Date:Wednesday November 19 2008
When things aren`t going as well as we wish and the reasons aren`t too obvious there is a natural tendency to look into all sorts of corners for solutions and ways of getting back on track. While debate is at times focussed on intangibles and subjective factors such as leadership, mental attitude, fighting spirit or changes to the boardroom, managerial or coaching teams we can lose sight of the fact that ultimately the only changes that really matter are those on the pitch. We might regret being forced into changes but changes were needed anyway. We will now have no choice but to change our midfield format over the coming weeks.
Walcotts injury seems set to keep him out for at least three months, affecting a selection question complicated by injury to Sagna and the absence of Eboue. For the game against Man City this weekend we have the added consideration that Cesc will serve a one-match ban. This means that the whole right side triumvirate of full back, central midfielder and wide man will take on an unfamiliar look.
Walcott`s selection this season can already be seen as something of an enforced change as it can be assumed that we have been forced to use him to a greater extent this season than we may have done had Rosicky, as originally anticipated, been available in September. This latest bout of injuries will oblige us to use untried combinations and talented but inexperienced players. But maybe these enforced changes will enable us to find a much-needed workable balance than we might otherwise have uncovered. Song and Denilson might seem the relatively comfortable choice for a central midfield pairing in the absence of Cesc. Eboue if fit, or Toure if not, could occupy the right back spot but who would play on the right? The choice is probably between Diaby and Ramsey with Wilshere and maybe even Bischoff as outside bets for RM. The permutations open to us are more numerous when you factor in the possibility that Nasri can play on the right and Vela could play on the left or even vice versa. Take a look at van Persie playing in from the right for Holland and yet more possibilities emerge.
With poor results, 2 defeats and a draw, over the last 6 games it wouldn`t appear the ideal time to choose to experiment, yet changes can some times yield unforeseen results. Good as well as bad. We have tried odd combinations on the right this season. The first half against Everton had Song at RB paired with RM Eboue. Fortunately an injury to Toure forced Song to CB to put an end to that experiment. Yet Eboue at RB with Walcott brought on in RM in the 2nd half worked as well as any right side combination this season. As far as it is possible to judge on 45 minutes play that seemed a case of fate taking a hand to change for the better. That`s where finding the right balance is an elusive science. The chemistry between players is hard to predict. Eboue/Sagna worked well last season but Sagna hasn`t seemed quite the same player without that combination this season. Cesc seems to have been affected by the changes in midfield as much as any and spoke recently about the changes in play from the wide positions that he has had to adjust to.
The only way to find out what works seems to be to try it out yet what works on the training pitch doesn`t always work in the real thing. Many of our options are young players learning to play consistently at this level at the same time as forging an understanding with their teammates. Precocious talents though they are Ramsey and Wilshere might be a gamble on talent alone while Diaby is the only midfield option with any reasonable PL playing experience behind him but is hardly tried and tested in RM.
Our best run of consistent results comes from having a settled team but on occasions the make up of those settled teams are arrived at by accident. Flamini might not have had the opportunity to prove such a positive influence in midfield last season had Diaby, apparently first choice to play alongside Cesc, not been injured preseason. Few had foreseen it based on previous performances. Perhaps fate will dictate that we have similar fortune in finding a much needed, but elusive midfield balance over the coming weeks that we have in all honesty struggled to find consistently at times this season. Maybe it is in just such a situation where we are forced to take chances that we will find a balance that is a little less fragile than that we have experienced so far this season. The risks are clear but the talent is available and if we can get it right quickly it might well make the season.
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Date:Wednesday November 19 2008
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