Nothing like a bit of intermittent internet problems to start off ones day, eh? It’s amazing how reliant we are on these little black/white boxes that pump invisible connectivity to all parts of our houses and when that goes temporarily we feel lost and bereft.
So it’s a bit of old school blogging from my phone for me this morning. It’s not the kind of ‘old school’ I’d prefer if I’m honest. I prefer the ‘Arsenal win the league title again’ kind of old school. The retro kit old school. The Fleetwood Mac kind of old school. Not this.
Anyhoo, what’s going on in the world of The Arsenal then?
Well, perhaps in a nod to my lack of internet connection, it doesn’t appear as though there’s much to be honest, which isn’t really to say that’s a bad thing because it means there isn’t a lot of introspection and over analysis on an Arsenal implosion after the weekend. It’s nice. We scored goals, we looked good going forward, we got ourselves back into winning ways. It’s nice.
Mikel Arteta however will no doubt have virtual chalkboards and all manner of analysis going on ahead of a pivotal week and a half for his Arsenal side and whilst we will only hear the “we just focus on the next game” spiel from the manager, he has to come up with a formula that sees us get the best out of the squad across multiple games in short succession. He must surely have a plan for rotating some of his side over the next 12 days?
For example, the centre halves, who he appeared to have already started that process against Leeds. I’m not Rob Holding’s biggest fan, but his form has been decent enough and whilst he wasn’t great in the concession of the goal against Aston Villa, I don’t think his failure to start at home to Leeds was a consequence of that bit of poor defending. I suspect Mikel was just starting his process of rotation and that – I think – started at the back with Holding only getting on at the end.
Likewise too with Luiz, I just don’t think he plays all of these games over the next week and a bit and I suspect we will see him come out either on Thursday or Sunday against Man City. I listen to the Arsenal Vision podcast and there was something that Clive said a few weeks back that resonated with me. David Luiz is a man well into his 30s and perhaps his mistakes are due to a lack of concentration or mental fatigue when he’s played too many consecutive matches over a short period of time? Perhaps we need to take a look at how he is used and spread his workload, to cut out those lapses in judgement?
With that in mind I’d be tempted to have him on the bench against Benfica, then perhaps back into the team for the Man City game, missing out for the second Benfica game and then back in for Leicester. Alternatively you play him in the two Benfica matches – hoping he has a point to prove that he still has it ahead of a possible move back there in the summer – and shelve him for the two league games sandwiched in between those Europa League ties.
It’s not like we don’t have the players who can cover at centre half either. Gabriel looked better against Leeds and I thought he brought the ball out of defence well. Pablo Mari is back in training and was on the bench at the weekend, Holding is also match fit, so there are options there for rotation. Where more headaches might lie is in full back, because the departures of Ainsley and Sead have left us with no real option to rotate with Tierney still out. Full back has become an increasingly important position in the modern game and it also relies on pace and an engine to cover both defensive and attacking duties. Cedric and Bellerin are players who could probably do with a bit of rotation to keep them fresh, but unless Tierney is back soon – like this week – then it feels like they are our only real option and I wonder if we might suffer a bit in that position. I’ve seen talk of Saka playing full back as an option but there are two reasons why that simply doesn’t provide a solution for us I’m afraid. Firstly, and most importantly, he is on fire on that wide right attacking spot. Secondly, if we shunt him to left back it is hardly giving him the rotation option to recharge himself and not be overloaded either, is it? He’s a guy who has played more than most of the team this season and with him constantly getting knocks, bumps and bruises, it feels like only a matter of time before one of them leads to something more serious. Unless he can be protected to be fresh. Ideally we should be rotating but at the moment both he and Smith Rowe don’t seem to be.
Like in centre half, we also have options there too. Pepe has played his way back in to form, Odegaard did a decent enough job in that number 10/connector role, plus we have Martinelli wide left who must surely be in for some game time. There are options for us to utilise and if I was Arteta i’d be thinking about that for this Thursday and then on Sunday. Take the wide left position, for example. Pepe was rested at the weekend so I’d have him in against Benfica, but then perhaps the intensity press of Martinelli for the City game and their marauding full backs, is a better option for rotation?
We all know we have a young and inexperienced manager and he’s made one or two blips along the way. But this is where he needs to come into his own here, because this is crunch time in the season and you have to be making the right decisions before the game in terms of selection, as well as during it in terms of subs that can change the complexion of a match. We will start to see just how much Arteta has learned in his last year and a bit as Arsenal manager.
Catch you all tomorrow.