Written by Gooner in Exile
On Monday 27th December Arsenal took on and beat Chelsea at home. I was very content as finally I had seen our team in blistering form, moving through the gears during a ninety minute display against a major rival that many of us had not witnessed for some time.
Many fans including me proclaimed thanks that finally Arsene had identified his first team, who could argue, with Jack and Alex holding down centre midfield, Theo, Cesc and Samir causing all kinds of problems and Robin up front our team was looking frightening going forward. With the defence coming together also things were looking rosy for the second half of the season.
Following that game we travelled to Wigan away, Arsene proclaimed that there was little to be gained from rotating one or two players but that rotating seven or eight is okay as it causes less disruption (another piece of Arsene logic that I think is best left undiscussed). The side that ran out to play at the JJB was a shadow of the team that played against Chelsea. At the time I defended our manager for his decision, knowing we were amidst a busy festive schedule and approaching a succession of cup games in the near future, I felt he was right to send out the team he did and that the team should have been able to win that game, it failed.
Arsene instead of making eight changes in that game could have made two or three, and then for the next match two or three again.
I admit I have changed my mind, I hope Arsene does too, it has been clear to most of us that a gulf in quality has emerged this season between the first team regulars and the squad players. Sending the likes of Eboue, Denilson, Gibbs, Rosicky and Diaby out to play together does nothing for any of them, they are all capable players, they are not our best players and for me they would benefit more from starting alongside the majority of the first team regulars, rather than amongst players of similar quality.
Also by making these wholesale changes Arsene is inviting the opposition to up their game, by making eight changes Martinez was given an easy job for a team talk “who do this lot think we are, they think they can send out their reserves and beat us….lets show them who we are make them respect us”. I imagine both Leeds and Leyton Orient managers would have given very similar team talks.
Most of our “poor” performances in January and February featured many of these squad players, I believe that these results with the accompanied dissatisfaction from the fans had a significant effect on the confidence of these players. So much effect in fact that they all became virtually unusable as the season reached the business end. Partly due to reaction to their selection from pundits and fans and also because the players themselves have been on an apparent downward spiral.
I will leave you with a brief comparison.
In the last nineteen games of the season Arsenal started 25 different players, 15 of those players started 5 or more games, 11 started more than 10 games.
In the same nineteen games Manchester United started 24 different players, 20 of those started 5 or more games, 8 started more than 10 games.
There is a subtle difference, their squad players were brought in and out during the run in, as a result the whole squad feel part of the team, I fear that the squad players at Arsenal have become like the last kid to be picked in the playground, only wanted because there is no one else. With that mindset and the reality that they will be dropped when the absent player is fit or back from suspension why would they give all they can on the pitch or try and prove the manager wrong.
So enough of the wholesale changes, two or three players every week, to freshen up the side and legs. We as fans may have to be patient too, no hissy fits because X or Y is in the team, rotation works, if Carrick, Evans, Gibson, and O’Shea have been able to win Premier League winners medals it must do!