After a difficult week that has included losses to both Sunderland and Chelsea as well as the shock of losing Robin van Persie for 5 months, Arsenal fans will be hoping to get things back on track as soon as possible. The trouble is, looking at the December fixtures and the players available to Arsene Wenger, it might not be so easy.
The Carling Cup game at Manchester City, a place we have already lost this season, is first up on Wednesday. That will be followed by the visit of the notoriously physical Stoke City who currently sit in 9th on the table and have conceded just 15 goals in 14 games before we travel to Athens, Anfield and Turf Moor to play Olympiacos, Liverpool and a Burnley team that have won 5 out of 7 home games.
None of them are easy games and the biggest concern is just how we are going to get back to winning ways. After scoring 36 goals in our opening 11 games we have failed to score in the last two and much of that comes down to our lack of a physical centre-forward who can compliment the smaller players around him. In short, we are badly missing not only van Persie but Nicklas Bendtner as well and if we are to hang on to Chelsea’s coattails during December then the manager needs to find a solution quickly.
Personally I believe we can get through this difficult period by relying on two attributes that the available squad has in abundance: experience and pace. Until we get the injection of height that Bendtner and Abou Diaby’s returns will bring, I’d like to see Wenger play a team that balances plenty of experience to fight through tight, messy contests with the pace we need to not only get in behind teams but exploit them on the break as well.
That means Eduardo being trusted to come good in the middle, Andrey Arshavin continuing to operate from one wing and the explosive Theo Walcott or Carlos Vela being used on the other. I’ll admit that neither Walcott nor Vela has particularly impressed in the past few games, yet their raw pace needs to be used to give the more technical players someone to thread dangerous passes through to. Without variety in our attack it’s hard not to see more games like Sunderland or Chelsea.
In the midfield the Song-Fabregas-Denilson triangle appears to be the best way to go. It provides a solid base of winning the midfield battle and allowing us to play possession football. I should add that I’d like to see Rosicky or Nasri come on for Denilson to add more creativity in games where the midfield battle has been won but the goals are not flowing.
Defensively I don’t think things should change from the Chelsea game. Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas are still our best partnership, Bacary Sagna and Manuel Almunia are shoe-ins while Armand Traore should fair far better with a couple of games under his belt. Concentration appears to be the key in this area and one would hope the back five will communicate well and pull together to provide us with a more solid defence than we have been seeing
I realise that very little of this will be relevant to this week’s Carling Cup game – it’s more of a muse about our current situation and how we can make the most of the next month of football. I’ll have a proper match preview tomorrow but in the meantime, let me know what you think.
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