Two ‘Plan B’s Or Not Two ‘Plan B’s – That Is The Question

The north London derby moved front and centre yesterday with Arsène’s press conference delivering the team news:

We have still some uncertainties at the moment because Kieran Gibbs has been touched on his shoulder and I don’t know how will respond to that. I will see today [Thursday]. After, the players who did not travel like Cazorla, Monreal, Walcott – there is still some uncertainty today. The closest to coming back looks to be Walcott. We will have a test with him.

The last time an Arsenal player was touched on his shoulder, Ray Parlour quipped to Eileen Drury that he wanted a “short back and sides”, a jest which cost him his England career.

Wenger went on to say that Nacho and Santi both had fitness tests yesterday and today but of concern is that neither has trained since suffering their injuries. It could be that they will pass with flying colours and we’ll be back to the strongest XI we have.

The right side of midfield / attack is one of the two key questions for Arsène to consider. The other is attack but the manager was quick to point out that he doesn’t consider any player in the squad a ‘Plan B’.

There is no Plan B in any squad, I never thought about my players like that. The team who is the most effective for the next game, that’s what you pick and I consider everyone as a regular player.

It’s interesting that only Giroud is talked about when Plan B surfaces but there are a number of Plan B’s in the squad. With the likes of Ox and Theo, fundamentally you are talking about two versions of the same type of player. In their ‘simplest’ form, both are wingers; fast, direct, an eye for goal thrown in.

When you look at playing Aaron Ramsey on the right, that’s a different kind of right midfielder: Plan B because Plan A is not going to work against a particular opponent. Of course, Arsène wouldn’t admit to thinking like that in public. All of his players are Plan A, they are just version A.1, A.2…

He went on to explain that in his mind, it’s a squad game:

That is basically what a manager thinks, what is [best] for the next game. If he is involved in the next game in your mind, he plays. If not then he doesn’t start. He [Giroud] has shown he is a huge asset for the club and I have always supported him.

No matter who plays [against Tottenham] I have a squad of 25 players who are all top class and I think this game, a game of that stature, is not about 11 – it’s about 25.

Everybody is focused, everybody is ready to contribute and everybody’s contribution will count on Sunday. We have show that recently in the games, the players we have just spoken about, Giroud for example, he came on against Sunderland and made the difference. It just shows that everybody’s contribution will be absolutely vital.

He made a difference because his place in the team is under threat. Spurs present a different problem to Ludogorets and Sunderland. A different answer might be needed and it’s noticeable that whilst they have height in their defence, the Bayer team as well as pressing them high up the pitch, did not have the tallest forwards in the world. A strong case for Alexis’ inclusion as lead striker?

Possibly and quite a strong one if we’re honest. Both sides allowed their opponents time and space on the ball and the Bulgarians punished our sloppy defending more harshly Bayer did at Wembley. Despite that, we played better than Spurs on that occasion. Indeed, suggesting Spurs played at all is being generous.

Wenger isn’t being fooled by that:

It is an interesting clash. For us it is a very important game because we are in a strong position in the league that we want to strengthen. Overall Tottenham [are in a good position] as well, so it is very tight at the top of the league. We are more focused that it is a home game, and whether it is Tottenham or somebody else, we want to win our home games because our position in the league is very important. We go into a period where we play big games and we want to win the big games.

It’s a big game because it’s the derby match. Everyone wants to win, nobody wants to lose and specious trade-offs – do you want to finish higher than Spurs or win the derby – don’t matter. It’s about winning tomorrow and keeping their inferiority complex going.

Everyone knows that there are two generations since they last won the league but they are close to a generation not knowing what it’s like to finish above Arsenal in the league. Doing so on a regular basis? You have to go back close to forty years. It’s that kind of knowledge – useless for all except those involved this weekend – which underpins this weekend’s match.

Plan A or Plan B? Let’s just have the winning one.

’til Tomorrow.

54 thoughts on “Two ‘Plan B’s Or Not Two ‘Plan B’s – That Is The Question

  1. Highbury says:

    A draw against the Spuds and a point at Old Trafford would be an excellent return for me. COYG!

  2. Ras says:

    Good Morning YW not read the post as yet.

    The furore etc about the supposed lack of indiscipline by Xhakia is a funny one to my mind. I see it more simply that as well as adapting to a new league and team, our Xhakia is simply not a very good tackler. It is this side of his Game that he seriously has to work on.

    He has his qualities but the tackling side of his game is not one of them,

  3. CorpFinG says:

    Its clearly to see – when Giroud plays our attack becomes too ponderous, too static and toothless.
    The football we’ve seen from Arsenal these couple of months was so enjoyable AND effective due to our attack being based on movement of the front 3.

    He should only play against the bus parking sides. He can score against the likes of Villa, Iceland, Sunderland, but we can’t afford to have him against quality sides – save for his purple patches, but that don’t currently apply.

  4. C says:

    Yogi, thank you for keeping a good read day in and day out!

    Arsene might be right publically in stating that he doesn’t have a Plan B but lets be honest here, certain players are Plan A and the rest are Plan B. For instance, contrary to what some (Flamini’s mum) say, Ramsey is no challenger for Ozil period; Jenks and Gibbs are clear Plan B’s to Bellerin and Nacho (who according to the pictures on the .Com were both in training and looked to be training regularly); Kos and Mustafi are both the Plan A’s to, well everybody else Plan B and to my mind, Sanchez is Plan A to Giroud’s Plan B (strange everyone seems to quickly forget that Giroud was bought to back up RvP).

    Lets not let 2 appearance thus far this season overshadow the rest of the campaign when we had an XI that was pressing in packs and attacking with pace, quickness, directness and movement.

    I might get into a long debate today, but when Giroud and Ramsey are in the side we lose the ability to press higher up the pitch because of their lack of pace in closing down players and the ball. For instance, when Sanchez is at CF, the CB’s are being hurried and harassed and don’t have time because he is quickly on them, with Giroud, they have extra time simply because he can’t get their as quickly. The same goes for Ramsey on the RW, I know he was shaking off the rust, but look at the difference when Theo, Ox or even Iwobi (good at pressing high Iwobi is, not so good tracking back) are on the flanks, they are pressing quickly to win teh ball back to where Ramsey is dropping back.

  5. Orson Kaert says:

    Highbury:
    A draw against the Spuds and a point at Old Trafford would be an excellent return for me. COYG!

    Really?

  6. andy1886 says:

    The match is on Sunday, not tomorrow – or am I being a pedant? Probably.

    I’d go with Alexis, I just think that Giroud isn’t as effective as a starter as the Chilean. And I believe that a more mobile front line will hurt the Spuds.

    Poor old Gibbs, felled by a touch on the shoulder. He must dread those breezy winter mornings, he’d end up in a full body cast.

  7. YW says:

    Andy

    You? Pedantic? Not something I’ve heard thrown around elsewhere before 🙂

    Highbury

    Two points out of six? Any less than four is a poor return.

  8. Buckagh says:

    C,

    C
    I know you like a debate, but there isnt one on this issue Giroud and Ramsey slowdown the play and both start on the bench for me. Of more concern is our defence, not just against Ludogerts we are giving up way to many chances and we will pay the price for that eventually,
    I dont get the moaning on here about Xhakia’s discipline he could be more subtle with some of the fouls but we havent had this kind of bite for years maybe we wont be considered a soft touch in future, I think his red against whoever was harsh, plenty of similar fouls before and after havent resulted in a red card. I love six points out of Spuds and Man Utd bit would settle for 4

  9. C says:

    Congratulations to Gnabry for being called up to the Germany national team for the qualifiers.

    I hope there is a buy-back clause and Arsene uses it because that boy certainly has the tools in his locker to be quite a winger!

  10. Highbury says:

    YW:
    Andy

    You? Pedantic? Not something I’ve heard thrown around elsewhere before

    Highbury

    Two points out of six? Any less than four is a poor return.

    Just made the correction, Yogi.

  11. YW says:

    Philmar

    In response to your question yesterday, the answer seems to be:

    Star Select 1 HD or Star Select 2 HD

    Some sage advice from Shashi_U is to find a “premium hotel” most of whom are “reasonable and they’ll let you watch it for a beer which isn’t very expensive in India”.

  12. C says:

    Buckagh,

    I think some on here will say otherwise but I agree, they are just too static of players and while it has its advantages, it does take something away from what Sanchez and Ozil thrive on which is movement. Plus, Sanchez looks so much more comfortable and seems to be much freer when he plays at CF with Ozil behind him.

    I don’t get the Xhaka moaning either but o well because I agree 100% with you. Its not just the physicality but he seems to have a presence in midfield. Its funny that so many were calling for a no-nonsense DM and now that we have him, they are moaning because he saw red (a harsh red at that) and takes out the player to finish tackles; wait, isn’t that what you want from your DM: break up play and put in some hard challenges as a warning? Its happened to Arsenal midfielders since Vierira and Gilberto left, see Ramsey, Jack and Diaby.

  13. Wailesy says:

    I can understand Highbury’s conservative approach after scratchy wins v saints and Burnley. Even the lucky draw v Borough, but c’mon…. 2 lousy points? Let’s take all 6 and let it be a November to remember! ?

  14. Wailesy says:

    Buckagh,

    And C

    Couldn’t agree more on Xhaka. He is exactly what we have been missing for years and years and years. Red was the softest straight red I’ve seen in over a decade though I accepted at the time it was a fair decision. The lad is class, young and a leader. Like Elneny it was great business ( though Xhaka was 4x the price)

  15. Two Owls says:

    Thank you Yogi for your daily efforts which are always a pleasure. Which ever way one chooses to view the ordering of the team, to survive, the team needs to be rotated. It is very nice when Arsene can select a player from the bench and the player scores with his first touch. We have a team in depth this season and long may it continue.

  16. C says:

    Wailesy,

    Tend to agree with you, Xhaka and Elneny were both good pieces of business. Xhaka is still only 24 years old and will continue to develop so I am not worried about him at all. The balance he brings when he plays is tremendous not to mention his quality on the ball and defensively. He will learn but I don’t think he will change.

  17. nicky says:

    All these forecasts about a satisfactory 4 points after the Spurs and Man Utd game is quite disheartening. We are playing so much better football than either side at the moment, that 3 points from each game is not an unreasonable expectation. 😉

  18. Sam says:

    think Wenger would take a win vs Spurs and a draw against his nemesis, but hopefully we can do better than that. The trouble is, it’s cold and The Coat has made its annual appearance (I am superstitious about Wenger’s coat)
    Interesting how he’s been here for 20 years now and yet still sometimes translates directly from french into english – isn’t ‘touché’ the francais for injured (re Gibbs’ shoulder)?

  19. nicky says:

    Yogi,
    I was brought up in the days when Arsenal declined to sign a player “because of his unpleasant eating habits”. .)

  20. Bill says:

    Very interesting post yogi. Myself I think the idea of plan A and Plan B is over thinking. You always hope that one player steps up and becomes the clear cut best player at that position and when that happens you play him. You don’t drop your best players for tactical considerations and the only time you would swap players for tactical reasons is when the decision on which one is better is a true 50/50 coin toss.

    If you do have 2 players who are relatively equal then you go with the one in the best form. An out of form Walcott or Giroud is useless irregardless of the tactical situation and an in form Walcott or Giroud have a good chance to score no matter how the opponent sets up the defense. I am a fan of Theo and not a big fan of Giroud so I hope Theo plays and scores a goal. However, the reality is that the only possible way you could think that leaving an “in-form” Giroud out of the line up gives us a better chance to win the game is if you have not watched the last 4 years. I am a fan of Ox and I hope he gets the nod over Ramsey. I think Ramsey gets way to much grief and the idea that he somehow hurts the team is clearly over the top. Ramsey had a nice pass to Giroud for our second goal on Tuesday. Bottom line is I think the probability of Ox or Ramsey having a positive effect on the game are close to equal . However, I still think Ox offers a much higher upside potential especially in the longer term and I like him better so I hope Ox starts.

  21. Wavey says:

    Afternoon,

    If Wenger sends out the team most suited to the opposition, as he appears to be suggesting, I’d hope that he will send out Alexis as the CF for the Spuds game. I think it’s the only way we rattle their defence. Pacey wingers on to pin back their FBs who love to bomb forward.
    A Giroud attack might suit the Manure game more, especially if Maureen decides that his first aim is not to lose. Let’s not forget what happened last season when a very poor United team with a dodgy defence had more than enough about them to beat us.

  22. Bill says:

    Unless we play Giroud Sanchez and Walcott which I think is unlikely then I think the more likely player for Arsene to use on the other wing is Ox or Ramsey with Iwobe a distant 3rd. To me Ox has a high ceiling but a low floor. He spent almost the entire season last year at his floor and he was basically useless. Ramsey on the other hand is “meh”. He does not hurt us but he does not have a very high ceiling when he plays wide right. If we knew we would get the good Ox then starting him is a no brainer. However, if Ox plays more like last season then I would rather have Ramsey because “meh” is better then “useless”. For me I would like us to go with the upside and use Ox.

  23. C says:

    Bill,

    Or we could use the creative, energetic and thus far in the season impressive Iwobi.

  24. C says:

    So Nacho has been called up to the Spanish squad for the internationals.

  25. Bill says:

    C

    I know that you are not a big fan of either Ramsey or Ox. Perhaps I am wrong but I think Ox had moved ahead of Iwobe before the game on Tues and like it or not, now that Ramsey is back he fell further down the depth chart. I think Arsene played what he considered his best line up on Tues and Iwobe was 3rd on the pecking order for the forward position in that game. No secret that I think Iwobe is square peg playing as a forward I think he is falling down the pecking order because the adrenaline fueled early performances and his ability influence the game has been fading.

  26. C says:

    Bill,

    How did Ox move ahead of Iwobi in the pecking order? Last I checked Iwobi had 7 starts and 1 sub appearances in the PL while Ox is at 4 starts and 4 sub appearances, strange how he fell behind in the pecking order. Who actually knows whats going on and we can’t judge the starting XI against Ludogorets as what Arsene considers his best given Theo was our injured, Santi was available which means that Ramsey would have at best made the bench in the starting XI not to mention Ox. Lets not also act as though Iwobi hasn’t been a huge part of the success thus far. His one issue is that he isn’t always the best at tracking back but then again neither is Ramsey or Ox. I think you might want to pump your breaks because if he starts against Spuds, then that whole post of yours becomes rubbish.

    Against Ludogorets, I think it was an opportunity for Arsene to play some players that needed match time plain and simple. Also, I think Iwobi’s ceiling is higher than Ox’s because of his futboling IQ not relying on pace and power but actually playing futbol but has the physical pace, power, quickness and good feet to go with it.

    Personally, as I said last season, give me Iwobi over Ox and Ramsey.

  27. YW says:

    C

    To accommodate Iwobi and Alexis, you either play Alexis centrally or on the right. Never seen Iwobi play on the right so he isn’t direct competition for Ox. The only time that happens is when AW wants to play Giroud so it isn’t necessarily a case of who’s above who in the pecking order but more a case of who plays up front.

  28. C says:

    YW,

    Very true, but I think it could come into play should Arsene want to continue to play Ramsey which would then move Theo to the left. For me, the best option is still Theo on the right, Sanchez centrally and Iwobi on the left with Ox rotating in on either flank.

    The thing is, we really don’t know how Arsene is going to use Ramsey and that will play a role in all of this.

  29. Bill says:

    YW

    Good point. May be I am wrong but I think Ox has played on the left in the past and I don’t think Ox is limited to one side or the other. I think Ramsey and Theo are more or less limited to the right so if Walcott and Alexis start then Ramsey can not start on the left and it will be between Ox and Iwobe on the left. My guess is that Arsene would start Ox but this will be one of the more interesting team selections in a while.

    C:

    Good point. Iwobe has certainly dominated the minutes so far this season and he was arsene’s clear cut first choice to start the year. I think the fact that Arsene kept him back from the Olympics meant that using him a lot upfront was part of Arsene’s plan. However, I thought Iwobe faded in the last 4-5 games at the end of last season and I think his influence has been fading again in the last few games this year and Arsene’s team selection on Tues suggests that Iwobe is moving down the pecking order. However, may be I am wrong. It will be a very interesting team selection this weekend.

  30. YW says:

    C / Bill

    Theo on the left is a disaster, Ox isn’t much better. If Ox isn’t on the right, centrally as box-to-box in direct competition with Ramsey – when Santi is out – are the most effective positions. The pair of them – Theo and Ox – are too one-footed to be any use on the left.

    In terms of Iwobi fading, the lad is what, 20? I can’t think of a 20 year-old who hasn’t faded in the final games of the season. Not unusual at all. His influence hasn’t waned so much as teams have worked him out. It’s part of the learning curve; he and Arsene have to work out how to compensate for that.

  31. Bill says:

    I had not really thought about the importance of the right and left wing. If Arsene thinks Ox is limited to the right sided and Iwobe to the left then whichever wing is open will determine who would start

  32. Bill says:

    Yogi.

    In the last 12 years we have seen a lot of U21 players who have a run of good games and then their influence fades. It’s happened to the Ox many times. Even Yaya Sanogo impressed some of us in the first 3-4 games he played. Who knows why it happens but my theory is one I borrowed from Birdkamp. The adrenaline rush helps them to start strongly but when that fades the inexperience and inconsistency of youth becomes more of an issue. I think Iwobe has a real chance to be an impact central midfielder but his upside as a forward is limited if he is never a threat to score. Time will tell what happens to him as the season wears on.

  33. Bill says:

    I think Ox has been as ambidextrous as any player on the squad not named Cazorla. I have to admit that I have never really thought about which side is better for him but he usually does play right. He has played left in the past and I have no idea why he would not be as effective or more effective then most right footed players if he played wide left.

  34. YW says:

    Oh Bill, you kidder:

    > Even Yaya Sanogo impressed some of us in the first 3-4 games he played

    He’s never looked promising or good in an Arsenal shirt.

    Ox’s instinct is to head for the byline and that limits a right-footed player on the left. Iwobi not a goal threat? Beg to differ, gets into good positions but needs to work on his finishing.

  35. C says:

    YW,

    I agree about Theo and Ox on the left, to be honest not a fan of Ox centrally either. So then that leaves the left for Iwobi, Sanchez and presumably Perez upon his return. Ramsey is in contention for Santi’s position but what is working against him there is Arsene playing Xhaka there. Basically what I’m saying is, to my mind, this is a massive year for Ramsey to prove himself but unlike last year and previous years he doesn’t get the match time afforded to him to show good after shaking off bad form.

    I think Iwobi is a brilliant talent and anybody that thinks he hasn’t played a massive role in our start and then moving forward is mad. How many experienced players haven’t faded, see Giroud…..

  36. Bill says:

    Yogi

    I remember some people thought Yaya was really good in his first game and came very close to scoring a couple goals in the game against Munich. It did not last long but he was not terrible for the first few games.

    Irregardless of what anyone thought of Yaya. The observation that a lot of U21 players start well only to see their influence fade with time is accurate. IMO.

  37. Bill says:

    Hard to argue with the numbers regarding iwobe as a potential goal threat. we have seen a lot of players score tons of goals in our U21 teams and none have been able to close to replicating those numbers in the first team. Correct me if I am wrong because I don’t know the numbers but I don’t think Alex scored that much in the U21 leagues. Time will tell but it may be a bit of a stretch to think he will suddenly become a scoring threat against PL teams.

  38. Bill says:

    Yogi.

    You are probably correct about Ox playing better on the right. I have to admit I have not thought about it.

  39. -DFS says:

    I find the push back to any criticism of Xhaka a little too tribal.

    He was not free on goal and we had cover.

    It’s not being a hard man…and in citing Coquelin gets booked for example, I am not aware it is for doing something like this regularly …

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqdzpUp0j0U

    There was little admirable or justified in that and it isn’t anything we have been lacking or ‘need’.

  40. santori says:

    There is no PLan A or PLan B.

    There are options galore.

    Keep them guessing is what I say. Why be so rigid in thought to have to say we need a plan A. And then a Plan B.

    We can play any of Alexis up top or Giroud up top or BOTH up top or Giroud with Alexis LWing.

    Alexis has pundered goals galore 2 seasons ago from wide position. Walcott realised this and has backed down from needing to start as CF.

    because as I mentioned several seasons ago, frankly this is moot.

    We are unpredictable because we have pace.

    We have pace not because of Alexis up top BUT because Bellerin is better able to push up in support. This allows Walcott to cut in field through channel where he is MOST effective or indeed join Alexis in the box.

    With GIroud, he is more economical with movement. What you don’t get from him in speed, you get a robust presence where Alexis can sometimes be absent from box.

    Playing Giroud does not preclude Ozil from attacking the box either.

    I think the fundamental issue besides fitness in terms of selection is what Wenger expects Ponchentinno’s set up to be.

    Regardless, there is no need to be so inflexible to think we have only certain players who are automatic starters.

    As shown, our ‘second line’ are every bit as good options.

    Giroud has come in to score 3 goals in two games and rescued us when we were struggling to find the net against Sunderland with Alexis up top.

    Ramsey despite poor passing (ring rust), has 2 assist in as many games.

    Granit recently returned from suspension has a goal to his name and shows the sort of passing ability we missed when Santi was out last season. Much will depend how fit Santi is ahead of the weekend. Also Elneny is making a case for himself (with some excellent crosses at Sunderland and the winning assist last game) although I suspect he is still behind BOTH Granit and Coquelin in terms of defensive robustness.

    What we do know is Walcott, Santi, Alexis and Iwobi (and Bellerin, Monreal) if passed fit will all be fresh without compromise to the Bulgarian holiday.

    So plenty for Wenger to weigh up.

    But the same sort of mentality that said Wenger was an idiot for playing Alexis as a CF are now the same voices who insist he can only play Alexis up top as first choice.

    Have a bit of mental flexibility like the gaffer.;)

  41. YW says:

    > There is no PLan A or PLan B.

    > There are options galore.

    So if you begin with one plan – let’s call it ‘A’ for the sake of argument – and you have “options galore”, unless you are particularly obtuse one of those “options galore” will be Plan B, will it not?

    Or is that too mentally flexible for you?

  42. Wailesy says:

    Ox can definitely not play on the left. Some of the crosses he’s pinned into the stands from the left are Sunday league material.

  43. Jonnygunner says:

    Santori try as I might to comprehend your points and find an inkling of agreement with you and them…….you really are a full sized bell-end.
    Sorry mate.

  44. Damon says:

    I don’t mind Ox on the left. I’m not sure he’s ambidextorious, but neither is Sanchez and it works out okay for him over there?

    I think the wings are going to be where it’s won and lost on Sunday. Their full backs are equally their strength and Achilles heel

    Maybe that decides who starts at CF? I’d be tempted to play Sanchez on the left, as he covers so well and knows how to stretch space going the other way, which they will leave. Ideally I’d like Bellerin and Walcott to continue on the right. Any other combination worries me a bit, to varying degrees. Especially a Jenks/Rambo one though. If we’re forced into that I wouldn’t be shocked to see Sanchez on the left, to shore up one flank leaving the midfield and CB to focus on any nonsense on our right

  45. Wavey says:

    Jonnygunner:
    Santori try as I might to comprehend your points and find an inkling of agreement with you and them…….you really are a full sized bell-end.
    Sorry mate.

    That just cracked me up.

  46. Wavey says:

    santori,

    When we were playing in exactly the same way no matter who the striker was it made no sense to play Alexis as CF as he was isolated. Iwobi and the rejuvenated Walcott have played much closer to Alexis in our set up this season, making Alexis’s close moving and passing style more effective. With Ozil also pulling the strings and being closer to the action we don’t see as many of those outstanding assists where he picks out a player, but he is more actively involved in the build up and gets amongst the goals himself.

  47. HenryB says:

    Don’t you just love a little bit of Shakespearean poetry – especially on a well known footie blog! 😀

    Two ‘Plan Bs or not two ‘Plan Bs’ – that Is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind of a Gooner to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to complain bitterly against a sea of troubles,
    And by saying it out loud end
    The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That a football fan’s flesh and mind is heir to.

    Yogi for President!! 😀

  48. andy1886 says:

    Just to prove that I am indeed a pedant the word ‘ambidextrous’ applies to hands not feet 😉

    Being equally proficient with both feet makes you ambipedal.

    I’ll leave now.

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