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A Time To Experiment?

A Time To Experiment?

With our season having petered out, some might contend that Arsene should experiment in our final four league games and look to find out a little more about his players before withdrawing into his summer cocoon to mastermind next season`s assault. On the other hand, with Chelsea still in European competition and with Manchester United to visit the Bodge in search of another Premiership title, second place is still very attainable and with some very winnable games remaining, perhaps we should concentrate all of our efforts into that?

It`s certainly a conundrum for the manager. He showed signs of experimentation in our fixture at Old Trafford by playing Alex Song at centre half and deploying Robin van Persie as a left winger. On the final day of last season at Fratton Park, Arsene eschewed the prospect of third place by fielding some of his youngsters. It was the beginning of the Eboue experiment as it were, where he was played as a winger. (An experiment that has failed, more on that in a second). Johan Djourou played in central midfield and the likes of Jay Simpson and Mark Randall were substitutes. I would offer that such wholesale changes would be a little too risky. We have been in a horrible spell of form lately and I would have serious compunctions about risking losing confidence even further with indifferent results as we go into the summer. I think it`s important to finish the season strongly to allow the squad to regain some belief going into the close season. But I don`t see why some small adjustments cannot be made.

Firstly, we have to consider an alternative to Cesc Fabregas who has admirably been running on empty for a little while now. As ever, the criticism he has attracted in this period is exposed as entirely far fetched when you look at his assists record since March. But I think it`s worth giving him a breather for one or two of the games on the bench and allowing Diaby to prove himself in the central birth he craves. Diaby is utterly wasted out on the left; in the centre he would provide a different approach to Fabregas with his power and impressive dribbling skills. I think it is worth considering as a variable alternative, we have come to rely too much on certain characters and need to be able to give these players a breather every once in a while. Comparisons are painfully simplistic, but one can look at Ferguson, who once every ten games or so will leave one of his superstars on the bench for home games against 'lesser` teams. They are always available to introduce if things go a shape of the pear.

Alternatively, Denilson (reward for his capture?) appears to be Fabregas` mini me, cut from the same stylish, swaggering cloth. Like Diaby, he looked very impressive at the back end of last season and giving him some more minutes can only benefit us for next year. Now, I believe Emmanuel Eboue attracts far too much criticism for his displays in an Arsenal shirt this season. However, I think the manager has to accept that he does not make enough of an attacking contribution to be a right winger. I do think that too many have been too hasty to forget his performances as an attacking full back in the past, I would argue that he should be in the squad as Sagna`s back up and somebody who can allow Sagna the odd match to rest his limbs. I think Kolo Toure needs to spend the rest of the season relaxing in a hot bath. Burn out is never more noticeable than when it happens to a player as energetic and rumbustuous as Toure. He has played pretty constantly for four years and his current malaise is entirely understandable. I have no concerns for his long term future; I just think he needs to take a load off his back with a pack of silk cut and a pint of the black stuff (metaphorically speaking you understand. If I see him with either of the aforementioned in one of my local boozers this summer, I will confiscate and, ahem, recycle). Eboue needs to play at right back for the last part of the season with Sagna still out. He needs to learn how to do it again in readiness for next season. His discomfort on the flank is understandable, as a full back, he would have Alex Hleb in front of him, creating space for him to power into. Whilst an erstwhile runner, Eboue is no Alex Hleb on the football, beating players is not his forte. Let him get back to doing what he does best.

Fabregas and Sagna will likely be involved in international action this summer (shakes fist towards heavens maniacally). I think we can afford these changes. With a space now vacated on the right hand side, it would be an excellent time to accelerate the development of Theo Walcott. Too much pressure is put on this lad and the whole world seems to think him incapable of average. One week he is the most awful player ever to don shinpads and another example of Arsenal destroying indigenous talent, the next he is the finest player ever to pass urine and should play every position on the pitch on his lonesome. You know, like one of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons? However, we have seen Walcott develop into a very good impact player to unleash onto weary defenders (witness Theo`s passable Forest Gump impression at Anfield). With the pressure and the spotlight focussed not so keenly in the last four games, I think it would represent a good opportunity to get him to exude an effect over 90 minutes.

As I mentioned earlier, it is important not to take our remaining opposition too lightly and finish the season strongly and with a big a points total as we can amass. Probably one or two of the aforementioned changes in each game would suffice. There have been points this season where Wenger obviously has not trusted his squad players and this is a good chance for some of them to stake their claim. For players such as Gilberto and Mad Jens, I think their focus will be razor sharp as they propel themselves with longing into the shop window for watching suitors. (Visions of Amsterdam instantly come to mind). I saw an interview with Adebayor in which he revealed that he was desperate to hit the thirty goal mark, as Henry apparently predicted last summer that Ade would hit that lofty number. (Incredibly he is still criticised. I urge you to go and look up Ade`s shots to goals ratio compared to Ronaldo. It might surprise you). Complete overhaul is neither desirable nor necessary, but Arsene can use the last four games as a canvas for his developing masterpiece. As King Whitney Jnr. once said, "Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better."LD.

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Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday April 16 2008
Time: 2:02PM


Good read. But compare Adebayor ratio to Ronaldo one is just ridiculous. Ronaldo is not a stricker first of all, and he takes the free-kicks or set pieces as Ade doesn't. Ronaldo is a fake winger and is free to shoot on target from where he wants. Ade as a stricker has to put goal when he has a chance and he doesn't do it often enough to give the the title.
16/04/2008 14:27:00
Interesting dilemma - is there still enough left to take anything out of the season by fielding our strongest possible team (whatever that is) - or would it be of greater long term benefit to risk dropping points that we might have otherwise gained? I think we need to end the season with as big an improvement on last season as we can in order to take something more into next season. Depends on who is fit of course but starting RvP if he is will get him back into the swing if he can notch a couple of goals before the end of the season. Flamini is out so some experimentation in CM is feasible even if Cesc isn't rested. I don't think Sagna is back yet so RB still allows some experimenation with the defensive line up. Walcotts appearance at least as an impact sub is assured maybe a starting berth in the centre is worth trying. I think we can afford to trust Bendtner a little more to see if he can make an early bid for more regular starts next season bringing Ade on later in the games if warranted. It will be interesting to see how Wenger uses these last four games. Time to take a chance or would 4 wins settle recent nerves and offer more encouragement to players and supporters alike?
16/04/2008 14:28:00
Would be nice to finish strongly and nick runners up spot. Maybe now is the time to drop that clown Eboue and start Theo in ALL the remaining games!!!
16/04/2008 14:31:00
Walcott just has to start up front for the remaining games. There will never be a better time for the little fella to prove his worth. Competitve football, that is, for all intents and purposes, "meaningless" to us gives him the perfect opportuinty to show us what he can do. And completely agree that Cesc and Toure need to put their feet up!!! I'd also like to see what Fabianski can do in goal too!!
16/04/2008 14:36:00
Nice article LD. My sentiments exactly on the Eboue situation. Also, with regards to the race for 2nd place it could be pretty important, considering half of our squad will be playing in the Euros, the early start to the season (ie CL qualifying rounds) won't do us any favours, espescially if (when) we get drawn against tough opponents.
16/04/2008 14:42:00
"shakes fist towards heavens maniacally" -- LOL!! I loved that, gave me a good giggle. Great write-up. I just want to see us win these last remaining games and really go for 2nd place. The game that worries me is Sunderland on their home ground. As for experimentation, the thing I would most like to see is Diaby given a good spell in the middle. I really think there's a terrific footballer in Diaby. Also, please read this excellent article on our supposed "demise" from a very level-headed football analyst based in Canada, a Scotsman, who routinely criticizes the British media for their hysteria and knee-jerk reactions:
16/04/2008 14:56:00
Nice read LD. Couldn't agree more and I think you'll be proved right. I'd expect Walcott, Bendtner and Song to start the remainder of the games. Denilson should get more match time also. Diaby is an interesting one?? I seems to me that the whole world see's him as a Vieira-esque central midfielder except for Wenger. He persists in playing him on the wing, possibly for not wanting to upset the Flam - Fab partnership. I'd absolutely hate to see Flamini leave, but I reckon its Diabys only chance of a run in there. It's going to be an interesting couple of games to say the least!!
16/04/2008 15:00:00
Flv. only Gallas, Senderos, Fabregas and Van Persie are 100% sure to go to the euro..... then Lehmann, Almunia, Sagna, Clichy, Djourou, Flamini, Diaby, Rosicky, Eduardo, Bendtner could be or not at the euro, but nobody is sure, for differents resons (Lehman doesn't play, Almunia is not in the paper, Sagna, Clichy, Flamini and Diaby have serious opponents, Rosicky and Eduardo are injured....). So AW doesn't have to think about the Euro. I think he should rest Toure and Fabregas, play Eboue at right back, give a chance to Song, Diaby, Walcoott, Denilson to play more, even Hoyte or Traore could have a call up.
16/04/2008 15:10:00
An relatively unrested Gallas, Fabs, and RVP going into the new season is more than enough to worry about as far as I'm concerned FloG. Maybe I worry too much, but based on our international injury record, I think I've got some cause for concern.
16/04/2008 15:43:00
Does anybody know for certain if Rosicky will play in the Euros as yet? Selfish maybe, but I'd be pretty annoyed if he does play, seeing as he's spent half of the season resting up.
16/04/2008 15:47:00
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