Monday, December 11, 2023

Options Options Opti … oh

Morning all,

a new week, dust is still settling from Saturday, and we’ve got no time to really dwell on it because we’ve got a game tomorrow night against Schalke in the Champions League. It’s going to be one in which we’ll have to dig deep and try and find something approaching cohesion, if not form, again.

As disappointing as Saturday was I don’t really feel like it’s a true reflection of the squad we have. We saw almost the same players hold their own against Man City, and but for two very preventable goals against Chelsea (again down to individual errors) I don’t think that’s a game we would have lost. So while I continue to question how light we are in terms of striking personnel, and the defensive side of our game scares me more than a winged clown, you have to wonder why we were so limp against United.

As expected Arsene spoke about his decision to leave Jack Wilshere on, citing lack of options for the reason:

We were in a position where we had to attack and I had no offensive central midfielders on the bench as well.

Which I understood yesterday, especially when we are light in midfield. But, having thought about it, couldn’t he have put on Coquelin in the more defensive role and moved Arteta forward? The Spaniard was shackled by Rooney most of the game, I’m sure Coquelin could have got stuck in there and allowed Arteta to move into an area of the pitch he’s more than comfortable in.

Sometimes Wenger’s rigidity is confusing. On the one hand he seems tactically inflexible and unwilling to make changes when it’s obvious things aren’t working, on the other he’ll play Gervinho at centre-forward, Ramsey on the right of a front three, last season Benayoun in a similar way. I’ve seen calls for changes in formation, a return to 4-4-2, perhaps, something which seemed to serve us well against Reading.

I’m not convinced it’s the system that’s the problem though – it’s not an issue when the team clicks and does well. Nor am I convinced we really have the players for a 4-4-2. I think it requires a more physical presence in the centre of midfield than we possess and the players who might play wide don’t convince. That said, with everyone fit a team like: Szczesny – Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs – Podolski – Arteta – Wilshere – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Cazorla – Giroud could be quite tasty, with Cazorla as the traditional number 10 behind the main striker.

But, with the players we have in our squad I don’t see it as a long-term option. Podolski really isn’t a wide midfielder, Oxlade-Chamberlain can be whatever he wants, but beyond that the players just aren’t there to make that formation work on a regular basis and deal with injuries/substitutions. So, what we have we hold, in terms of how we line up, and it’s down to the manager to make it work with the squad he has.

The problem is it looks better on paper than it does on the pitch and perhaps all the new relationships are making it difficult for us to click. After 10 games there ought to be more understanding between Giroud, Cazorla and Podolski but they looked like strangers on Saturday. Jack Wilshere has come back into a side vastly different from the one he last played for. The early signs, against QPR, were good, but he’s got to find a way to dovetail with the two Spaniards and they with him.

Then the manager has to consider form and whether or not to introduce more competition into the team. We’re at a point now when we have to think about using Theo Walcott and even Andrei Arshavin to add some unpredictability into our attacking game. United looked at us and saw how nullify that threat, that the manager didn’t react properly was part of why we were so flat on Saturday.

There are issues with both players though. Walcott’s contract situation is far from ideal while the Russian, whose contract expires next summer also, has been peripheral and out of the team because of his lack of form and/or application. Yet both bring something to the team that others don’t. Walcott’s pace is a weapon and when he has an on-day he’s clinical and can turn games. Arshavin has moments where he too can influence games, not as often as he should, no doubt about it, but even if we’re never quite sure what either player is going to produce, shouldn’t we use them as we try and play our way out of the doldrums.

The choice for the manager is to stick with what he’s got, hoping they’ll gel and start producing the way he wants them to, or look at alternatives. Maybe a bit more first XI competition wouldn’t be a bad thing either, but it’s hard to find much solace in the fact that we’re looking at two players who are unlikely to be at the club next season to help turn things around. Still, desperate times and all that.

As an aside, I’m quite careful about who I follow on Twitter and as such I’m not hugely exposed to the grubbier side of it, yet a few re-tweets yesterday cropped up on my timeline and it seems the wife of Andre Santos was on the receiving end of abuse as she tried to explain the shirt swapping thing. Perhaps her explanation of ‘cultural differences’ didn’t really convince, but as I said yesterday the incident was foolish and little more than a sideshow. Andre Santos swapping a shirt at half-time really is one of the least of our problems right now.

So while Santos himself is open to criticism (and I use that word carefully) anybody who has nothing better to do that direct their vitriol at the wife of a player on Twitter really, really needs to get a life, grow the fuck up and reassess their priorities. One of which should be plummeting to their death via the top of a tall building. The stupid cunts.

Right, there’ll be team news and various bits and pieces as the squad travels to Germany today – keep up on Arseblog News.

Till tomorrow.

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