TO WENGER: Please No Contradiction Between Art and Science!
Mario Zagallo took over as the coach of the Brazil 1970 World Cup team from Joao Saldahna who was sacked for daring to publicly consider dropping Pele from the squad. His reason was that they had a team made up of too many brilliant No. 10s. Mario Zagallo instead chose to use his best players in his starting eleven, and so ended up with a team with five No. 10: Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Revelino, and Gerson.
The result was football at its best! Brazil waltzed through to World Cup glory. But that was 1970; can such a team triumph in this present era in which starting elevens are painstakingly balanced with complementary specialists?
The current Arsenal team is also brimming with No. 10s. Is Wenger trying to reincarnate the Zagallo phenomenon? He has Ozil, Wilshere, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and, stretching it a little bit, Xhaka: all No. 10s.
Zagallo’s 1970 amazing team had a loose structure. But 48 years after Zagallo’s mesmerizing display, football has shifted, relatively speaking, from individual inventiveness to collective disciple and structure. It has moved from being more of an art to being more of a science. Or is art a form of science and vice versa? I doubt whether for Wenger there is any contradiction in the two.
Ramsey is back fit. Wilshere has held fort for him admirably. Iwobi has found his form again. Ozil is un-droppable. Mkhitaryan has joined. Xhaka has impressed further up the field. Even Lacazette, whom we thought was simply a poacher, has come up with combination plays that No.10s should cast envious eyes at. Surely something must give. We will watch and see.
One thing is certain, though. These potential No.10s, a good six of them – Ramsey, Wilshere, Iwobi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Xhaka – must now all be on Wenger’s weighing scales. They cannot all be squeezed into one team. The weighing scale says very little to help a decision but does highlight the critical box runs of Ramsey, the dribbling skills and ball surges of Wilshere, the quick passing of Iwobi, the spatial intelligence and creativity of Ozil, the versatility of Mkhitaryan and the distribution of the instinctively deeper lying Xhaka. That is the pretty thing. There are enough differences to build a wholesome unit, the snag being that it is wholesome only when we have the ball. Without the ball in comes our new delight Elneny at the base of Wenger’s adventure in No. 10s. That man must be having a ball.
Elneny brings the number to 7-qualified-to-start midfielders where only three or four or five (depending on the formation) can start. Who starts; or is it better to ask: who gets dropped? Your guess is as good as mine, as good as TA’s, possibly even as good as Wenger’s. But whatever the combination Wenger chooses as his starts, football lovers world over are guaranteed the intriguing drama of ‘Art versus Science’ in our matches.
By Pony Eye.