There’s been quite a lot written about Arsenal in the last few days, (that might seem like a redundant sentence, but we usually only see this amount of Arsenal content after a loss, not a big win at a title rival.) with the majority of them carrying a similar logic thread in them. Here’s three of them, for example, from the Guardian, Telegraph and Zonal Marking.
If you haven’t got time to read the above columns, here are the cliff notes:
- Arsenal played well but it’s going to be hard for Mesut Ozil to fit into that team;
- Arsenal played well but it’s going to be hard for Jack Wilshere to fit into that team;
- Arsenal played well but it’s going to be hard for the likes of Ozil, Wilshere and Theo Walcott to fit into that team.
All the above are valid points made by excellent writers, these aren’t a bunch of amateur bloggers looking to get some easy clicks by making an inflammatory statement, it’s Barney Ronay, Jeremy Wilson, and Michael Cox pointing out the tactical flaws that some of our players have. But in doing so, they’re missing a key point. Yes, as it stands at this minute, it’s hard to find a place for three of our most attacking talents.
But that’s a good thing, not a problem.
I spent last year studying radio production at Radio Kerry in Tralee and the very first thing you’re taught is the following; No matter what you say, who you play, or who you have on a show, you’ll never please everyone. EVER. So don’t try to.
Every day you go on air, you’re going to upset someone, so don’t worry about it because there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. As long as the majority of your listeners are happy with the quality of your product, you’ll keep your job.
Arsene Wenger now finds himself in precisely the same position, in regards to his squad.
He now has 11 extremely happy football players, satisfied with both their effort, and their position, as regulars in a team that just won a big game. He now also has a few players who will be feeling slightly less happy about where they stand, because even though the team won, they weren’t given a chance or an opportunity to contribute to achieving that result.
Again, that sounds like a problem, but it’s actually a good thing.
The above columns are making the point that it’s going to be up to Wenger to fit Ozil, Theo, and Wilshere into his team. But this shouldn’t be the way it works.
Instead, the players not selected should look at that game, see how effective we played in a big occasion, and immediately ask what they can do to change their skill set in order to force their way into the side.
We’ve seen players at Arsenal do this before.
Robert Pires was an outright disaster in his first season with us, but he knuckled down, got stronger, adapted to the way we played, and became an all-time great at the club. He could have cried, he could have whined, he could have complained, but he didn’t. He recognized his weaknesses and fixed them. He made himself undroppable.
That’s why it was so encouraging to see that Ozil bulked up considerably after his knee injury. Clearly, the physical nature of the Premier League had worn him down as the season progressed, and he’s now making an adjustment to compensate for that. Whether it’ll work is yet to be seen, but at least he’s trying. It would have been all too easy for him to just rest on his laurels and demand that the team accommodates him and his talent set.
We now have to wait to see if Walcott and Wilshere respond in a similar vein.
Theo has all the promise in the world, but for the first time since he established himself in the first team squad, he’s not an automatic starter on the right wing when he’s 100% fit. Alexis is now entrenched in the starting XI, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s impressive start to the season has pushed him higher up the pecking order as well.
As for Jack, we spent the start of the season trying to work out how Arsenal could fit both him and Ramsey in the same team, now we have to add Santi Cazorla into that equation as well. But it’s not Arsenal’s problem that they have too many quality midfielders, it’s his. Once he gets back fit and healthy, he has to now show why he deserves to be first choice.
Now that everyone is getting healthy, and players aren’t getting consistent runs in the first team because there’s nobody else available, it’s going to be fascinating to see who steps up and forces the manager to pick them, and then just as fascinating to see the response of those who get looked over.
Podolski has already left the club because he was sick and tired of being kept on the bench, and it’ll be amazing if he ends up being the only player who ends up annoyed at not being picked.
But all of this is healthy for the club, because there’s no better way of determining who’s good enough to play for Arsenal and who isn’t, than by having everyone fit and available, and letting talent speak for itself.
The time for sentiment is over, it’s time for those who aren’t getting game time to prove that they should get more of a chance, instead of us worrying about where to play them.