Towards the end of last season as I watched our remaining games with my backside firmly clenched, it occurred to me that perhaps we could better utilise some of our players for certain situations.
For example, take the game at QPR (I think) where the opposition set out to defend their penalty area and prevent our play from entering the box. We would string together many passes around their area but the killer pass into the danger zone rarely materialised and few clear cut chances were created. This is a situation that we are often faced with and it can be quite frustrating to watch. But we have a player in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who would provide a great counter to such tactics as he is more than willing to have a shot from range. He may be the best we have in the squad for long distance efforts as more often than not he hits the target, but he also gets enough power into his shots to trouble the opposition’s keeper. In fact, we could introduce Podolski to the fold as well and effectively bombard their goal from just outside the area. Santi too is useful in this regard.
If we adopted that plan, it might mean that the opposition would have to adapt their tactics by coming out of their area a little, thus creating more opportunities for Santi and co in midfield to find Theo or Giroud in the middle.
Taking this argument a step further, we have two excellent right full backs in Sagna and Jenkinson and I would say that the two should be used tactically against different opposition. Sagna is experienced and athletic and is best used in games where we are given freedom to make a high number of short passes. Whereas Jenkinson should be used in games where we need more width, as he is not only the better player for crossing into the area, but he can run up and down that right flank all day long.
We are fortunate to have two excellent left full backs in our squad too, but I haven’t worked out their tactical uses just yet as both are quite similar. Gibbs is perhaps the more attacking of the two players and I really enjoyed his performances last season, especially against Swansea when he scored that excellent goal.
We may have some other interesting options to choose from by the end of the summer if we do indeed sign the likes of Higuain and a creative winger/attacking midfielder.
It strikes me that Giroud would be best used against the more physical opponents like Stoke where the forward player needs to be physical and hold up the ball, whereas a player like Higuain I imagine would be better suited to home games where we need to unlock tight areas. It would be great to have those options for next season. Whoever is brought in, and we all agree that we need an additional player in the striking position, I am expecting Giroud to improve next season and I hope he gets the chance to do so. I rate him highly and hope he succeeds at Arsenal.
Gervinho? If he stays with us he can still play a valuable part next season. He is a player that is very unique and as he showed against Bayern Munich last season, his speed and agility when running with the ball can prove a useful weapon to have from the bench.
I really hope that we secure our transfer targets in time for pre-season and mount a serious challenge for trophies next year. I am tired of competing with spurs for the scraps at the end of the season.
Best of luck, fellow gooners.
Mean Lean's Response
Thank you for the article Joe, I am very interested to see what tweaks to the current players and set up will happen from the coaching staff for next season.
Ivan Gazidis stated something that wasn't quite picked up, I suppose because it didn't mention money but he stressed that the manager will be looking at ways to improve the players we have. Some may not share my excitement in that but genuinely I am excited about the development of the players we have such as Ramsey who finished very strongly, Jenkinson who started excellently and the Ox who never really got a consistent run in the side last season. I am sure caution is being applied due to his age and Arsene's experience with Wilshere and even Rambo to a lesser extent.
I think the boss would believe that it is too early for a switch inside at this time. In a recent interview on a foreign station, Arsene Wenger spoke about how he felt it was too early to move Bale inside. It is a position that requires a lot of responsibility both offensively and defensively and perhaps Arsene may think that it is too early for that.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of our most exciting prospects in terms of the tools he holds, once his potential has been unlocked at 23 years and onwards, I wouldn't be surprised if he was having a similar impact as Gareth Bale. A Tottenham fan friend of mine has laughed that off but don't worry, I will remind him when the time comes. Explosive shooter, fast, strong, a better dribbling potential than Bale and intelligent, I look forward to watching him closely in the coming years but I am guessing that it will continue to be a slow development, especially when we have and will be having a lot of quality in our squad in similar positions.
I have to say though, I disagree with the shooting part to a certain extent. I fully accept that there is always a place to have a shot from range and test the keeper but I must say, I much prefer we work a better opening, especially when you have players with the craft of Santi Cazorla. There isn't many more frustrating sights in the game for me than watching someone blast the ball high over the bar from 30 yards out when three players are standing in space with their arms aloft in frustration. Sometimes it comes off like Cazorla at West Ham last season or Lukas Podolski at home to erm.. West Ham but more often than not it is a attack killer.
I also have a slight reservation for too much squad rotation, especially when you base it on the opposition. Let us say (a random thrown in example here) Higuain was to score a hat trick the game before, the idea of switching with Giroud for the next game could be seen as cutting off your nose to spite your face. It is a balancing act for sure because you need to negate the strengths of the opposition but I like the idea of us playing our way and letting others concern themselves with us, especially against teams like Stoke who are weaker than we are. That said we will have plenty of games, plenty of competitions (hopefully towards the end of the season) where we will need to rotate the squad. Continuity and partnerships will have to be the order of the day in my opinion.
Whatever happens, I can't bloody wait.