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On a Wing and a Player

On a Wing and a Player

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
Time: 11:01PM


I know we don't want to rush Wilshere, but really we have no other option here I think. Vela went to the Americas today so he will not be used Saturday.
19/11/2008 23:22:00
A very intelligent article Amos which I quite agree with. I've seen it many times over the years where we have stumbled into a good side by being forced to blood new players in different positions.
Bergkamp was a Myth
19/11/2008 23:25:00
I've always thought of denilson as more of Cesc's back up than a holding mid, so I would be excited to see him play in that role against City. Additionally, like I said before, I just don't think Walcott has the short passing skills required to play in our midfield, so I think giving Ramsey or Wilshere a run out there could yield positive results. Other options include Simpson, who apparently played on the wing when he was on loan, and Merida (but he seems well behind Jack and Aaron in Wenger's eyes. But I would bet that we see Nasri on the right and Diaby on the left (where he has played a few games for us).
20/11/2008 01:51:00
There are many examples of luck throwing a decent player/ combination your way. Would Ashley Cole have been plunged into action soe arly had Silvinho's passport not been called into question? We had a similar conuncdrum on our right side a few years back, Wenger took a gamble and put Wiltord there, where he was infinitely more effective than he ever was as a striker. The more obvious one would be Flamini moving out to left back at the end of the 05-06 season, because we had to work that much harder to protect him, we became a defensively more cohesive unit. Were it not for Vieira's injury at Euro 2004, Cesc would likely have waited longer for his chance. Maybe something fortuitous could happen. But then again, isn't this another example of, as I put it the other week, Arsenal slamming both feet on the accelerator closing their eyes and hoping for the best? A decent sized squad would negate the need for us to blindly hope that perhaps we can play someone out of position and pray it turns out to be alright.
Little Dutch
20/11/2008 09:21:00
The days of grizzled veterans willing to see their careers out in the anonymity of the reserves as cover in case of injuries have long gone. They'd sooner play in Italy or the US hence the only back up are the kids. It is some small vindication of Wengers policy of not completely locking players into the concept of a single position. Other than goal keeper that is. So that we have centre backs who can play full back. Defenders who can play midfield, midfielders who can play defense et c. When fully fit our squad size is pretty standard for the PL (though Wenger himself admits we are short in midfield), so much so that 2 are out on loan. But it's luck with injuries, not just the number but those key players that every squad has, that ultimately determines whether it is big enough or not.
20/11/2008 09:51:00
I perfectly accept that point, but with regards to the right side on Saturday, can Wenger honestly say he knows exactly how to solve that problem? Or will it just be a shot in the dark? Not having a seasoned veteran is, on this occasion, perhaps understandable (though I think competition for places is a massive component we miss), but on this occasion we're not really decimated. We are missing two right wingers, neither of which are really right wingers at all. This is also something raised back in the summer to do with versatility (I believe it was an article with the title of 'How many positions can Eboue play?') which made that same reasonable point. But like I said at the time, when you over rely on players playing foreign positions and being adaptable, when someone like Eboue gets injured, you really lose two or three players in one go. As for Rosicky, again I'll repeat a point I made in the summer, anyone who relies on the fitness of Rosicky really is a fool. I had a twenty quid bet with a mate back in August that he'd never play for us again, I've already started planning on how to spend it.
Little Dutch
20/11/2008 11:12:00
LD I hope your wrong about Rosicky, but I think you maybe right.
20/11/2008 12:08:00
Bischoff could he provide cover??
20/11/2008 12:09:00
Decimated? Probably not, but we nontheless have Vela, Eboue, Adebayor, Walcott, Rosicky, Eduardo unavailable and the equivolents missing from Man Utd and Chelski would affect them, albeit not as much as us, but then we don't spend £30 million for someone to sit on the bench and I would seriously doubt if we could add anymore to our squad without having to get rid of others due their playing time being diminshed. Finding the balance between enough and too much is so damn difficult, spose thats why Wenger gets paid as much as he does!!
20/11/2008 12:13:00
There is no doubt that Wenger took a gamble in the summer. If the medical reports were assuring him that Rosicky would be fit and raring to go by September that looks less of a gamble at the time than it does now and more of a reason to be angry with the mediacl team. On the other hand if Rosicky had been fit as expected and we had bought another player just in case we could have had a Diarra situation over again. Is a better to plug the gaps in the squad with a couple of seasoned veterans (if you can find them) playing back up or promising youngsters hungry for a chance to prove themselves? Neither answer is without its problems. It makes for interesting decisions for the weekend though.
20/11/2008 12:32:00
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