Arsenal soup – it’s a tasty recipe.

Since Francis Coquelin’s renaissance during the festive period, Arsene Wenger has put a formation on the pitch which is rigid in some ways, yet endlessly flexible in others.

The back six has seen relative consistency, with Ospina guarded first by Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Bellerin, and then by the aforementioned Coquelin. Up front there has also been little rotation, with Olivier Giroud usually selected when available.

It’s hard to argue with those selections for the weeks ahead.

While I personally have a lot greater faith in Szczesny than Ospina, it’s clear that the manager has his reasons for the current rankings. Likewise, while Debuchy and Gibbs both have something to offer the side, there is no taking the shirt away from either Bellerin or Monreal in current form. Giroud is a no-brainer.

So that’s seven players more or less nailed on for regular game-time between now and the end of May.

The flexibility, then, comes in when we look at the four players hovering somewhere between Coquelin and Giroud in a fluid of triangles and eye of the needle passes, of dribbles and single touches, of ebb and flow.

We have seen Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey, Alexis, Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain all feature in that liquid space, with cameos for Rosicky, Flamini and the elusive Walcott.

The question is: who should we (or more specifically, Arsene Wenger) be selecting for the remaining eight/nine games as we chase automatic Champions League qualification, a successful defence of our FA Cup trophy, and an unlikely title just in case Chelsea decide to have the mother of all screw-ups?

Ultimately, who gains a place in our best XI?

Mission Impossible

In years gone by, sides traditionally fielded the same team week in week out. Chelsea’s lead in the Premier League this season was built to a large extent by the continued availability of a core of players, which allowed them to regularly field unchanged sides.

The logic goes that it’s no longer possible to take this approach for the whole season, as injuries and suspensions will take their toll. Certainly Chelsea have had something of a stutter in recent weeks and only the sparkling form of Eden Hazard has helped them to keep their heads above water.

So it’s pretty difficult to successfully field a best XI on four fronts any more for fitness reasons, but even with just eight or nine games to go, there’s another reason Arsenal’s best XI will be subject to change. The benefits of playing the same combinations are balanced by the importance of targeting opposition strengths and weaknesses, and taking advantage of freshness and form.

If a team has slow full backs, it would be madness not to use our speed merchants. Likewise, against the pace of Moreno against Liverpool, the prudent thing to do was draw him out onto a more creative midfielder such as Ozil or Ramsey and let Bellerin bomb on beyond. It was certainly a tactic that worked for the first goal.

The Invincibles side was built on a core of players featuring ostensibly in the same position each week, but it’s also why we ended up resting players to try to compete on multiple fronts. A decade on, Arsene has found a formula which offers more sustained momentum.

The players selected to join the dots between Coquelin and Giroud operate in such a liquid formation that when one moves, another simply drops in to rotate the space. It also means that when one is substituted, the introduced player simply becomes another member of the pool.

The Liverpool game saw this demonstrated beautifully.

Fluid Dynamics*

Alexis was primarily to be found on either flank, barring a brief spell in the centre of the park, but you would be hard pushed to say with any great certainty where Cazorla, Ozil or Ramsey were playing.

Cazorla delivered yet another all-action display playing closer to Coquelin early on before a fifteen minute cameo playing closer to Giroud should have seen the Spanish maestro deliver my predicted goal.

Ramsey was employed initially in an unfamiliar position on the right hand side while Ozil probably covered the proverbial ‘every blade of grass‘ in his 73 minutes on the pitch.

Their interplay was a delight, not only from the combinations we saw in the direction of attack, but in the interchangeability of the players plugging the gaps defensively too.

Danny Welbeck has showed in recent weeks that he merits a starting berth in this Arsenal side, and he again demonstrated today his ability to slot seamlessly into the rotating personnel.

It may have taken almost a full season to get the fluid flowing properly – it certainly looks very exciting for next year – but he still have just under two crucial months of this season remaining. With momentum going our way we’d be mad to change the winning ways in favour of a settled XI.

You could say, it would be like pushing water uphill.

*Geeky physics reference, sorry. Gotta put my degree to use somehow!