Back to Basics? by Dan Smith
Such was the manner of our display at Anfield, combined with a transfer window where we made a profit, there is a lot of hysteria around Arsenal at the moment. Hysteria often leads to people looking for negativity in everything and it not being fashionable to say anything positive. In other words a failure to have perspective or any distance as Arsene Wenger put in in his recent press conference.
On top of the debate of what the club should and shouldn’t have done in the transfer window there has been a major dissection into the starting eleven our manager picked against Liverpool. What you don’t hear supporters or pundits mention that in the FA Cup final just a couple of months ago Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin kept switching full back roles, something that they were criticized for doing on Merseyside. Our midfield that memorable day against Chelsea was Xhaka and Ramsey, the same duo who are suddenly too light and not tough enough to play in the middle, with Ramsey in particular mocked for how often he likes to make runs forward. Of course no one mentions that it was this tactic by the Welshmen that got him the winning goal at Wembley.
Oh and the attacking three who outplayed the Champions that day happened to be Ozil behind Welbeck and Sanchez. Yes you guessed that was the same forward line that should never have been selected 2 weeks ago. Now that’s not me saying Lacazette shouldn’t have started, or that the OX should not’ve featured against an opposition he would be signing for a few days later. This article is not about debating who and who shouldn’t be starting. It’s purely pointing out that the same squad who lost 4-0 to a side they finished only a point below last season were the same who managed to outplay the champions.
In other words, when motivated we have a squad who are capable of producing better standards then we witnessed against Jurgen Klopp’s men. So with confidence on and off the pitch low,, selection this weekend should not be down to ability levels alone but who cares enough to roll up their sleeves and go back to basics. Alexis Sanchez for example may be our star man, but if his heart is not in it, is Theo Walcott not a better player based on the fact he would simply work harder. Our British players will naturally have a strong affinity to the club. They would’ve grown up watching us win titles and appreciate Arsenal for the big club it is. The next couple of weeks they are crucial to putting some heart back into the club.
There will be those who will argue that due to his age, injuries and lack of pace, Per Metersacker deserves to be a squad player. But at a time where we are crying out for leadership I would accept our back line being vulnerable to speed for the sake of someone who plays like the shirt matters to him.
As he is in every defeat Ozil has yet again become a scapegoat for all our failings. However his statement on social media should make him one of the first names on the team sheet to face Bournemouth. Whether you agreed with the German’s point of view or not, the fact is he showed he cared. He was hurting enough that even away in the comfort of his national team he felt obliged to express his pain. He’s smart enough to know he was inviting a backlash and a further spotlight on him but i rather he show me that it matters rather then keeping silent for a fortnight.
The last time Arsene Wenger had everyone in for training he reportedly questioned how many of his squad cared enough. Well that’s what the Frenchmen should have spent many sleepless night answering and what he should base his team to face the Cherries on. Technique and flair should be sacrificed for the moment for those who have pride and heart to wear the red and white, without those qualities it doesn’t matter how good a footballer you are.
Of course the boss needs to look at himself. It would be fickle to ridicule the 3-5-2 formation as it’s a team shape which helped us win 9 out of our final 10 games last year and seems to be benefiting other sides fairly well. But it’s worth remembering in his two decades in North London it was never Arsene’s chosen way to play and only came about as our back 4 had a crisis of confidence.
That insurance is fine for certain games, a perfect plan B when we go to Stamford Bridge, for example, but at the moment it’s undermining our attacking threat which is pointless as we are shipping goals anyway. Eddie Howe has decent footballing values, one of the reasons he’s been linked to perhaps managing at the Emirates one day. He hasn’t got the individuals to frustrate us and wouldn’t want to even if he could. He will tell his men to attack and take advantage of the nervous atmosphere which will exist round the stadium. Sacrificing an offensive player will be playing into his hands. By switching back to our old system you could have a Ozil, Sanchez , Lacazettte and Welbeck (Giroud) in the same line up.
Some will see that as going back to a philosophy that has proven not to work, where we used to throw bodies forward, leaving gaps at the other end. But that’s a worry for the longer term. For now we just need to find our confidence. We do that by winning football matches and scoring goals.
Time to go back to basics