World Cup Woes, Strongest Or Best XI For Wembley?

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I’m reminded of a film scene. Which one, I can’t remember but it was in a similar vein to Virgin Soldiers or perhaps And Now For Something Completely Different. The recruits all lined up in the parade square, the sergeant-major offering up a request that required everyone to step forward if they were going home to see their mothers that weekend, at which point they all step forward. Looking at one of them, the news of the death of one unfortunate soul’s parent is broken, “No, lad, not you…

It’s a bit like that at Arsenal right now, all those eligible for World Cup squads have formed an orderly queue and expectant players step forward when asked who’s going to Brazil. Steve Bould, I think, has the necessary gravitas to deliver the news, “Not you, Monreal…”

And Nacho will be disappointed, I am sure, not to have even made the squad of thirty named by Vincente Del Bosque, the first Lord of Spanish football. Quite literally, I believe, as he is a proper toff and make no mistake. That last bit probably works better if you say it in your best Dick van Dyke accent. It is the price paid for a season pockmarked by injury and bring able to usurp Kieran Gibbs from the starting line-up on a regular basis. That and bring of Spain’s Golden Generation, a generation which delivered in major tournaments unlike England’s self-proclaimed group who turned out to be nothing more than a Fool’s Gold Generation.

But I am not quite sure what type of voice best suits Samir Nasri’s partner/girlfriend/wife (whatever she is) outburst. Full on mental, I think. Helena Bonham Carter at her screechiest best, particular venom in the three words reserved for the manager. Deschamps reasons for excluding Nasri are interesting and reinforce his reputation as, well, a sulker. The sort person who when things are going well – as the water carrier put it, when he’s in the team – life is good, you are good but when it deviates from that, is as miserable as sin and everyone knows it. But nothing prepared me for the shrill hilarity of the six words which might just condemn his international career.

Arsène will only be concerned about Monreal’s omission in respect of the disruptive potential it has. The player will be disappointed, a feeling likely to be compounded on Saturday when he doesn’t make the starting line-up. It’s part and parcel of the man-management Arsène has to employ, on this occasion managing the disappointment although that is tempered by seven places on the branch. No-one is going to be quite as gutted as their predecessors were when just twelve trod the Wembley turf.

Therein is the fundamental problem with cup squads, loyalty comes up against pragmatism as the chances of winning silverware increase. Morally, there is a clear case for loyalty to those deemed cup players but in any season, winning a trophy takes precedence. With the club looking for its first trophy in a decade, necessity overrides everything else, the chance to remove a millstone from around the players necks. Of course that is just to make way for a different millstone, a Premier League shaped one, but that is the nature of professional football; you are never as good as your last trophy.

Epitomising this problem is the goalkeepers. Lukasz Fabianski would rightly feel aggrieved if he does not start the final but is that the right decision for Arsenal? His ‘heroics’ in the penalty shootout were the building blocks for the win and it is nothing more than idle speculation as to how Wojciech Szczesny would have performed. The simple – and for, overriding – fact is that Szczesny is the club’s first choice goalkeeper, in the opinion of the manager.

Like right back, the situation is complicated by contractual disputes and how they impact on the future. It’s a different scenario in that respect, for the Poles. This occasion sees the deputy looking elsewhere for regular first team action and in that sense, I guess it makes it easier for Wenger to drop him to the bench.

And for the future, I think it important for Szczesny to play in the final. It gives him a sense of achievement, of bring a winner rather than looking at his medal and feeling he made no contribution to the victory. All of which presumes an Arsenal victory, something almost instinctive in a supporter of any large club. It’s why we love an underdog when other teams are playing, the bloody nose issued, the crushing sense of defeat on those occasions, these are things we understand, we can relate to and frankly, we enjoy all the more when someone rose suffers in this sense.

As a by-product, it offers an opportunity at redemption, the same chance bring afforded to Laurent Koscielny. Comparing both players to this who trod the turf that afternoon in 2011 shows the journey they have undertaken. Both more assured in their play, both less error prone.

Right back poses a similar question as the goalkeeper, fielding Bacary Sagna ahead of Carl Jenkinson is the obvious answer, meshing into fielding the strongest XI. From Arsène’s point of view, much would depend on whether he intends to replace Sagna or promote the younger players into the first team squad. Talk of deals with Toulouse suggest a new right back is on his way but if not, there is merit in selecting Jenkinson on Saturday for similar reasons to Szczesny, adding in to the mix that the England youngster would have that sense of winning earlier in his career. Maybe it can develop into a habit?

The overriding perspective has to be fielding the best team but to take Deschamps thoughts, that does not always mean the best players. It means what’s best for the club now and in the future. It would be no surprise if a tactical injury emerges this week to solve a dilemma for the manager…

‘Til Tomorrow.

143 thoughts on “World Cup Woes, Strongest Or Best XI For Wembley?

  1. The price and quiet summer are great, C and Jonny. Long may the rift continue, because I seem to remember we could never use him after internationals as he would be the last back to London. Course, the only hesitation is his performance last time around.

    He looks completely different now though. And at 25 he’ll surely be more focussed. Said before that I thought Pedro would be ideal, but Vela has been even more productive in a similar sort of role, and he’s not a cheating twit either.

  2. @Big Al

    I think Vela saying he would be very much opened to playing for Mexico in the World Cup and then not being named was the final nail in the coffin.

    I doubt Pedro leaves Barca, especially with a reported 100M release clause.

  3. C @ 4:38

    Perhaps I should have said the 2 best RBs in the Premiership this season?

    These things are always subjective, of course, and it gives me no pleasure in crediting any player from a competitor club, but there it is.

    Who would you say is better than Zabelleta and Ivanovich? 🙂

  4. M’Bia looks a much better player than he was when he was at QPR. He looks more like the player that was so high regarded than the shit he was at QPR.

  5. Not true, Moe, about Ramsey’s game. Goals catch the eye, certainly, but the rest of his game is of the highest quality. Assists are high, passing percentage, tackles, interceptions, key passes, dribbles, touches, meters run–he stuffed every midfield statistical category in the first four months of the season and was in the top levels in PL and up there across Europe. His game is dynamic and skillful all around. He was doing Cruyff turns in his sleep and tormenting defenses in so many ways while putting in a real defensive shift in. It was not just a fluke of a high goal conversion rate that earned him deserved praise. I agree with you that goals are often distorting, but not in Ramsey’s case the first half of the season. He was a beast.

  6. I don’t know where this idea that Ozil had a lackluster or even poor season has come from, the idea that he is in poor form. More is expected of him and he can do better but that is a far cry from the characterizations that are commonly bandied about him. Look up the stats on key passes, chances created, and assists in the PL. And with better players around him after adapting physically to the PL (and hopefully used in a way that keeps him fresh for the second half of the season and avoids the avoidable muscle injuries) he could, as AW says, have a PL player of the year season. I get it that 42 million raises a lot of expectations, but from what I saw, while I think there is more to come, he had a very fine season and is obviously an incredible talent.

  7. Benfica play such good futbol. Pressing as a unit but playing at a high tempo the moment the ball is turned over. Their counters are lighting quick with Rodrigo and the other strikers and ACM are fantastic to watch.

  8. Benfica should have just had a penalty and the Sevilla CB off by the letter of the law and the ref gave a goal kick.

  9. @LSG

    Completely agree with you on Ozil. Would people be talking about this if Theo was still in the side to feed off of the chances Ozil created, how about a more clinical striker?…..I don’t think so at all. While I get it that Ramsey has been brilliant, if you watch, Ozil is helping to create that space because he seems to know not only how to create space for himself with his magical touch but also make little runs or quick movements that help to create space for others. Give him Vela, Theo and a striker like Benzema, Jackson Martinez, Luis Muriel, or that type and he would set the EPL alight. Not to mention give him a CDM that allows him not to have to track back all the time and watch him flourish.

    I hate when I hear that Ozil doesn’t do the defensive work necessary this year, guess what, he is the best creator and was given the title of “Assist King” because he is the best ACM in all of Europe.

  10. 3000% spot on with both posts LSG.

    Ramseys defensive contributions are all the more breathtaking because of the effort involved to do both. He is phenomenally fit, hardworking and talented.

  11. @Jonny

    Now we just have to make sure that Arsene understands we need both of them fit and on the pitch and its okay to bring in Santi and Jack for a couple matches to give them a rest but not having Ozil and Ramsey for a month or more because they are injured is not good at all.

  12. LSG

    I get what you are saying about Ramsey and i did say that it may because he has just come back from injury, but my argument is that the British press and the majority of people do not see play makers like they do goal scorers.

    I love Ramsey but If Ramsey was not scoring, IMHO (and this is just me) but for all of his excellent qualities he would be as noticed. And that’s the whole point, goals get you recognition. That’s what England measures attacking players by. That’s just something i believe.

    As an ACM, this is what gets you noticed, this is the stick that (however unfavourable) they are measured against. So what i was saying is that for all Ozil’s contributions (and trust me, i appreciate everything about the guy, i often eulogise over him with some posters) he does not the get the recognition he deserves because he needs more goals.

  13. This lad Raktic is quite a player. Reminds me a lot of Rosicky when he was at his best for us and Dortmund.

    What could have been if Mozart had stayed fit.

  14. Lima for Benfica should have scored a hat trick already. He needs to change his boots because he keeps slipping and losing his footing.

  15. Definitely C – rotation was a serious problem last term – not one of AW’s strong points.

    In a strange way it could be helpful to have two players who need ‘careful management’, if (IF) they can stay fit enough to contribute, they won’t ever complain for or expect game time and they are both quality players when fit.

    I don’t like to think about the player we have been deprived of in Rosicky – just too saddening.

  16. @Jonny

    I completely agree, Arsene is quite terrible at the whole rotating thing.

    Jack and Santi next season will play second fiddle to Ramsey and Ozil respectfully but there are plenty of matches to keep everybody happy.

    It is too saddening to think of “what could have been if…” with Mozart but it is a joy to watch him play now. This kid Raktic reminds me a lot of him, we just don’t need the lad though.

  17. Really high standard from both sides. These clubs get plundered every year but keep building strong teams.

  18. Reyes off, Marco Marin on.

    Marin is another lad that went to Chavs and got lost similar to De Bruyne.

  19. @Big Al

    Completely agree. Benfica are without 3 of their projected best XI from the start of the season and are still playing brilliantly and at a pretty high level.

  20. As for the EL, wish the prize money could be higher…maybe weaken the CL just a little bit to give teams more of an incentive. It’s a bit sad how no English sides are that bothered about it.

  21. @Big Al

    Chavs were last season when they won it. But I do get what your saying. Honestly I wouldn’t mind winning the EL if we were placed in it, might give the lads more confidence in Europe.

  22. Yeah C, I thought it was great the way Maxi Pereira just moved up the wing when Sulejmani went off. Real South American full-back—doesn’t look out of place at all further forward.

  23. Rodrigo hasn’t scored but I will tell you, as a main striker he is quite impressive in the hold up and link up play not to mention creating for his mates despite not being a big bruiser.

  24. @Big Al

    He doesn’t and actually looks more assured, but as you say, he is a typical South American FB, more than capable of playing as a FB or a winger.

  25. C, for me Chelsea’s EL campaign was about Benítez knowing that the league was gone but still wanting to make a mark in his short time at the club.

    Sometimes it seems unpractical and counterproductive to really go for it. In 2012 Bielsa’s Bilbao were incredible but knackered themselves out pursuing the EL and missed out on 4th place in the league when they had played some of the best football in Europe at times. It’s such a slog. 19 matches to get to the final!

  26. Moe, I agreed with your general point, but to make it you don’t need to overlook or depreciate the qualities of Ramsey’s game. Perhaps he wouldn’t get the acclaim without the goals but my point is that he has a stellar all around game whether he gets acclaim because of the goals or not.

    Cheers Jonny!

  27. Also, Mor, Ozil has never been that product a goal scorer and many have always thought he should score more than he usually does. Nevertheless he has been lauded and appreciated for the creative genius he is. I don’t see why he should be regarded any differently while playing for Arsenal.

  28. LSG

    Because creative genius is appreciated in places like spain and Germany. They develop their players technicality and over there those players are lauded.

    Over here in the Premier League, flash and goals will be what a player is measured against.

    A player like Xavi in Barcelona would never have had the career he does if he was in England. Because his talents are alittle more obscure, he controls games and changes the way Barca operate. You would recognise his genius but not if he was playing in the prem.

    Same with Ozil, if you watch his game, he changes how we attack. He is subtle but that sublety is lost on some of the media and.pundits here.

    Which is why i said it would benefit his status and recognition to add goals.

  29. jonny – great article on JW Nice to read his approach to dealing with the criticism. The lad is coming of age !

  30. Hi Clocker,

    You are getting as sneaky as NB with an early morning practice run, before the Yogi presses the GO button.

    He is probably battering his chorizo as we speak, having smashed it on the floor and squashed it in the door. 🙂

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