Happy Saturday to you super awesome people. hopefully it’s one in which you can keep yourself busy, what with the whole ‘no Arsenal’ getting in the way n’all. For me it’s one in which I’ve got half a day of some chores, then it’s a bit of egg chasing observation with a couple of mates and some beer. Not a bad substitute I suppose.
As I sit at my desk mashing away at my keypad though, the players will be arriving for training and Arsene will get an indication on a few players and their availability. I must admit to being absolutely petrified at thew prospect of having only Chambers as the only fit centre half after the midweek win against Hull, but Arsene has confirmed both Mertesacker and Gabriel should be ok, which given our history with players going down in training, is certainly positive. I half expected Arsene to proclaim that Gabriel’s hamstrings had exploded into a ball of flames and he was currently in a medical facility with Shad and the team blasting fire extinguisher foam at him from all angles. So to hear that he could be available is brilliant. It’s the same with Big Per. Whilst both have been shaky over the last few weeks, along with Koscielny, we are entering a crucial period of the season and the last thing we need is ‘The Great Centre Back Crisis of 2016’ to be our overriding emotion when we get to the end of the season.
But we’re all ok and so Arsene will probably be making a decision on which pairing he’ll go for against Watford. More on what they might do as our opponents tomorrow, but I do wonder if Chambers might still be given a go. To me he isn’t a full back and it all feels a little clunky when he plays there, so in a way I am kind of hoping he gets a chance. In the last few games he’s come on to play that position as a sub, he’s looked quite good I thought and when he started well at the beginning of last season, there were those that were comparing him in style to Tony Adams. I thought at the time that it felt like a bit of a stretch to do so, but he’s definitely got something about him and I think he’s going to get in to the position soon where he’s going to want more game time.
Perhaps the feeling that Gabriel is being earmarked to replace Big Per on a more regular basis (he has started to play more games when everyone is fit), will also coincide with a general promotion of Chambers to ‘first reserve’ over the next year. Our BFG will be 32 in September and whilst he’s never been one blessed with pace, he is in the autumn of his career and Arsene will surely be starting to think about some succession planning. Rotating Chambers more and giving him more game time will only help him improve and despite what some people have said at times this season about his form, I do think he’s about 18 months away from being a first choice Arsenal centre half. I’m no expert, I have no ‘inside track’ at the club, I just get that feeling that his progression will start to become more obvious over the next year. We’ll have to see.
The other conundrum for us will be what happens with the absence of Ramsey for the next month. Like I said yesterday, whilst his form hasn’t been great, his goalscoring is always valuable to the team and if he’s not on t he pitch scoring goals it does put additional pressure on the likes of Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck, Ozil and Alexis. Thankfully each of those players have weighed in with goals over the last few games, but we need to see more from every single one of them to make up for the Welshman’s loss. And the real question that many of us keep asking is around which partnerships work, so how do we ensure that the partnerships that are most effective are playing and rotated appropriately?
What I mean by that is Giroud and Alexis, for example, who don’t seem to link up as well; should Arsene start to develop two forward lines that alternate? Against Hull Giroud and Walcott combined well and as Tim Stillman points out in his Arseblog column, Giroud has been drifting in between full back and centre half, which has caused a bit of congestion at times. So does Arsene look to play Alexis/Welbeck, or Giroud/Walcott depending on the opposition? I can see the logic, but I don’t think Arsene will see it that way. I think Arsene will look to try the different combinations including Alexis and Giroud more, because I think Arsene pays more attention to the form of the player and also (perhaps cynically of me to say) this players hierarchy in the team. Arsene does like his hierarchy and if you’re recognised as one of those players he favours, then you’re more likely to be given the nod if it’s a 50-50 with another player. I think Giroud’s form in recent weeks has seen him drop down the pecking order only because at the exact time Welbeck has looked hungry and in form, which is why Arsene has rotated both. But if Giroud plays again this weekend and scores I just have a feeling he’ll be back at the top of the pecking order and more likely to be playing in Barcelona too.
But hey, just the thoughts of an increasingly ageing Arsenal fan becoming a little bit more cynical every day, because I can. Ultimately if our centre forward is scoring goals, it doesn’t matter who it is. But if there’s a combination which doesn’t seem to work, surely the manager has to consider avoiding it at all costs? Sometimes two flavours just don’t go together. It doesn’t mean you don’t like those flavours at certain times in your life. It just means that you need to make sure you don’t mix the flavours at the same time.
Rotate the flavours Arsene, rotate them and keep your palate enjoying them depending on what situation befalls you.
Right, I’m going off into metaphorical tangents that will probably have me even more confused, so I’d better stop for the day and go and get my hair cut, so ciao peeps.