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Wenger's compact and interchangeable squad

Wenger's compact and interchangeable squad

While watching Eboue play against Blackburn Arsene`s earlier description of the squad came to mind. "We have a very compact squad and people are interchangeable," he told us at a press conference last week. I wonder though how many considered that a player seen only as a right back before last season would play in all three midfield positions this season let alone be comfortable with it.

In yesterdays game Eboue started in right midfield, a position we had become used to seeing him occupy last season, though perhaps not with total acceptance. He switched positions with Walcott about half an hour into the first half of Saturday`s game and spent much rest of the game playing on the left but also regularly popped up centrally. In other games this season he has started centrally. Few had fully come to terms with Eboue the right back as a right midfielder but it seems that we may have to get accustomed to seeing him in a variety of roles.

Debates about players` positions crop up regularly when discussing the team. But Wenger puts no such limitations on players preferring that the player adapts to the team needs as far as his ability and physiology allows.

The question of whether Walcott is a striker or a wide midfielder (winger in old parlance) is one that supporters still argue about but when asked the question earlier this season Arsene doesn`t see a need for such labelling. "He is not really a link player he is more a runner so you need to find a link player who can play close to him," he said. "It depends on who he plays with and you need to find the right combination. But he can play wide, right, left, central."

The tendency to stereotype players to positions is bound to lead to frustrations in looking at Wenger teams. The picture that central defenders have to be 'big, ugly, arially dominant giants` fits the desire to have someone that can clear anything that comes into the box but not necessarily the requirement to step forward into midfield and help dominate midfield possession as game circumstances might demand. That`s certainly the pattern that we have seen with both Toure and Gallas doing so with good effect from time to time. Players like Hyppia, Terry and Campbell prove useful in exploiting set pieces but not in exerting as much influence in open play as our central defenders are seen to be able to do. That`s why a player like Song seems to fit the Wenger rationale for a central defender more comfortably than the archetypal stopper.

It is interesting to look at many of those players recruited by Wenger recently who are, with a few exceptions, players with a high degree of adaptability. Is Aaron Ramsey a wide midfielder, central midfielder attacking or defensive, for example? You`ll find him described in different quarters as each of these. Samir Nasri can, and has played for Marseilles, all across midfield. Silvestre is both a central defender and full back as was Gallas when he joined us.

There is a fluidity developing in the team that may make it hard, especially when things don`t go according to plan, for us to tear up the mental pictures we have of 'stoppers` and 'ball winners`. When things go wrong, as from time to time they must, the cry will be to plug the perceived weaknesses with just such one-dimensional solutions. But our pattern of play increasingly relies on multidimensional players. Interchangeable may well become the watchword for the next few seasons if the squad is allowed to develop together.

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Date:Monday September 15 2008
Time: 10:05AM


Adaptability is all well and good, but I would trust Alan Shearer one on one with the goalkeeper than a midfielder who can play upfront. Jack of all trades are useful, but then they are not masters of their own position when they spend half the time playing another. I agree with that philosophy to a certain extent, but there will always be a need for specialists in all positions in football.
15/09/2008 10:24:00
Sure, you always need players good in particular roles. You wouldn't play van Persie in defense but you might play him up front on his own or as an attacking midfielder - but then Shearer wouldn't get into a Wenger team.
15/09/2008 10:30:00
Eboue also filled in at right back on Saturday whilst Gallas was off for a while (I think he might have been replacing a contact lens?) Every squad needs their Eboues and O'Sheas and the interchangability is a huge plus for the Arsenal squad. Silvestre for instance makes sense as a signing. However, I still think we are a bit stretched personnel wise, when we have one player covering several positions, what do we do when that player is injured? Given Eboue looks certain to miss out on Wednesday, I guess we'll find out.
Little Dutch
15/09/2008 12:26:00
I've been wondering if Eboue is our new Ray Parlour? The guy doesn't complain when switching around. To be perfectly honest now, if he keeps performing in the midfield and cut out some of his bad habits, I might very well like him again! Other than what Amos suggested, i.e. to look at fluid roles rather than rigid positions, this has also taught me not to write anyone off (I had said EBoue's RM experiment had failed after one season) especially when they're young. At this rate I may very well eat a big slice of humble pie this season.
15/09/2008 12:54:00
He's like a swiss army knife ... but one of the cheap knock off ones. They work for a while but then seem to break for no reason ... lol
15/09/2008 14:30:00
From what i've seen so far this season, our style of play is getting closer to Total Football. As Wenger is keen on letting players express themselves as much as possible when playing, this would make a lot of sense. The big question i guess is whether our squad of players are technically and physically up to the task. So far things are looking good. Who is going to be our Cruyff? Van Persie or Walcott
15/09/2008 17:57:00
please LD, dun compare Eboue with O'Shea. he is way more talented & gifted a player than o'shea..
15/09/2008 19:34:00
luckys_10, I don't think LD was comparing the two player but rather examplifying utility players in both Arsenal and topic gooners..i'm shocked spuds lost today to villa ;)...and talk of villa..i wish we bought Barry after keeping a keen eye on him in today's game. What do you think? Don't you all think he is worth all 17M he is worth?
15/09/2008 22:32:00
Also correct me if am wrong..the current spud's situation isn't that related to departure of robbie keane...i mean..every team he left in the premier league got relegated..i.e. wolves, coventry and we call that Robbie Keane's Curse/Jinx/Voodoo?
16/09/2008 05:40:00
Ive never been a big fan of Barry in the defensive midfielder sense. He would have played alongside Mascherano is he were to sign for Liverpool with Gerrard, Torres, Keane and Babel up front. I would have much rathered Reo-Coker or Diarra.
16/09/2008 07:25:00
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