With all the talk that has been flying around these last few weeks about transfers, the lack thereof, and which supporters are right or wrong about Suarez, I've decided to step back a little and look at the current squad to assess just what our situation is like at present. In tackling this subject, I'll consider the following question: What is our current best starting XI? We ask ourselves this all the time and everyone has a different opinion (unless you wait until match day and wait to see what Wenger does and agree with him).
The easiest place to start, at least in this current team, is at the back. There's no real argument to be made for Fabianski over Szczesny at present and, with only two keepers in the first team, there's not much choice anyway. Fabianski has gone on decent runs of a few games at a time in the last couple of seasons, but he's always ended up injured or at some point loses his nerve and has a poor performance that sees him back on the bench. I like both poles, but Szczesny gets the start for me because of his confidence and shot stopping abilities. That said, this is one area of the squad in which I'd be very happy seeing more competition to keep all members on their toes.
The defense is a little more difficult, what with injuries and a perceived lack of depth on the part of many fans (I happen to agree). There's no question for me that the full backs are going to be Sagna and Gibbs, though Monreal is a very close second left back in my estimation. He has a stronger defensive quality than Gibbs, but lacks what Gibbs has moving into attacking positions. I'd alternate these two depending on the opposition. Jenkinson is a good young right back, but he's wildly inexperienced at the moment and is not as consistent as he needs to be if he wants to be a starter. Keeping Sagna around for another season or two will teach the youngster a lot about how to defend and work the flanks.
The centre back pairing is a bit problematic at best. For me, Mertesacker starts every game this season. His physical presence is required to overpower attackers, but his greatest quality is his sense of positioning. He nows where to be and to read a pass before it's made. He's stopped many key attacks before they caused the team any trouble. Right now, I'd put Koscielny ahead of Vermaelen due to current form, but I do think the Belgian is an important player and not because he's captain. He has a strong attacking element and is good one on one when facing strikers. He's got pace on Mertesacker as well, which allows for some flexibility. Koscielny has started preseason well and finished last season as a crucial player for us. If he keeps his form, we could be looking at a good August/September start. The problem with the centre back area is the lack of depth. Beyond these three players, there's no one I'd be confident having in front of Szczesny and with Vermaelen injured for a couple of months, there's really no option other than to buy a central defender this month.
So, If we move into the midfield, there's a lot more room for flexibility in some of the posiitons. We only have one proper defensive midfielder in Arteta (and one can argue he's not really a proper midfielder, due to his experience in a more forward role), so he gets to sit in front of the back line and hold possession and break up plays from opponents. I have more difficulty choosing a player to pair up with him. Ramsey has been improving quite a bit since the end of last season and would be worth having on the pitch, but he's not as strong in the defense department as someone like Wilshere. Jack has enough skill and talent to have him starting most games and I think, if he stays fit, he'll have to remain deep with Arteta, as he has a strong physical element to his play. This is, of course, assuming he returns to the form he was in before his injuries. I think the third midfielder to start will likely be Cazorla, after his fantastic debut season in the Premier League. He's got some brilliant skill and holds the ball well in attacking positions. He can score and create goals in ways that many other players in the side just can not do. That said, if Rosicky was fit, I think I'd choose him to play the central attacking midfield role. He's shown since the end of last season that he can be a game changer and, more than Cazorla, directly impacts the pace of the game. He's had a great preseason and seems keener than he's been for the last couple of years. I'd gamble on him over Cazorla.
Now before anyone has a chance to go nuts on me for leaving Cazorla out, I would likely play him as a wide left player whenever Rosicky's on the pitch or as that second midfield option in front of Arteta, but otherwise behind the striker (I think he's flexible enough to contribute well there). So, at this point we're bleeding into a conversation about the forwards. Cazorla and Podolski are the options right now for wide left and, to be honest, I really like both. Podolski, however is lacking pace that would be useful on the wing, especially when we counter attack. Podolski is a great finisher and I think he scares defenses a bit making him a good option to have at centre forward, but he hasn't been tested there at Arsenal yet, not in any meaningful way. Walcott gets an instant nod on the right, what with his pace and improved dribbling and finishing in the last season. He's one of the most vital players we have as far as I'm concerned and there's no one else in a position to replace him at present. That leaves centre forward. I think Giroud is the best option there now, at least for the start of the season. He's had a great run in preseason and has shown he's settling in well. He's got the height to be a danger to defenses from corners and free kicks, and is improving his accuracy. His one greatest drawback is his pace (you watch him run after a ball sometimes and you wonder if he'll ever get there), but he's less for sprinting and more for around the box work, I think.
So, if we take all that into consideration, my current best starting XI looks something like this:
Ultimately, what Wenger thinks is the best team is what will make it on to the pitch.
Mean Lean's Response
I'd go along with that exact team which is how we finished the season. That said, the above team was pretty much all Arsene had to turn to as both Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski had injury problems at the end of the season and could only manage bit part roles. With pre season under their belts, it will be interesting to see if either of those players are able to get an automatic place in the side. If Arsene does bring Wilshere into his starting line up then I suspect that it will be Rosicky that will make way because Wilshere has room to develop. When both players were fit, Arsene turned to Jack even if Rosicky was the more productive player.
As things stand I think the only questions are fitting in Rosicky, Podolski and Wilshere into one vacant position. If Podolski plays then Santi will go central, if Wilshere starts then I just do not see Ramsey getting relegated to the bench, not only for his individual performances but his partnership with Arteta. So it would have to be Rosicky, I'd imagine.
The rest of the team will remain the same until improvements ride in on horse back. They obviously want to arrive fashionably late. So be it, just get here before September 2nd. Thank you.