First things first, some of you might have noticed the conspicuous-by-its-absence match analysis after the Swansea game. Well, to be honest, I just didn’t feel up for it and there doesn’t seem to be much to gain from getting into the kind of details we’ve already discussed on numerous occasions. I understand there are some fans who might not have seen the game and were relying on the match report, to them my apologies; but I’m fairly certain these souls will understand my sentiments, perhaps even share them.
It wasn’t a rank bad performance over 90 minutes but it was far from the level Arsenal absolutely have to achieve and the mistakes for the goal were frustratingly familiar. As Wenger said, I’m not that concerned about 10th place in the table, it’s the quality of the game that is worrying and the fact that Arsene is uncharacteristically struggling to shape his best and most effective attacking unit despite having had a full pre-season with most players. Focussing on the position in the table is a little misleading because the gap with 3rd and 4th is not that big. If the quality of the game comes back the Gunners will move up the table swiftly but, unfortunately, we haven’t seen many signs of the unit clicking as a whole in a balanced manner.
I am currently trying to put together an article covering the broader view of the problems that Arsenal have faced over the last few seasons, and I hope to follow that up with more specifics on this season’s issues. Articulating the points without making the article something resembling a doctoral thesis is proving a tough ask. But hopefully I’ll be done in a couple of days.
In the meantime, there’s a game against Olympiacos. In the years to come, this will probably be viewed as the most pointless game Arsenal played this season. Yes, there is some bearing on the position in the group, which in turn will affect the draw for the second round, but let’s face it, that’s too far in the future and the immediate problems are of a much more pressing nature.
Wenger has decided to rest most of his key players, a move that was long overdue. So the squad to face the Greek champions consists of many youngsters, a few regulars, and fringe players whose continued presence in the squad has puzzled many.
Picking a competitive and balanced line-up from that squad that can win such an away game will be nothing short of miraculous. In other words, I will be pleasantly surprised if Arsenal come back with the three points.
Szczesny, Vermaelen, AOC, Jenkinson, Ramsey, Coquelin, Arshavin, Gervinho, and Chamakh should all start. Wenger might also pick Rosicky, although I hope it’d only be done with complete confidence rather than a gamble over his fitness just because the squad is short of experience. Squillaci is a possibility alongside Vermaelen.
If Rosicky plays, we could see Coquelin at right-back and Jenkinson at left, or vice-versa. If Little Mozart doesn’t start, one of the youngsters in the squad will likely start in one of the full-back positions. Meade seems the most likely choice at left-back.
We might see,
Szczesny – Coquelin, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Jenkinson – Ramsey, AOC, Rosicky – Gervinho, Chamakh, Arshavin.
That is just my attempt to fit in all the relatively experienced players into the starting line-up. Way too many permutations are possible but I don’t really care.
I was a little surprised Eisfeld wasn’t in the squad for this one, or Djourou. Are they injured?
It’s a game that has to come and go. If the Gunners somehow get a result then it might help stem the rot otherwise it’ll just be a statistic. I’m not too concerned about a defeat or a draw in this game and will most probably not watch it. There will definitely be no match report after this one but watch out for the other articles that I mentioned earlier.
The game on Saturday will probably be just the opposite of this one. Those looking back might see that as the most important one of the season, particularly if it can kick-start a turnaround. If not that then at least it will take us closer to January…