Full Back Choices & Consistency


The spring in the stride will last a little while longer. Reaching consecutive FA Cup finals on Saturday put a smile on the face and schadenfreude kept it there as Liverpool fluffed their lines completely yesterday. Stevie Me’s birthday party won’t be at Wembley unless he fancies schlepping down to watch Aston Villa face Arsenal.

There’s no doubt that Villa deserved the victory yesterday and whilst you wondered what sort of battering they would suffer having gone a goal behind, the impact of Tim Sherwood’s appointment was fully seen in the way they fought back to get level and then control the game to the point where their winner was a case of when not if. Fair play to them but it doesn’t alter my view that Arsenal are still on course to maintain their grip on the FA Cup. They will have to play a lot better than they did against Reading though.

It’s back to the Premier League and at last all the humbug about a title race has been put to bed. Chelsea finally played their game in hand, won it and went ten points clear at the top. For those who were sucked in by the media’s words, the reality must bite hard. There isn’t going to be a title this season, there never was, it was just desperation on the part of broadcasters who know that title processions don’t make for good viewing on the final Super Sunday. Even worse if the final placings are resolved as well.

Victory this coming Sunday is about securing second. The reality is that Arsenal will go into the match most likely in fourth place with United and City having games you expect them to win. The worst outcome is that defeat leaves Arsenal in the same place, two points off the runners-up spot. Whilst it might feel like they have done so, Chelsea won’t be able to celebrate winning the title at The Emirates. A small crumb of comfort in that scenario.

A win would leave them seven points clear and still likely to be crowned champions before May has got into full swing. It’s the reality; they have lost just two games this season and whilst I entirely agree with Arsène that Chelsea have bored everyone into submission to become champions, it doesn’t make it any less valid a title than one captured with flamboyance. Different strokes, etc., and an admission by Abramovich that he prefers to see his team win rather than be attractive to watch, the cornerstone of why Mourinho was dismissed in the first place. Or in first place?

Speaking after the win on Saturday, Arsène demanded consistency for the remaining half-a-dozen Premier League games. They are going to need it. Of the three teams competing for the top four places, the fixture list now favours the Mancunians with Arsenal having two testing fixtures, United one and City none. How quickly the fortunes turn in that respect.

Going into those games carrying injuries is far from ideal but with players returning to fitness and no midweek games for the best part of a month, time is on Arsène’s side. Per Mertesacker has little bit ankle-knack that has not yet been quantified in terms of ouch-factor or how many games he will miss, if any. And if he misses some, so what to be honest. That’s the attitude having more than adequate cover brings to the surface. As good a player as the German is, I have no qualms or concerns about Gabriel slotting into the back four in his absence.

The same holds true for the right back position. Arsène noted that Hector Bellerin has been carrying ankle-knack as well – it’s the new footballing black, it seems – and Mathieu Debuchy was fit,

Bellerin has played recently with some ankle problems and Debuchy was back so I thought it was a good moment to do it.

Debuchy had cramps just before the end of the game but I couldn’t change him, but he is a French international and must be capable of playing in a semi-final against Reading. You wait, you wait, at some stage you have to play a game.

It was a run-out that everyone knew Debuchy needed and his ring-rustiness showed. Wembley has always been famed for its’ stamina-sapping turf and this weekend was no different. Whether he did enough to usurp Bellerin from the side for the visit of Chelsea at the weekend is another matter. Both players have weaknesses that Boring Boring Chelsea – or the BBC as they are known because each performance is a mind numbing repeat of 1970s football – will seek to exploit. For Arsène, it’s case of weighing up the cost of Bellerin’s inexperience against Debuchy’s lack of fitness. It’s a tough choice.

Which is more than can be said for left back. Arsène defended Kieran Gibbs performance – or his fitness levels – but frankly nothing I saw made me change my view that Nacho Monreal is the best left back at the club. The Spaniard’s positional reliance far outweighs the attacking benefits Gibbs brings. Quite how much support Cazorla, Sanchez or Özil needs on the left is debatable.

But these are the problems, Arsène wants to have,

Ideally you want everybody to be happy. It is part of the job and the most important thing is to get results, for the fans and everybody involved with the club. The majority dominates the minority.

It’s a damn sight easier to manage malcontents who are not playing than scratching your head wondering who is going to be fit to play. And if he takes that lesson into squad planning for next season, there’s a chance that this campaign may finally be the stepping stone we’ve been waiting for.

’til Tomorrow.

111 thoughts on “Full Back Choices & Consistency

  1. Bill says:

    I would happily be the first person to criticize Arsene if the number of minutes that our players get is out of the ordinary.

  2. Bill says:

    I just a quick google search on Alexis Sanchez and Eden hazard.

    Hazard has played 3495 minutes in the PL and CL.
    Sanchez has played 3015 minutes in the PL and CL

    The web site does not include the league cup and FA cup

    Chelsea won the League cup and played a lot more games in that competition but we have played more FA cup games so those are probably about even.

  3. Pistolfish says:

    I dont deny that the amount of time most of our players play in a season is on par with most others. Im sure it is for the most part. What I do feel is that on a whole our first team is not rotated enough. Our bench players see less time on the pitch than what is healthy for them being match sharp and their moral/

  4. Bill says:


    That is one anecdotal case which does not really prove anything. Perhaps our players do play more then most big teams. I am sure the data is available but I can’t be bothered to look. My gut feeling is that what we do is probably not that much different then most big teams. The critical players and the ones in the best form play a vast majority of available minutes. I suspect that most managers hope that they don’t have to use players 20-25 in very often.

  5. Pistolfish says:

    I dont think so Bill. I like you could not be arsed to go looking for minutes played and all that. But if we were using our squad properly, players like Rosiscky and Walcot would be getting minutes. Campbell earlier in the season too.

  6. Bill says:

    Other then an injury crisis when do you give someone who is 3rd on the depth chart at a specific position minutes? The first player on that chart has to get the vast majority of minutes and player #2 shouid get what is left over. You could argue that Rosicky or Walcott shouid both be higher on the depth chart but that is a completely different discussion. Campbell was player 23 or 24 in our roster. When he did play he was not really impressive. Do you give him a run of several games and hope he can find form? You can’t afford to do that while we were rapidly falling out the title race. Does it really help to give someone a game every month or 2? When you give him that game you take away minutes from “higher priority” players who also don’t get to play as much as they want. Then we have to consider the possibility of trying to give our youth some chances. Bottom line is that giving players low on the totem pole chances to play is much more complicated then it sounds.

  7. C says:

    Owen truly does hate Arsenal. Says Ozil’s assist was strictly down to Sanchez then says:

    “Only a few months ago we were talking about would they get in top four? Knocked out of the Champions League, now they may win the FA cup and come second in the league and that will be a decent season for Arsenal.”

  8. Limestonegunner says:

    I’m counting on cloning, myself!

  9. Damon says:


    Great to have you back! Sorry to hear you’ve been having a tough time of it. Hope all is well now?

    Couple of things…. Completely agree with Nacho and Bellerin with Welbeck and Sanchez ahead of them on Sunday. Nice. Also, they will defend and break. Don’t get sucked in and start the trumpet tooting CHARGE! before were ten minutes in and things might be ok. Shooting helps too. Who knew?

    Your breakfast update nearly had the lady opposite me wearing my mouthful of coffee as I read that!! Fantastic stuff

    On that note… Santori…

    I didn’t say Per was slow (even though he is a bit). I said he was soft, too nice. Big bloke like that should only have to look at people to make them think twice

  10. moni blakk says:

    Atleast we ve 8 good defenders. Competition brings out de best in people. But against Chelsea, bellerin and nacho shld get de nod. I had a dream, 2-0 arsenal. Sanchez had one..

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