Morning all, somewhat *boilked* this morning but that’s school night pints for you. Some of the people I was with were partaking of the brown wine so I’m delighted to have avoided that and will revel in their pain today.
Ahead of Sunderland tomorrow we await team news in the vain hope that our defensive issues might be somewhat relieved but I’m not expecting any good news regarding Laurent Koscielny – which means the manager has to make a decision about how to continue in his absence. Does he give Nacho Monreal more games there, hoping his experience will allow him to adapt to an unfamiliar position? Or does he take the plunge and go full youth (sonic or otherwise), playing Hector Bellerin at right back and moving Calum Chambers into the centre of the defence?
My preference would be for the latter option. If Chambers is our third-choice central defender, then he really should be playing there when Koscielny is out. That we have to look to an inexperienced option in the right back position is a different issue really. The injury to Mathieu Debuchy has brought that about, but the fact is Chambers is better in central defence than Monreal and given that it’s such a crucial position we should make ourselves as strong in there as possible until Koscielny returns.
It might also allow him to start forming some kind of partnership with Per Mertesacker who has been brutally honest about his form and that of the team. Speaking after the Anderlecht game, he said:
For me, it is difficult at the moment because that was really a long season last year and to come back from that World Cup and get the motivation back … I am nearly back but you can feel there is something missing.
I think the thing he’s missing is quite simple: Laurent Koscielny. When the pair of them have played this season, Koscielny hasn’t been anywhere near fully fit and that’s had an impact. There was a moment in the Man City game when play was stopped, Kos hunkered down to get some relief from his Achilles pain and the pair had a chat on the pitch and you could see that the Frenchman was having some real difficulty.
And what’s apparent is that we see the best of Mertesacker, and the best of Koscielny, when the two of them are together. Their partnership is such, and they complement each other so perfectly, that when one has to play without the other they suffer a little bit. So to me it makes sense that we try and establish other connections. We’re probably not going to be able to replicate it exactly, but it seems a better idea that a first and third choice duo should play games together and at least try and gain some understanding than hoping that an emergency centre-half option can suddenly discover how to play there.
Beyond his own form though, Per spoke about the team in general and the way we’ve played so far. Very few of the performances have been convincing but his solution is quite simple:
Our passing game is not as efficient as last year. We are not at our best. We have to admit that, be honest with ourselves and train harder.
And, interestingly, he points to the way the team is trying to attack down the middle, like the D of the opposition penalty area has somehow offended us and we must trample all over it rather than using the rest of the pitch:
We have to do better with our own possession to put more pressure on the opposition, not lose so many balls in the middle of the park and play more in the wide areas.
There are reports this morning that Theo Walcott could be back in the squad for the Sunderland game, and that should help with the width issue. I know he has a tendency to drift inside, but he is the most natural winger we’ve got in the squad. And having struggled against Anderlecht to trouble them down the middle, our first goal was an illustration of how using width can bring its rewards – Chambers from wide right, crossed to the back post where Gibbs arrived from wide left.
Not all our problems are going to be solved by stretching things, of course, but it might just be the thing that helps the team click from an attacking point of view. It’d allow more space in midfield for the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla etc, and with players attacking the ball in the middle we might just see things improve.
Anyway, all the team news, press conference info and more on Arseblog News throughout the day.
Now though, it’s time for this week’s Arsecast. On this bumper edition, I’m joined by @Goodplaya to talk about all the week’s football goings-on including the remarkable late win over Anderlecht. As well as that, Amy Lawrence is in the house to discuss her new book ‘Invincible’, about the 2003-4 season. You can purchase the book from Amazon here (Hardback- Kindle). And there’s all the usual waffle too.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly click here – 39mb MP3.
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Right, that’s your lot. More to come this afternoon from Tim Stillman and the Gent, a Sunderland preview from me tomorrow.