Arsene Wenger explained his team selection after his side’s draw with Manchester United, stating that he picked his team based on ‘experience and fight’.
Many fans were left scratching their head as they heard the news that Granit Xhaka would, once again, be on the bench. Many were also surprised to see Alex Iwobi benched, highlighting his selection against Chelsea this season and Barcelona last.
“I knew it would be a bit more of a physical battle so I chose players who have experience and fight,” Wenger told Arsenal.com.
“That’s why my selection was because of that. At the end of the day, everyone gave their maximum and there is a special spirit in the squad. That’s why we came back, because the players who came on made the difference. That’s remarkable.”
In terms of Iwobi, while he was trusted against Barcelona in Spain, Wenger clearly thought that Ramsey was a more reliable option due to his discipline when tracking back.
Even Ramsey admitted he struggled marking Valencia, telling the media, “It was difficult tracking back with Valencia out there but it was something I was asked to do and I felt alright.” It’s hard to imagine that Iwobi would have done a better job defensively.
As for Granit Xhaka, he certainly has experience and fight, but he has no experience of a game at Old Trafford (although he played at the Eithad last season in the Champions League without getting into any trouble at all, as well as at Juventus and, of course, Bayern Munich in the league (again, no card)) and Mohamed Elneny has been at the club for almost a year now.
Booked only 12 minutes after coming on, Xhaka’s reputation certainly precedes him already, despite it being completely undeserved and based on seriously dodgy stats.
It’s not hard to imagine Andre Marriner sending him off for very little, even though he allowed Matteo Darmian to do what he wanted all game.
Anyway, it seems like Wenger is trying to give Xhaka and Ramsey time to get to know each other. After returning from a long injury, it’s not surprising to see Wenger put Ramsey on the wing because he will still work his ass off defensively regardless of his fitness levels. When Xhaka came on, Ramsey moved in alongside him.
At present, the pair do not have the understanding to control a game like Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin can, but that will come with time.
When it does, it’s going to be something special.