Monday night squad ramblings

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And so it came to pass that Arsenal’s midweek Anglian aberration was put to the sword with a fine performance at Upton Park on Saturday. There’s nothing like winning your next game to forget about losing your last one, and I’m in a forgetful enough mood now to have perked up no end. The equilibrium is once again balanced… for now. (Aha! I had to add that in).

Plenty of positives too, with the hitherto largely blank-firing van Persie scoring twice, Theo bagging a fine goal and creating another, and a return to battle for our strongest midfield five – Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott.

About Theo: His goal on Saturday, his tenth of the season, means he has scored the same number of goals mid-way through this season as he did throughout the previous two seasons combined. I think that deserves, at the very least, a manly handshake.

To me, Saturday also highlighted that within the one squad there is a clear first XI bubbling to the top. I know I know – that’s always the case. But I find it endlessly fascinating to see a football team evolve, how fate deals some players bad hands and form dictates the fortunes of others. This season’s biggest losers so far are Almunia, Vermaelen, Diaby, Arshavin, Bendtner and Denilson, all of whom would have hoped to make more of an impact, one way or another, than they have done so far.

In their place we see Fabianski, Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Walcott, Wilshere and Nasri. Only Nasri was a definite starter last year, Walcott too, albeit to a lesser degree.

For my money, our best available starting XI at the moment is Szczesny, Clichy, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Walcott, Nasri and van Persie. A bit harsh on Chamakh perhaps, and I can see Gibbs, fitness permitting, giving Clichy a good run for his money. I’ve also stuck my neck out with Szczesny because to me he looks the real deal, but I concede that his lack of experience might make that pick a little premature.

There’s good competition in some areas but less in others, and there’s no doubt – I say this as I don my Hat of Perfection – we could do with the ‘second string’ pushing their first-choice teammates harder. That they are ‘second string’ should be motivation enough, but it’s easier said than done.

That’s the way things go. Our first choice XI has evolved in just one year – four changes (in the absence of Vermaelen), perhaps five if you were to include Theo – and who’s to say that come January 2012, it won’t have changed again? It almost certainly will have.

There were eight changes from ‘my’ first XI against Leeds, five against Ipswich, one against West Ham.

We know already that Szczesny will start in goal at Elland Road, but I wonder how far from the above XI Wenger will deviate on Wednesday?

We’re fighting on four fronts. It’s a tough call.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Jeff

    Based on recent matches, the 11 you listed have to be first choice. Arsene will almost certainly disagree and play Fabianski ahead of Szczesny in the league and champions league. And why hasn’t he signed M’Vila yet? What is he playing at? I could see M’Vila playing central defense as well as holding midfield – or just about anywhere. Please don’t bottle this one, Arsene.

  2. Anonymous

    The big difference between the first and second strings is the movement off the ball. The first team are more likely to make a run when they’ve passed the ball, to provide options for whoever has the ball now.

    A selection of the second string have a tendency to pass the ball, and then stay where they are, leaving the recipient of the ball to either try and find someone else to pass to, which is often a sideways ball, pass back, or try and beat an opponent on their own.

    We’ve seen it time and again when Denilson has got the ball, he passes to Rosicky, but Denilson stays rooted to the spot and Rosicky either has to try and find a through ball to someone else, pass it sideways or back to Denilson, or dribble around in circles until he loses the ball. This makes Rosicky look crap, when the one at fault is Denilson.

    The first team are masters of pass-and-move. Not all the second string are.

  3. Anonymous

    M’who? And who the **** are you talking about Wenger bottling anything?
    Wenger may not be perfect at everything but he is a darned good manager (great even) who has showed balls to go against the grain in English football. I am sorry sir but I won’t stand idly and let you speak so disparagingly!

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  5. Jeff

    He’s started every match under Laurent Blanc, except one, and he was missed. He’s a holding midfielder, and arguably France’s best player, although Nasri has been lively when he’s had his chances, and Benzema has delivered with goals.

  6. Jeff

    I’m someone watching from a comfortable distance, with no idea about complicating factors that would keep Arsene from signing a player I like…who else?

    Wenger watches France play, so I have to eliminate the possibility that he doesn’t rate the player as very good. I think Arsene has yet to seize on the idea that M’Vila could also be used in central defense (I came up with that one!) and because he has Ramsey to come back in at midfield (who’s of similar quality), on top of Diaby, Song, Wilshere, and Denilson – Arsene likely thinks there’s no room for M’Vila.

    Anyway, he’ll probably go to Bayern Munich. Pffff.

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