minute of first team play due to the vagaries of the game. And then there are the potential departures (or one very big one) in the January transfer window. We do need to add in a couple of new players of course, but still, the resulting group is smaller.
Doing all the additions and subtraction might make a Gooner’s head spin. It might also make him or her ask, “What (TF) is Wenger thinking?!?”
It’s a tight unit for sure. Squad rotation, respecting players’ fitness issues–keeping them rested and hungry or letting them play themselves back into shape–and, of course, getting acceptable results (which mean “nothing but wins”) probably makes Arsene a bit dizzy himself.
Luckily, Would-be-Wengers don’t have such issues as they’re–by their very nature–always right. Suggested line-ups for each match run the gamut. Do we play our best 11–a slippery notion at best–in every game? That’s certainly an appealing notion for those whose focus extends only to RIGHT NOW–and winning the quadruple. Others will concede that there’s a need to prioritize the Premier League and that we must rest our best players in the lesser competitions, sometimes to the point of putting out some very inexperienced guys.
Different strokes for different folks, as they say…
In the end, for better or worse, Wenger is the one who decides who starts and who dresses (in kits vs suits).
To me–and I will freely admit that I’m a “What Can I Learn from Wenger” type–I see some interesting patterns beginning to develop. Injuries and more players out than in over the summer transfer window are worries, but a potentially easier schedule this autumn–despite the longer travel associated with Europa League play and the Thursday to Sunday turnarounds–means that I’m sensing an opportunity for some real squad building with the smaller number of first team players. What’s your take?
Having done match previews with predicted 11s (plus subs) for a while, it seems pretty easy these days to pick a starting line-up–especially for the league matches–although, I must admit, Wenger has been surprising me with one or two of his choices each weekend. No Alexis (nor Ozil) at Chelsea seemed bold (if not suicidal) and then starting the Chilean vs Doncaster in the next match was also a head-scratcher, for example. I’ve always been skeptical regarding “Weng-uries,” but we’ve done well enough since the close of the transfer window with bromides such as, “Alexis is working his way to full fitness,” and “Ozil has a little problem with his knee.” I think things should get clearer as the days get shorter, but a real rotation seems like it’s beginning to formulate. In lieu of trying to predict the line-up for tonight’s match in Belarus, I present the players I think will be our regular first 11 in league matches (those listed first) and others who will likely go in the midweek games (listed in brackets).
Koscielny (?) — Mustafi (Mertesacker) — Monreal (Holding)
Bellerin (? Nelson?) — Xhaka (Elneny) — Ramsey (Wilshere) — Kolasinac (Maitland-Niles)
Lacazette (Giroud) — Alexis (Walcott)
That’s quite a few question marks, especially as it’s been reported that several additional youth players will be traveling for tonight’s match. Over time, however, as the injured and sequestered return, some of the question marks should be replaced by some strong names. Iwobi, Welbeck, Chambers, and Coquelin shouldn’t be out too long, while Cazorla and (maybe even) Debuchy returning might be seen as more iffy. Who are the up and comers whom we might see play sooner than later? Who am I forgetting or leaving out? Bottom line: who would you put in your first 11s for the league and midweek matches?
The question marks in my lists would suggest that full rotation isn’t possible at this juncture. I wonder, however, especially after trying to watch our stale but ultimately successful performance last midweek in the Carabao Cup vs Doncaster Rovers, if we don’t need a first 11 player (or two, or three or four) in the midweek efforts to give us our best chance at getting the needed results. (Again, wins only, please, probably say most Gooners). Even if Wenger needs to mix and match a bit, there still seems a reasonable opportunity, I think, to keep players both sufficiently rested and reasonably sharp, while building some good combinations in both 11s. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Finally–and I feel this is something very few long-time football observers seem to think about–but something that seems evident (in jaw dropping proportions) for fans of other sports–are there any considerations about the length of the season and trying to peak at the right time? Does–or should–Wenger protect his best players early in the season so that they are primed to play their best football as we get into the new year and the competitions move into their final phases? I believe he should, but then again I’ve always tried to heed–and actually been inspired by–AW’s mantra, that we shouldn’t be “slaves to the moment.” Is long term thinking something supporters might indulge or do we pay the (high) price of admission in order to live (and die) with each match as it comes? A Dutch friend of mine often says, “O Gaat” (one game at a time) and it probably makes a lot of sense. Nonetheless, thinking about the longer term, in my view at least, also seems critical.
What say you, my fellow Arsenalistas? Don’t be shy…
Go on then…