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Squad depth and quality, are we good enough?

by on November 17, 2011

A lovely day like today, being only 2 days away from the return of Premier League football and all, calls for a short blog on our squad this season.

Overall, after the summer, we definitely managed to solve one problem from last season which was the problem of squad depth. Signing Arteta, Gervinho, Mertesacker, Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jenkinson, Park, Miyaichi and securing Benayoun on loan means that we have various options for each position and the ability to have a different team – whether we want one or not is debatable – after a couple of games. While two names remain pretty unchanged, Szczesny and van Persie, the other players in the team are now being pushed to perform game in and game out to compete for places – a very good thing if you ask me. Competition inside the squad is good as is the ability to rotate players

In defence, Koscielny has been doing brilliantly. In many games this season he has been a vital man at the back.  Alongside Koscielny at CB this season we’ve seen Vermaelen or new signing Mertesacker, still adjusting to the English style of football. Last season the CB pairing of Vermaelen and Koscielny was very solid and this looks to be the case this season too. While Mertesacker has been good, the old CB partnership looks the safest and most efficient. Kieran Gibbs could of course be our first choice LB, however due to his injury Santos has been predominantly our LB this season. And he has done well so far, proving a more attack minded member of the back four. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod when Gibbs returns. With arguably the best RB in the Premier League, in the form of Bacary Sagna, out injured we have had to resort to new signing Jenkinson at right back. Carl Jenkinson got his first shot at the big time against Udinese and impressed. Since then he has been a fairly reliable, if inexperienced member of the team. Djourou has also made some appearances at RB and CB. With Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen all vying for the CB place, Vermaelen able to fit in at LB as well as Santos, Jenkinson or Djourou covering at RB until the return of Sagna, we are finally not short of defenders. (Oh yeah, can’t forget Squillaci either..) Vermaelen will no doubt be carrying the defence on his shoulders this season and we can only hope that another injury doesn’t befall him as he is an integral part of the spine of this team.

There are many potential line-ups for midfield. Diaby and Wilshere are both of course out injured so can’t be considered right now but, in the case of Wilshere more so, will be back in the XI straight away. Defensively, Alex Song seems the obvious and most efficient choice for midfield. Frimpong is also an option here; however the young player has proven that he first needs to learn how to channel his aggression and passion in an appropriate and beneficial way before he can be guaranteed any first team place. So far Arteta has been the most reliable member of the midfield, looking composed on the ball while Ramsey has had his shaky moments but the Welshman has also been a regular, and deservedly so, member of the team. Arshavin and Rosicky, despite being experienced members of the team, have mostly found themselves being used as subs. However the ability to rotate this midfield is highly beneficial when players need a rest or a chance to play.

I feel we are most effective when playing 4-3-3, where the midfield has the chance to boss the game as we so like to do. This formation I feel gives the strikers and midfielders more space and fluidity, but also options to drop back or press up. It seems more natural for a passing team like us to play in a more open and expressive formation to allow our players to be creative higher up the pitch. It can of course change to the 4-5-1, or vice versa depending on how open the game becomes. In our case it’s important not to let van Persie become isolated and that’s why it’s important to have players like Walcott and Gervinho who can drift in and out but also the all round midfielder type of Wilshere, who can construct an attacking move from midfield. It’s also vital not to let the game become too open and allow the opposition time and space on the ball, something we maybe have been guilty of allowing to happen. A player like Wilshere is also important when retaining possession in the middle of the park, and not allowing pressure to be asserted on the back four. This is also achieved in the 4-5-1 where the wide players can drop to midfield to calm the game down if necessary.

Up front, our star Dutchman has been having an outstanding season (and long may it continue). Gervinho, a summer signing, and Walcott can both be dangerous when given too much space and the 4-3-3 can allow them to do this. Walcott is a subject of debate, where questions like ‘does he have a footballing brain’ are asked. I personally, am a fan of Walcott; pace like his is an asset to any team. He has also improved this season and I feel like he will only improve more as he continues to play alongside van Persie. ‘To play or not to play’ is still the issue regarding Marouane Chamakh, with a loan deal or a transfer in January looking likely considering game time for him is getting harder and harder to come by. In a way it’s a shame, seeing as everyone was so excited when we signed him, things haven’t really panned out as we expected. Partly due to the fact that with van Persie fit, you really don’t need anyone else. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably one of my favourite young players for us right now. His few appearances have shown us what he can do and obviously with some improvement he will be able to offer great things. Taking things slowly is vital though but he has been excellent for England U21’s so far. Other options would be Park or Miyaichi, neither of whom we’ve seen much of, Ju-Young Park more than Ryo though.

Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble. Hope to have something more interesting to talk about next week after some tough games against Norwich and Dortmund especially. I’m very much hoping we’ll be able to pick up from where we left off and continue our good run of form. So till then! (If you fancy it, give me a follow on Twitter at @AMMueller too!)

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2 Comments
  1. Johna permalink

    I think the depth is there but we need consistency from most players in midfield

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. RvP credits Theo for his great form, Gibbs to have surgery, a few departures in January, Park settles down and much much more. « savagegooner

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