Eurgh, midweek drinking (combinations of ale, red wine, Sailor Jerry and Port are not to be trifled with, fyi) accompanied by an early get up and train journey into the city for work, don’t exactly make for the happiest Chris on this here earth, I can assure you. I’ve got that ‘punched in the face’ feeling and my working day hasn’t even entered its infancy. Plus it’s that time of the year when it’s cold in the morning, but warm in the evening, so as I type today’s nonsensical waffle I am also conscious that by home time I’ll be sweatier than a fat man on a treadmill in a sauna.
But in the world of football, life is grand for you and I, isn’t it? After all, we are the loving supporters of the in-form team of 2015, which whilst it will most likely not bring any kind of reward in itself come May, will possibly lead to success in the FA Cup, all being willing. If, as we hope, we can overcome Reading, I suspect that Liverpool will be waiting at the final, but having recently been victorious against an admittedly under strength side it would be a more difficult final for sure. But that is all hearsay and conjecture at this point, so let us park it and look ahead towards the immediate future of Burnley away on Saturday.
The early team news appears to be somewhat unfortunate, in the Laurent Koscienly is rumoured to be a bit short for this Saturday’s Lancastrian journey. If true – we’ll find out from Le Boss tomorrow no doubt – then it will be a blow to the side because he’s been good of late. Kos has been the ever-present in this rich vein of form we’re in, so to lose him for any amount of time is a shame, but the great news is that we appear to have the kind of squad depth that we were lacking all season long with the arrival of Gabriel.
I do like Gabriel you know. He has slotted in well when he’s played and unlike when Squillaci joined us and looked okayish for the first couple of matches before declining rapidly, Gabriel has put in some decent shifts in a calm and ‘no nonsense’ fashion that has me less concerned about Kos’ absence for the trip to Turf Moor. It’s always good to see a defender get stuck in and I remember the Middlesbrough game was a particularly impressive performance on many levels. He even took a yellow card in the ‘right way’, bringing down an attacking player in a position which allowed the defence to readjust and eventually see the ball out from danger. That’s the kind of intelligence that gets you far in football.
Away from the defence, Rambo has also picked up a knock, but all of the sounds from random people on Twitter not officially associated with the club in any way, shape or form, are that its not too serious. That’s good news because it means that should Arsène choose too, he could name a similar starting XI to the one that played on Saturday lunchtime.
Something else I’ve been thinking of recently, which has been born from the overwhelming success of Coquelin, is at what point do we as Arsenal fans say that he is the defensive midfielder we all need and that any additional signing that is made in the summer should be as understudy to him?
The reason I’m pondering that is because even now, when I speak to most Arsenal fans both on and offline, many still talk of boosting the squad with a player like Schneiderlin into the ranks. I’m all for competition and it is the ability to rotate this team that I think is one of a number of factors behind our current form, but I still hear and read from people that we need a £25million defensive midfield replacement. There’s a few obvious issues in that as I see it. Firstly, if the media can go to town on Özil because he’s £42million worth of footballer and has a barren spell, what would they do about a £25million player that on current form, wouldn’t get in to the Arsenal team. And yes, I am not just talking about Schneiderlin, but any deep-lying midfielder. You only have to look at Le Coq’s statistics in breaking up possession and winning tackles to see that he’s the best in the league at the moment. If form is maintained for the rest of the season – and he’s strung enough games together by now to suggest that barring any injury he will – there’s no way that we can seriously justify such an outlay on a squad player. Is there?
So what do you do if you’re Arsène? Because if he goes out and buys an £8million decent squad player, he’ll probably get lambasted for not having enough ambition, but if he spunks £30million on Kondogbia and doesn’t play him he’ll be told he’s signed a white elephant. The delicate balance needed in a really top draw squad – especially one like ours in which injuries seem to come to us as sure as day follows night – is really important in building successful teams. It’s dilemmas like that one in the base of the midfield that has one appreciating the complexities of managing a football club, where people management is as important as the data and the numbers.
So even if we finish the season second, even if we win the FA Cup, even if the squad looks like the strongest it’s been ever and even if we as fans are left happy with how the team has progressed, Arsène will still have a really difficult summer on his hands. What will he do about Szczesny? What’s going to happen in defensive midfield? Where does he fit Jack into the team? What decision will be made on Walcott?
All of this needs to be thought of, to ensure the squad is balanced and deep enough to mount a title challenge. And we thought previous summers were make or break!
Anyway, that’s probably enough jibber-jabber from me for one day, because all of this hypothesising is hurting my brain.
Catch you tomorrow.