Genuine question there that I’d love to get some comments on from anybody tuning in today.
We’ve had the Champions League come and go (which to be honest most of us must have thought that would happen anyway after the draw), we’ve seen a chance for FA Cup glory melt away after a lacklustre home performance, then as of this weekend just gone by we’ve all but seen the league title slip away. So what is the remainder of this season for Arsenal fans?
For me it will feel odd, because I don’t think that when I turn up at the pub at 1pm on Sunday, I’ll be as nervous as I usually am ahead of a game. Crystal Palace feels like it might be similar to Watford i.e. A team with an eye on an FA Cup semi final, but we can’t be sure until we see the opening exchanges of the game, I suppose.
It also feels like this is the sort of game we win comfortably, because the pressure is off, the players are just fighting to remain as the also-rans in third. They will be at home, they will know that their opponents aren’t in great form, as well as the fact that we have a decent record against Palace. Palace will probably sit deep and we’ll have more of the possession, so it’ll be on our front line to deliver against a team who would undoubtedly take a draw.
The game, in essence, will feel a little meaningless. Well, that’s what it feels like to me, right now. Perhaps a little closer to the weekend I’ll start to get the buzz. But if I’m honest, I’ve had a lot of the stuffing knocked out of me since the beginning of March, when the real folding started to happen to the team with the United and Swansea defeats. I feel like I’ve been punched in the metaphorical Arsenal leg so many times that it’s all just a little bit numb for the rest of the season.
There’s still points to play for, there’s still third that needs to be secured, but at the moment it doesn’t really feel like there’s any major pressure on the team. So I don’t feel like it either.
So what does that mean for the rest of the season? For me it means experimentation. It means trying things with a view to seeing if they work. We have to continue to have a mobile front three and so the continuation of the Iwobi-Welbeck-Alexis formation has to be soup de jour, but behind those three I wonder if there is some opportunity for others to have a crack. Ow about in that midfield, for example? Coquelin and Elneny have been good, but why not see what Elneny and Wilshere might be able to do, or as Ben has said to me outside of social media – Elneny and Cazorla. Ben isn’t the biggest fan of Coquelin, but he is warming to Elneny, who we must all admit looks more cultured on the ball than the Frenchman. He’s also got the ability to put his foot in, so the idea that we could have a ball-playing, deep-lying, central midfielder who can sit alongside the silk of someone like Santi, feels quite appealing to me.
Or perhaps we should even try having Ramsey and Elneny alongside each other. Two midfielders who cover a heck of a lot of ground does feel appealing to me. The question that would need to be pondered would be whether Rambo can still have the defensive discipline when he has somebody like Elneny alongside him. Would this duet have a guy who wants to play electric guitar and sing up top all day because it’s a little bit cooler, leaving the metronomic sound of the bassist behind keeping the rythmn going, or would it all just sound a little bit like a cacophony of cats screeching in to the wind?
No idea. But I do know that with some winnable games on paper and with some major work needed in the summer, the manager might as well start looking at which partnerships provide more balance. Jack and Coq? Jack and Elneny? Ramsey and Elneny? Elneny and Santi? All seem like there’s something about the individuals that might work. So why shouldn’t we have a play around?
I also wonder whether we should be taking another look at Chambers at centre half. Gabriel has been a little clumsy at times since his run in the team and Per seems to have trampled all over Arsène’s azaleas, such is his demotion from the team, but I think Chambers should be given an opportunity to see how he does with a run of games. He’s in his early 20s, he’s looked good in the last few games he’s played and I think he and Koscielny would form a very good partnership.
There are some people who have questioned his ability, but I’d ask those people to really rack their brains on games where Chambers has been poor. I have and when I think about it, it’s been when he’s been playing as a full back. Arsène may have bought him as that when he signed from Southampton, but I think it’s clear to all that he’s less comfortably there, certainly when you compare his performances at centre half.
Now imagine that he was given a run of games like he was at the beginning of 2014/15. He played well, looked assured and many were making references to Tony Adams back then, so what’s changed? Only that he has a better knowledge of the club and he’s played in a few different positions which probably haven’t suited him. So why not give him a run now and see if he looks the part like he did when he first arrived?
That’s just my view, anyway, because whilst there are plenty of players who I think should probably get in the bin, there are some who I think deserve a shot.
I just hope they get the chance to prove it now.