A happy day but let us re-group and judge after next weekend by JT1
Whilst the overwhelming majority of Arsenal fans are very happy and buoyant today I think we would be better served by withholding judgement to exactly where we are at the moment until after our next away match. Win that and people will start taking notice, lose and we just re-enter the continuous loop we often find ourselves in. I am more worried about next week than many of here obviously are – I hope you guys are right! Several things struck me during and after the match today.
1) I think the media and pundits will need to start re-evaluating the squad depth myth they have perpetrated regarding Man City and Chelsea. That depth is patently not there to the extent alleged and more evidence confirming such has been on display in the past few weeks or so. It is fairly astonishing to think we could put out an Arsenal B team (when everyone is fit and comprising those who did not start today) of: Szczney, Debuchy, Chambers, Gabriel, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Alexis and Welbeck. And that is after loaning out Podolski, Sanogo, Campbell, Miyachi and Jenkinson and not including other youngsters such as Gnabry, Zelalem and Bielik. I should give an honourable mention to our friend Aobu as well. Are we closing the squad depth quality gap slowly but surely? (And don’t start reeling off the Man U and Man C striker options, they play 2 up front to our 1 so logically need more striker depth – consider the whole attacking unit).
2) We should fret a lot less about Cazorla and Ozil playing together. And also have a time-out on this “left wing” malarkey and knee-jerk into convincing ourselves that x or y is wasted out there. If we played with out and out conventional wingers then I would be the first one up in arms if Ozil was stationed there – but we don’t and just look at the positions Ozil (and Cazorla and Walcott) took up on the pitch today. Ronaldo, Hazard, Reus, Neymar and Pires (amongst others) have made a decent fist of having a starting position left of centre on the pitch so I would not write Ozil off too soon as an option.
3) There appears to be general consensus, despite the good depth that we have, that we need at least 2 more players; one centre forward and a defensive midfielder (probably in the summer now unless something bizarre or spectacular happens tomorrow). Now I know many will have superstar players ready to ink in on the team sheet over the names of Giroud and Coquelin but I would like to pose the following question. What players (available or not) would represent a significant upgrade on these two? And I ask you to consider carefully the specific roles they play before naming their replacements and not name a different type of player, someone who would require a system/personnel change to accommodate them.
For the centre forward, Wenger, whether you agree with it or not, has in his mind a certain kind of player. In the interests of team balance and the way he wants to play I think he wants a creative fulcrum with a respectable goal return, can contribute defensively and to whom the ball will stick to and who can also help play in the 3 behind him. I imagine Wenger has the idea that cutting and pasting a 25 goal poacher or a “more direct on the last defender’s shoulder” type will detract from the contribution of the attacking trio behind him.
Giroud looks ungainly, is slow and cannot run or dribble to any great effect but he creates better than most CFs I can think of, is as good defensively as most, is a better header of the ball than most, is cleverer than most, works harder than most, is robust and rarely gets injured and in terms of close control he can be sublime. He is also close to the goal every other game ratio that is the hallmark of a really decent centre forward. Who is the like for like upgrade? A hardworking, reliable goalscorer, a team player with good technique and touch. For the record I do not think Welbeck is anywhere close to being a solid back up in that specific role – but I rate him as a very good squad player nonetheless.
I ask a similar question regarding Coquelin. What I like, almost as much as FC’s performances, is the obviously very narrow remit he has been given and how uncomplicated the role is; ultra disciplined, sound positioning, decent energy, proper choice of challenge (from the take the ball, the man and anything else in the way challenge to the gentle well-timed dispossessions) and neat re-cycling of the ball. It reminds me of a Claude Makelele.
Whilst many of the players mentioned could well be converted to such a role – I do not see any stand-out examples elsewhere of anyone playing a comparable role. The likes of Khedira, Gundagon etc are playing in a manner miles away from this role. Mascherano was the closest I could think of. As I have said elsewhere Schneiderlin looks positively box-to-box in comparison to FC. Perhaps the discussion should be who sits immediately in front of or along side FC in the big, big high stake games. Can Ramsey provide that extra level of protection? I could certainly see Schneiderlin playing that role but not convinced he could play the same role as FC any better than him at present.
Btw: Anyone got any additional rumours, tweets regarding Bielik – read from a number of sources that the management and others have been “blown away” by him in training.
Roll on next week. COYGs.