August 2, 2012
The Santi Cazorla deal rumbles ever closer.
It feels a bit like when you see a train in the distance and you think it’s going to be here any second but then you worry that maybe your eyes have deceived you and it’s still miles away. And you just pray it hasn’t ground to a halt completely.
While I don’t want to jinx the deal I will confess that I’ve allowed myself the rare treat of a little bit of a daydream. Although oddly rather than concoct fantasy starting XIs in my head I’ve found my thoughts drifting to visions of our subs bench for next season.
I wrote the odd post last year bemoaning our lack of options from the bench. For a few years now it’s felt like if we have the first XI fit and firing then we’re all good, but as soon as one of our key players goes missing or injured we’re stuffed and if a game is going against us we just don’t have the options on the bench to change things up.
I’m reminded of the return game against AC Milan last year where we fought valiantly to peg them back with three first half goals but when the legs started to go in the second half and we just needed one more, all we had to bring off the bench was Chamakh and Park. One a man who nobody in that stadium, least of all the player himself, ever expected to do anything, the other a player who the coach had so little faith in that he only gave him 7 Premier League minutes the whole season.
And that’s not even a rare example. How many instances can you think of over the past three years when we’ve brought a player off the bench who actually changed the game? You can go off and think about it if you like. I’ll wait.
But as things are shaping up, next season’s bench could look very menacing indeed.
Let’s say our first XI at the start of the season looks something like this:
Bac – Kos – Verm – Gibbs
Cazorla – Song – Arteta
Theo – Podolski – Gervinho
I’m not arguing that that’s what the side will be and I’m certainly not arguing for the formation but let’s just say as an example that might be a balanced first XI. Well on the bench we could choose from Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby, Ramsey, Coquelin, Mertesacker, Santos to name just seven. And when they get back from injury Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky too. Now that’s what I call a bench.
Assuming the departure of the likes of Arshavin etc and notwithstanding the possible addition of a couple more, that gives us real quality and real options. And most importantly a group of players who are well capable of changing the game. Imagine we’re struggling to break down a stubborn Stoke backline for 70 minutes. So we stick Giroud up front and replace an underperforming Theo with the Ox. Or add a bit of physicality to the midfield with Abou Diaby. Or Francis Coquelin. Or send on Andre Santos to go marauding down that left wing and slam in some shots from the outside of the box.
Of course, none of this takes into consideration the injuries that we’re bound to get but even if you take the inevitable handful out of the equation we still look pretty strong. And more importantly we shouldn’t be forced to bring players back early when they’re not ready because of a lack of strength in depth in the squad. Which should mean we pick up fewer unnecessary knocks. And I think that’s what they call a virtuous circle.
And I haven’t even mentioned some of the younger kids – the Serge Gnabrys or the Ryo Miyaichis or whoever it is next season that we decide to fast track to the first team rather than sending out on loan. What we’ve really missed ever since we first brought Francesc Fabregas through is the ability to blood a youngster gently. Bring them into a strong, experienced team as a luxury rather than a necessity. Give them time to learn their trade from more established pros without such a weight of expectation on their shoulders.
I saw a bit of Aaron Ramsey for Team GB yesterday and couldn’t help but think about what a rough ride he got from the fans last year. Because we’re so used to the average age of the team being 22 we’ve lost all perspective on what constitutes a kid. I had to check but Ramsey’s still only 21 years old. Too young to automatically expect consistent performances from in a top four side. Particularly after what he’s been through. Next season hopefully he won’t have such high expectations on him. And he might get the chance to rebuild his shaky confidence.
And just maybe, if things go really well, we might have the odd game when we’re able to bring him or others off the bench, not because we’re chasing a late equaliser, but because we’re four goals to the good and we just want to give him some minutes. Let him showboat for a bit and maybe add a late fifth And I really can’t remember the last time we had that luxury.
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- Wenger expecting Jack to avoid Ramsey and Eduardo pitfalls