Limited Options For Change This Weekend


Celebrate, they say. We’ll mourn the half century since the 1966 World Cup as well. Despite Greg Dyke’s optimism, there aren’t any immediate grounds for believing a repeat of that glory is likely any time soon. It’s hard to work out which is less likely; England winning the World Cup or being designated hosts once again.

Dyke’s pep talk was as realistic as the other Pep talk dominating football at the moment. Guardiola is leaving Bayern to manage in England but nothing is signed yet. If it were, the new club would announce it straightaway which immediately ruled Arsenal out of the running. Pellegrini has accepted his five-year contract signed last summer is meaningless by claiming he would rather go out in a blaze of glory than try to build a long-term project. The best United could offer was lunch with Ian Hislop.

It’s all a sideshow for the main event which this week is the FA Cup tie on Saturday against Sunderland. Quite what side will be fielded is anyone’s guess. Both managers are expected to rotate heavily with two Premier League matches scheduled for next week.

Not quite as rare as hen’s teeth but it isn’t very often that you will find agreement with Sam Allardyce on any subject in these pages. He has a point about their schedule next week; away at Swansea on Wednesday night and down to Tottenham on Saturday lunchtime thanks to the television coverage of FA Cup ties and Premier League matches. It’s no different for Arsenal; Saturday, Wednesday and then Saturday.

But the real thrust is not just the Premier League or FA but UEFA as well. Europe’s governing body has shown themselves to be no more adept at managing the game than FIFA with their rule that no league matches from the top flights around the continent can take place on the same day as a Champions League tie. This in an era when they have bloated the Round of Sixteen to complete in four weeks when two has been perfectly fine for almost six decades.

Football can’t complain really, simply get on with it. The ideal world is to reduce the Premier League by two teams and for many years that was the stated aim from governing bodies. They don’t have the financial clout to enforce it nor the will any longer.

Arsenal have a bigger injury list and no immediate reinforcements. Mohammed Elneny’s transfer is reportedly due to be completed today with Egyptian sites claiming international clearance has been received. The player’s absence from Basel’s training ground and a ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ from team-mates reinforced that view, or were quite possibly the basis for the claims in the first place.

Mikel Arteta played forty-five minutes yesterday in the Under-21s win over Blackburn but quite where the resources which support wholesale changes for the weekend are coming from, isn’t entirely clear. Mesut Özil is everyone’s favourite to have a rest which is fine as Liverpool is more important. Thehe same rationale applies to Alexis Sanchez: a second-half substitute appearance against Sunderland to get him back in the swing of things is all that’s needed, surely?

It means that the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers get a game, likewise Kieran Gibbs. Beyond that, it is youth which holds sway and with a third consecutive FA Cup on offer, will Arsène risk fielding the equivalent of a Carling Cup side? I don’t think many more changes will be made with either of Koscielny or Mertesacker partnering Gabriel.

The Brazilian is an interesting contrast to Debuchy. His attitude is one of wanting to win his place in the side even though there are two very good players ahead of him. But he has the patience to take his chance and when included has performed well.

Perhaps it’s the luxury of time; Debuchy is in the twilight of his career (or twiglet as auto-correct had it) and wants to play every game. He hasn’t done himself any favours at all this season with poor performances when starting. Some players can drop in and out of the side with no noticeable difference; Debuchy isn’t one of them, you would have to say.

He isn’t a bad defender either. His Arsenal career was wrecked by injury but more than anything he needs a run in the side but such is Hector Bellerin’s form, that isn’t going to happen. There has been suggestion that West Brom are holding up returning Serge Gnabry from loan because they want Debuchy to replace him. That doesn’t make sense, particularly as The Baggies are limited financially; why pay for a player you aren’t using and when you’d like to take an alternative from the same club?

Gnabry is an interesting case. High expectations when he came into the side have been tempered by injury and that he can’t even get on to Albion’s bench. There’s a suggestion that he the enforced lay-off has caused psychological issues yet he is a regular member of Germany’s Under-21 squad, playing in seven of their eleven games last year.

Perhaps his tribulations at Albion are as much a problem of style, with Tony Pulis commenting in October,

Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn’t been for me, at the moment, at that level to play games. 

He’s come from academy football and has not played much league football. Does academy football really prepare players for league football? And we’re talking about Premier League football here.

As a manager you pick a team that’s going to win a game of football. You pick your best team, you don’t leave people out because you don’t like them, because of this, that and the other.

Is it more that Albion was a step too far too quickly for a player who has yet to make a dozen Premier League appearances than an issue per se with Gnabry? That’s supported by Brighton being suitors if Arsenal loan him again and Arsène too, has been critical in the past of the structure of competitive football below the first XI. It may well be that the young German has been scarred by being out of the game for a while but Arsenal as a club and other squad members are well-versed in that situation; surely someone was working with him on that or is that just too damned idealistic?

’til Tomorrow.

117 thoughts on “Limited Options For Change This Weekend

  1. santori says:

    We had 3 Rbacks.

    Debuchy was first choice but got injured early on. Bellerin was played and secured the spot.

    Chambers was a third option as Wenger wanted to hedge for traditionally a strong position for us in wake of the excellent Sagna’s departure.

    Bellerin played most games at RB with later Debuchy coming back in after injury but not as convincing as need be.

    meanwhile Chambers spent much of the first half of last season instead at Cback because Wenger failed to add a Cback (which was later Gabriel in January)

    Wenger was fooled into some very convincing displays by young Chambers in pre-season at Cback where he showed good composure and strength.

    But the PL is a different thing and we got punished with his inexperience causing mayhem for Monreal and Per. Monreal was also trialed at Cback then and initially struggled in the new role but later got stronger which in turn improved his game at Lback when he returned to usual role.

    Chambers rarely played Rback for us. With Debuchy gone, he has opportunity to return to a more natural role which he use to play with aplomp for Soton.

  2. santori says:

    Chambers whole development has been a bit of a misadventure.

    Bellerin and Coquelin made the step up from academy in their natural positions. To a large extent so did Jack (albeit exiled to RW for a stint like Ramsey more bc of opportunity in squad)

    But Chambers has been nomadic and unsettled in position. I mentioned when he first started for us that he may end up in midfield which was repeated two or three times by the gaffer but many preferred to listen to their own agenda and thought he’d be our next Cback (As per usual to replace the excellent Metersecker)

    With an addition likely in midfield in Elneny + Debuchy out of picture, I think the boss will re-assess and put him back at Rback so he has a more settled position (and a natural one) to develop.

    I mentioned this start of this season when debuchy was unconvincing in returning from injury. When the boss decided to deploy Chambers instead of the frenchman screening in front of Bellerin, I think the writing was on the wall. Thereby it looks logical for Chambers to revert to Rback.

    He is more composed and technical than Jenkinson (I give Jenkinson for effort) and he plays with his head up.

    If he can restate a claim at Rback, he can still develop a role in midfield too. Its not a zero sum game.

    But as far as regular games is concern + rotation, we can do with him at fullback and like Monreal, he would have gained something from his ill fated stint for us in the middle (Hopefully better positioning which is where Per is good at)

    I his favour he is still young and like Bellerin can hold at Rback for us for some time to come.

    Where we next have to be concern with is Lback and MOnreal hitting 30 plus GIbbs injury prone. We need to be incubating the next Lback very soon.

    Where Flammini is very useful even if he takes a more retiring role is utility from the bench covering various positions. But we need a proper young hopeful to come through for Lback preferably.

    With regards Gnabry, I mentioned he looked like he came back a bit heavy after his injury.

    I was hoping it was just a fitness/weight issue. I can’t pretend to know whats going on but his motivation is also a key one in making himself available for selection fitness or otherwise to Pulis at WBA. if he did not impress sufficiently, well he needs to double effort at the next loan.

    To his benefit he is still young and can improve. But he has a lot of competition on his hands now not just to crack into the lineup first team (Ox and Campbell way ahead0 but also in the hopefuls coming up in Iwobi,a very hungry Akpom, the Jeff, Bennacer.

    does he have the temerity like Coquelin to persever? we shall see.

  3. santori says:

    Plus just to reiterate again, Leicester are doing it without any star names and with a squad assembled for 17m quid.

    Puts it in stark contrast to this narrative that you must spend to get quality performances.

    Yes they may be a bit thin but the players in central defense are not even Melo, MVilla, Capoue, Wanyama etc.

    Sure they have shipped more goals than us even with our slip up against Soton but that also goes to show that we have held a tight ship at the back regardless of Per being slow or Flamini being poor. Cech can only do so much for us.

  4. consolsbob says:

    Very interesting posts today.

    Good show, chaps.

  5. Bill says:


    Chambers played RB at Southampton so it seems highly unlikely that we would have purchased him to be a CB when he had never played that position. I think he was brought in as a back up RB who was supposed to replace Jenkinson as RB of the future. Chambers played CB in preseason when Kos was injured and there was no one else. I agree with you that a couple of his displays in the preseason at CB where good which is why he started the season there. However, when Debuchy was injured we moved Chambers to RB and moved Nacho to CB. Go to and look at the line up in the Swansea game. Chambers was the first player we used at RB to cover for Debuchy and my memory is that we did not start to use Bellerin until a couple of games later when it became obvious that Chambers was not adequate as a RB. .

    High price tag and effectiveness do not always go hand in hand but as you say, you often get what you pay for and there is generally a strong correlation. If we have $200M in the bank there is absolutely no reason to go bargain hunting when we are more likely to be successful by paying up for established players especially when the goal is to get someone who will be effective immediately and help us win the title this year. That seems like a no brainer. There is no extra credit and FA does not award bonus points in the table if we spend less money so why not do the thing that gives us the best chance to be successful right now?.

    That said, I am very happy we will get Elneny because we desperately needed someone in that position. Its much easier to be find a bargain and to be effective as a DM as I discussed earlier so hopefully he will work out well for us.

  6. santori says:

    Everton just done City in for the first leg.

    Not sure why the league cup has to be two legged but that’s good for us, give those tired City legs a bit more running to do.

    meanwhile puts to rest this whole media nonsense about how we only deserve this season because no team wants to win it.

    its the mickey mouse league cup and City are playing full squad.

    And if you look at some of the ‘smaller’ teams, Everton have retained Barkely this season, the impressive Lukaku, they boast Kone , Delofeu. Stike can field Affelay- shaqiri- Kirkic. Even Swansea is not shy on quality despite poor position.

    Its not rocket science that the league is far more competitive than last season because of the increasing impact of TV money redistribution.

    And if you look at City, Pellegrini has not rotated that much either in part due to injuries and lack of options dispelling the myth that he has more players to call from with massive spending. Otamendi and Mangala at 64m combine cannot sway games in his favour with Kompany out. Fernandhino better than Flamini?

    If anything, Chelsea were lucky we imploded ourselves early on, City had their usual post title winning hangover and United were a team in ‘transition’.

    I mean look at mid table Liverpool this season, they have the ‘revolutionary’ Jurgen Klopp and he still can’t put them closer to Europa spot.

    Good win by Everton. Well done toffees.

  7. Wavey says:

    Must try not to insult the man, even though he is happy to insult others with generalisations. Coquelin was on his way out and got lucky. He wasn’t being groomed for the role and he didn’t reach some golden age whereby he suddenly became everything he could be. Coquelin took his opportunity and it has worked out for him. Well done to the lad. Campbell has also been given the opportunity due to injuries and he is trying to grasp it. If it weren’t for injuries he wouldn’t have a sniff. Grand design? No.

  8. Bill says:


    Go back and look at what really happened last year. Chelsea won last season because they took control of the league from day 1 and played great football. Their first loss was not until early to mid December. They lost 3 games all season which is fewer then we have lost in the first half of this season. They had the title mostly wrapped up by January. The league is more balanced now then in 2010 but the same was true last year and Chelsea was able to dominate. If any team had taken control of the league the way they did last season our title hopes would be mostly dead and buried. Even though we are on top of he table right now we are on thin ice because if someone gets hot in the second half of the season we are in big trouble. No way to prove it but we might have done the same thing this year that Chelsea did last season with some more investment in the summer.

    HOWEVER all of that will be completely irrelevant and no one will remember or care in the least how it happened if we end up winning this season.

  9. Bill says:

    We shouid have played better the first half of the season and had more points. We have to assume that city will have a better second half and we will probably not win if we drop as many the same number of points the rest of the season. There can no doubt we are quite fortunate to be where we are right now in the table.

    I don’t think it’s being disloyal or ungrateful or doomerish to admit the truth. It is what it is. Nothing wrong with complaining that we always seem to try to do things the hard way and that has cost us in the past. Again it is what it is. Sports fans always find something to whine about. It’s a character flaw of the majority of fans.

    All that said if we do win no one will care in the least about any of this and they will not carve a disclaimer on the trophy saying we were lucky so none of it will matter.

  10. C says:

    Hahaha just read some of the Rangers fans tweeting about Zelalem extending his loan and the only couple things I see them saying is physically he needs to get stronger (I think EVERYBODY knows that) and that he does show enough passion/work rate. Honestly it was like reading the criticism of Ozil all over again.

  11. Bill says:

    There is a lot of positive things that come from focusing on the negatives. No one gets better by being content and patting themselves on the back. You get better by focusing on what yiu have done wrong and fixing that.

  12. Bill says:


    I know it was not your intent to say that Zelalem might be the next Ozil but it’s quite a stretch to be comparing the 2 at this point.

    No one would argue that Ozil is playing much better now then he did in most of the first 2 years therefore some of the criticism was legitimate and no one is complaining about those things now because he is not doing them. He is no longer dividing fans opinions. Zelalem needs to focus on some of the negative stuff and fix it.

  13. Bill says:

    There is nothing wrong with saying what is true. It’s counterproductive to look for excuses when someone is not living up to expectations. At the same time you shouid give full credit when it’s due and Ozil deserves that for his play this season

  14. C says:


    He is 18 or 19 years old and the main criticisms were that he wasn’t strong enough or showed passion which are things you would think an 18 will do as his body matures. Zelalem is a slender kid to begin with and will naturally get stronger as he gets older and well showing passion and hunger, we all know that its something that some players show and some don’t based on their style of play. People, you included, talked about Ozil’s workrate but its because of his languid style which is something that Zelalem shares. Neat, tidy, puts in a tackle are the things that they also talked about glowingly. He is very much in that languid style and as an American supporter, you have nothing to worry about. The lad at 18 oozes raw quality and he isn’t the type of player that will physically beat you but technically he can and has shown that plenty for Rangers and Arsenal when called upon.

    He is young and on his first loan so to be honest there is little to worry about especially when you read the comments from not only his manager but the other managers in the league as they think the absolute world of the kid with knowledge that his languid style might not always be enjoyed by supporters but certainly should be.

  15. Wavey says:

    Once he has got used to his new diet of porridge, square sausage, tattie scones, steak pie, Irn Bru and Bucky he’ll be fine. Should toughen him up a treat.

  16. Brevity says:

    Hope it goes well for Zelalem, if I was him I wouldn’t worry about what Rangers fans are tweeting. Just listen to the coaches he trusts and keep trying to get better. The nature of youth development is hit and miss, some come through, some don’t. As long as we keep trying, whether through internal development or through the loan system, it’s fine with me.
    Be great if we could have a B team but it seems as far away as ever.

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