Much has been said this season about the need to balance the team and it is evident that not even Arsene Wenger is certain of the best combination of players to employ as we enter the busy month of November.
Of the 12 Premier League and Champions League games that we have played so far this season, only three players have started every time, Lucas Podolski, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla.
It goes without question that Arteta and Cazorla must play when fit. We saw last season the adverse effect Arteta’s absence from the team had on our results and it is equally clear that Cazorla is being heavily relied upon to pull the creative strings further forward. But who is best placed to fill that third midfield position?
Jack Wilshere is the man that most of us have been looking forward to seeing in that final central midfield position and we got a glimpse of how that combination would work against QPR. But when Diaby and Rosicky return to fitness (keeping everything crossed for Diaby) suddenly we have, in my opinion, much more scope to rotate the midfield players without too much risk of upsetting our results.
For example, we probably all agree that Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla make up our strongest three in midfield. But you could easily rest Arteta by moving Wilshere into that position, and put Diaby between him and Cazorla. Or, you could rest Cazorla replacing him with Rosicky. Equally Jack could fill in for Cazorla if needed with Diaby filling in between him and Arteta.
We have missed these options so far due to injuries but if these players can remain fit for the most part, you can see the benefit to the team this will have. Diaby is a player that I like very much and there are games in which perhaps he is better suited that Wilshere. He has a certain unique physical presence that is useful against teams that play with Sam Allardyce tactics. The argument comes down to which three provide the best balance given the opposition in a particular match.
Of course we have Ramsey, Coquelin and Frimpong too who will play their part but I have not included them in the above as I’m not sure if they are quite at the same level as the others. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of time for these three, especially Ramsey, but I’m not sure they are quite there yet to be ahead of the likes of Arteta and co.
I am totally biased, of course, but I strongly believe that we have the best midfield squad in the league.
This is the area of the team where we have witnessed the most experimentation so far this season and with mixed results.
We have seen Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gnabry all used on the right. From what I have seen, Gervinho did not excel in this position and is far better used as the central striker, or better still, on the left. However, a certain Lucas Podolski occupies that position.
So, who is best on the left? Podolski of course I hear you all cry, but I am not so sure. On his day, Gervinho is deadly and can open up holes that not many other players out there can. I read somewhere recently that he used to play bare footed with a cardboard box instead of a ball when he was younger and you can see the benefit that has had on his dribbling ability. He has contributed a lot so far this season and deserves his place in the team. Lucas on the other hand is a hard worker and clynical in front of goal. I really like him and wouldn’t want to drop him either. So what is the answer? Super sub Gervinho perhaps?
Going back to the right, I am ignoring Theo because we all pretty much know that he is off at the earliest opportunity which is a real shame. He probably would have been my first choice for the right forward position but I guess the Ox is now our man, unless Gnabry continues to rise through the Arsenal ranks at the speed he has recently.
Up top, it has to be Giroud. The poor chap has not had a sustained run of games as yet and has been put under so much undue pressure for not scoring. I am sure he will come good but he just needs time to adapt, it may take a season like it did with other players but the more he plays, the sooner he will get used to the rigours of the premier league and our style of play.
Partnerships that don’t seem to be working
Santos and Podolski
This is probably because both players like to drift infield which means that they are competing with each other for the same areas of the pitch when the team is attacking.
Santos has not had the best time of late but you have to take two things into account when judging his performances. 1. He hasn’t played much first team football yet this season and he is a player that needs a good run in the team before finding his stride, as was the case last season. 2. He is learning to play with a new player in Podolski and they will both need to work that out between them.
So in my view, if you have to play Santos at left back, Gervinho would be best ahead of him as he would provide the width. Whereas when Gibbs is fit, Podolski should play on the left.
Vermaelen and Koscielny
I am very surprised, I must say, that these two players haven’t forged an immense partnership in centre of our defence. One is a left footer, the other is right and they just seem to complement each other perfectly. Granted, neither player is particularly tall for a centre half but both can jump.
I think this will come in time when they are forced to play together on a regular basis, and when it does I think it will prove to be one of the best defensive partnerships, possibly of all time.
With so many quality options available to us this season (except in attack), we should be a real force to contend with but this hasn’t quite happened as yet. We have seen glimpses of what is to come but I feel that Arsene and his coaching staff need a little more time to optimise the tactics and player combinations before we start producing on a consistent basis.
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