3 Into 2 Doesn’t Go, Where Has The Balance Gone?
The conundrum of the Arsenal midfield has been a point of much discussion this season. The current question is how do you fit Cazorla, Coquelin and Ramsey into two spots presuming Mesut Özil is fit? The answer of course is you can’t, as 3 into 2 doesn’t go! The question will become even more intriguing when Wilshere returns in the coming weeks.
Since coming into the team most fans would agree that the side has functioned at its best when Coquelin is in the side, which is hard to argue with. It would appear from the team selection that it is essentially who plays alongside Coquelin?
The manager appears to be unwilling to leave out either Rambo or Santi, which has further led to The Ox and Theo seeing fewer minutes on the pitch.
Last season the combination of Santi and Coquelin looked to be a solid and an important pairing, we found a stopper and Santi being able to dictate the play from deep. Santi in the middle gave some memorable displays; the game away at The Etihad is one that springs to mind. The second half of the season saw injuries to Theo and The OX which ultimately meant Ramsey was played out of position on the right side of the attacking three.
The form the side showed in the second half of the season was exceptional and of course they put another FA Cup in the trophy cabinet with a sensational display in the final against Aston Villa.
I have suggested in the past to the other bloggers that Arsenal curiously appear to be in better form when the squad is slightly depleted.
Perhaps looking at the form of the side since Coquelin came into the side shows he gives the balance that we missed but Arsene needs to be tougher with his decisions on who to leave out. There has always been criticism directed towards Arsenal that we do not select a side dependent on the opposition as we go out every game in the same way to play our own game. I think we can all agree that this probably a truthful accusation and there are times when we all feel that such a gung-ho attitude is not always the best approach.
Finally Arsenal have a player that the fans were calling for, and although I hate the term he is a proper “DM” and has excelled since coming into the side so the question of who plays with him should be asked.
With a fully fit squad you have the option of Santi, Aaron and Jack. For me the player who has to play in the role is Aaron Ramsey, he has an engine that I have never seen before on a player, he is also a goal scorer which is vital in this side and we need to have goals from all over the pitch. Aaron is the most natural to play in the role as he is a classic box to box midfielder who should complement the work that Coquelin does but I do feel he needs to be slightly more disciplined about when to stay and when to go. Aaron has the ability to be in the right place at the right time, makes decisive runs into the box and will get you 10-15 goals a season, and in my opinion is the most complete player we have in this area.
Santi has the ability to control the tempo of Arsenal’s play from deep but he simply doesn’t offer a goal threat (other than from the penalty spot). He proved recently that he is no longer able to play in the wide forward areas; he just doesn’t have the legs anymore. Santi is a wonderful footballer, he is a joy to watch and I haven’t seen a player so two footed before. I think he could still do an excellent job in the “10” role if Özil isn’t available.
Jack is somebody who brings something different, he is able to play a box to box role as well as sit deeper as a two. Jack has soft feet and is able to play short fast passes in a small space and has a natural ability to drift past players either running at them or by letting the ball move across his body. Jack is undoubtedly a huge talent (and somebody I have been accused of having a bias towards) but as we all know has had problems staying injury free. Certainly against West Ham we could have done with him on the pitch as we badly lacked a midfielder who could carry the ball at pace and drive us forward much like Rosicky can as well.
I mentioned earlier that Arsene wants to fit both Santi and Aaron into the side but it has meant that we have lacked genuine pace down the right hand side without either Theo or The Ox. When we play with Giroud down the centre, having pace down both flanks with Alexis on one side and The Ox or Theo on the right is critical. In my opinion the team would be best placed with pace either side to get the best out of Özil who has the ability to execute passes like no other player can. In the recent performance at Newcastle the side badly missed Özil, he really is the oil in the engine that makes the side tick and do feel that when he is absent we struggle to play with any rhythm or pace. I have little interest in what supporters of other clubs or journalists have say about Özil, we are very lucky to have a player of such supreme talent who is only going to get better and better.
Arsene needs to be brave, bold and make a decision on the midfield trio as simply playing your best players and fitting square pegs into round holes is having a negative effect on the balance and cohesion of the side. We appear to have the right balance in other areas of the pitch especially with the full backs who need to play in pairs, either Nacho and Bellerin or Gibbs and Debuchy. I also believe there are times especially at home where Arteta could play ahead of Coquelin as he can dictate a fast pace for the side from the base of the midfield.
I think the squad has quality and depth but selecting the right starting X1 is paramount and being slightly more ruthless with his selection could really benefit the team as whole.
Balance is the key Mr Wenger – COYG
Neil is our newest regular columnist here at #ABW. Go give him a follow on twitter (@chimpthegooner) and say “hello.”