October 27, 2012
It’s always nice to welcome back a player as supremely gifted as Bacary Sagna. He’s quite possibly the best right back in the league and our most consistent performer when he’s not nursing broken legs and yet… it’s probably the one position I’m not that bothered about strengthening at the moment.
Carl Jenkinson has done well. Really well. He’s overcome the doubters (I count myself amongst them) and put in a series of performances of heart and steel and I can’t really think of too many occasions that he’s let us down. So while it’s great that Bacary’s Back (alright!) that’s not the story today.
The only story today is Jack Wilshere. After the disappointment of our last two performances and the frankly depressing mood amongst the fanbase if there’s one thing that you feel could galvanise the ranks it’s the return of our favourite son. Arsene Wenger says that he’s undecided if he’s going to start him today:
What I am considering is that he wants to play, it is an important game, but we want the players to be ready physically and he has not played for 14 months.
It was planned for him to play next week at Reading and also we consider how the squad are physically and mentally. Physically Jack is at 80 to 85 per cent.
Privately though I suspect the decision has already been taken. I think Jack will start. He may only be at 85% but he’s played four comeback games now for the U-21s and the only way he’s going to add the final 15% is if he plays for the first team. Yes you could argue that he should get a few minutes as a substitute first but what he needs is a significant chunk of playing time to improve his fitness. If he comes off the bench with half an hour to go that will be because the team is struggling. That will put additional pressure on his shoulders to come out and save the game. He doesn’t need additional pressure.
Add that to the fact that he wouldn’t get the same mental and physical preparation for the game by being called off the bench as if he knows in advance that he’s starting and playing 60 minutes and I think he will start and play 60 minutes. And I think that’s exactly what this team needs right now.
Thomas Vermaelen writes in his programme notes today that you don’t lose quality in one week. And he’s right. You don’t. But you can lose a lot of confidence in one week and Arsenal need to arrest that slide. There’s a growing perception in the media at the moment that ‘if you stop Cazorla, you stop Arsenal’. The best riposte I can think of to that is to throw in as many players as we can to prove that theory wrong. Jack is absolutely one of those players.
Another is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He’s rated at 60-40 to start by the boss and hopefully we see him too. One of the most depressing things about Wednesday night is that it was such a similar line-up to the team that had let themselves down so badly on Saturday evening. We all know there are too many players still languishing in this squad that Le Boss simply doesn’t fancy. So when we get a handful of injuries to the ones that he does and the performances of his first choice XI start to slip there’s nothing he can do to change it up.
No doubt that’s why there are yet more stories doing the rounds this morning about a January exodus. But we’ve heard those stories before. And there’s a lot of football to be played between now and January. So hopefully we can find a way to get more from the squad that we have. Starting today.
One thing I’d be desperate to see this afternoon regardless of who starts is that we play to players’ strengths. Lukas Podolski has looked lost out on the wing in recent games. But we know how deadly he can be in the penalty box. Is there any chance we could play him there? Equally the Gervinho up front experiment looks like it could be spluttering out. Yet on his day, and I know some people may disagree with this, he is one of the best there is at flying down that left wing and ghosting past defenders. Considering our inability to get in behind in recent games is it really beyond the realms of possibility that we could, you know, swap those two around?
Stick Gervinho on the left and Oxlade on the right with either Giroud or a hungry Podolski down the middle feeding off balls from Wilshere and Cazorla and I defy anyone to tell us that we’re a one man team. Any defence in the league should be quaking at the prospect. And if we’re worried about how much cover we’re giving our full backs then how’s about we just order the wingers to track back and provide sufficient cover?
Podolski offers us excellent cover on that left hand side but that’s mainly because he’s scrappy and professional and he cares. We didn’t sign him to be covering back, something that all players in his position should be doing, we signed him because we sold our leading goalscorer and we needed goals. Let’s give him the chance to do that.
Today has taken on a massive significance to our season thanks to the last two results and we need to grab it by the balls, swing it around a bit and smash it into the nearest wall. We’ve got the players to do it, I’m pretty sure we’ve got the desire so let’s stick them in their proper positions and let them get on with it.
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