If only diamonds were forever
We do have a much stronger squad this season but no matter how carefully we manage our resources injuries to enough key players at key moments can undo the most carefully laid plans. It isn't possible to protect players enough while still competing in all competitions. It may not just be coincidence that our very best CL run came when we were pretty well out of everything else. Liverpool last won the CL while failing to perform well enough in the league to qualify for the following season`s competition.
As the season has progressed so our first choice forward line has become clearer. With everyone fit and well we'd start Nasri on the left RvP up front with Walcott on the right and Cesc forming the lower point of that forward diamond. Wilshere and Song currently sit behind the diamond and play in support of it.
In practice we have players to cover to decent enough effect most of the defensive and semi-defensive roles. Whatever individual opinions might be of Diaby and Denilson they are quality players that do a decent job when Wilshere and Song aren't available. Likewise in defense Squillaci, Eboue, Gibbs all provide good back up to what might be considered the first pick backline.
But that first pick forward diamond, dubbed Theo van Nasrigas by some blogs, is what has seen us play at our most fluent best whenever we've been able to field it this season. Individually we have players that can do more than just cover. With Nasri out Arshavin, though he doesn't have Samir's all round game, is a good attacking player, similarly Rosicky can play that position with greater retention, team ethic and security than Arshavin but is less direct than the Russian. Take RvP out and Bendtner can do a job though he is noticeably the 5 years behind RvP in his development as well as chronologically. Chamakh is a different player altogether but can lead the line with enough creative input around him. We don't have anyone that brings the explosive pace that Walcott delivers which together with the greater physical strength he has shown along with his much improved ability to protect and use the ball has, this season, seen him realise a fair part of the much vaunted potential he has possessed since he joined the club. But though we can't replace his pace we can compensate to some degree with other qualities such as Nasri's skill and intelligence or even Rosicky's probing and invention though most often we've shoehorned Bendtner into the position if not the role. Cesc is in a class of his own at the foot of that diamond. In terms of creativity he has been in a class of his own in this league for sometime but Nasri and Rosicky have stepped into the role to some effect when needed though without the same impact he can have.
So take our diamond and if we need to replace any one single point of it we have solutions that work. Replace two points on the diamond and it becomes less fluent. Three or more and we struggle to create enough to score the goals our attacking play and high line would most often need us to get to win games.
With our first pick the sum of the whole is even greater than its individual parts as Nasri, Cesc, RvP and Walcott seem to move fluently within the diamond, maximising their individual abilities while creating space for each other and the players behind them. There is natural chemistry, an understanding between them that has worked well this season. Replace that diamond substantially with its backups of say Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner and Rosicky and the fluency isn't there to the same degree although all individually are very good players in their own right. In this case though, so far this season, the sum of the whole has proved less than its individual parts.
For the CC final we are definitely without Walcott, in all probability without Cesc and there is still a doubt about RvP so up to three points of the diamond may be missing. Going beyond that if we were to take any excessive risks with Cesc or RvP for the CC with Barcelona looming we may be comprising whatever chance we may have of getting enough from that game to take us through yet we are so close to silverware, even if it is only the mickey mouse cup, that surely not taking a risk is not an option? Notwithstanding those considerations we are also sitting one point off the PL leaders and seven ahead of 3rd place. There is still every reason to marshal our resources for the immediate future towards that objective too.
There are some tough decisions and choices to be made over the coming days and weeks if we are to continue to compete until the end. Hopefully we can find a way to create another gem from the jewels we have but we do need to look after the most precious of these if we`re to continue to compete for the biggest prizes.