Retro football resurfaced at last night’s World Cup Qualifier in Switzerland. That pitch was pure 1970s, recalling the horrors of the Baseball Ground.
Dominating the weekend, or yesterday at least, at Arsenal was Olivier Giroud’s thigh strain and Aaron Ramsey’s absence from the Welsh squad. The former is a concern, simply because it leaves us exposed this weekend with Danny Welbeck’s return timely in those circumstances.
There is precious little information about Ramsey’s absence which leads me to think it’s a rare outbreak of common sense in football. With Gareth Bale’s injury woes, perhaps Chris Coleman is being cautious ahead of a busy part of the season. Who knows?
If it’s a problem, it’s an opportunity for someone else. While Jack Wilshere is the obvious solution, Wenger will look to Elneny or Coquelin at the weekend. The attacking trio will most likely be Sanchez, Lacazette and Özil but despite being over-run by City, nothing else will change.
Should it? This is Tottenham, probably the best and worst match for Wenger in these circumstances. The best because surely the players will be motivated for the north London derby? In years gone by, it was obligatory; understood by the squad that this was the game which mattered.
Now? I’m not sure, but is that a ‘not sure’ because it’s the players themselves or is it just the unshakeable faith being shaken to its core? A mix of both, to be honest.
It used to be that before the game, even if Spurs were ascendant at that point in the season, confidence oozed through my veins. I knew Arsenal would turn up; they didn’t always, that’s for sure, but more often than not they would. I’m not sure now; I don’t know which Arsenal will turn up, if at all.
Fit for Purpose?
When there’s nothing in the league to play for beyond the minor placings, Arsenal’s season hinges on big matches. We might do well in the cups but until that unfurls, we take pleasure from wins in the big matches. Not that it happens very often in recent times…
Back to the midfield. Xhaka played well for Switzerland, thriving without the errors which pock-mark his recent Arsenal performances. Both at Windsor Park and last night, he seemed more comfortable with his instructions. Now, a factor in that is the standard of opposition. No disrespect to Northern Ireland but Arsenal face stronger club sides.
However, the Swiss looked more at ease on the pitch. In the first leg, he was spraying passes around like a YouTube compilation reel of his best Monchengladbach days. It is that which we must tap into, bring to the surface week in, week out. At the moment, we get those games inconsistently.
Is that to do with the midfield partner? Do we need Ramsey to be more disciplined than at present? Is it a case that, in the system Arsène employs, there isn’t room for Ramsey and Özil? If there is a more discplined partner to Xhaka, then certainly it is inconceivable both the Welshman and German fit into a 3 – 4 – 3 effectively.
Or is it just Xhaka doesn’t fit into that system?
The Arsenal squad wasn’t built with 3-4-3 in mind. Only this summer’s acquisitions were purchased with the system in place and I am not convinced Arsène believes in it. His defensiveness when questioned over a back three last season sticks in my mind as someone employing expediency rather than a deep-held belief in the path they are following.
Is this summer the tipping point for Wenger in that sense? He must buy with the formation in mind, as well as replacing key players. That’s no easy task with our apparent budget. However, if he wants a legacy which isn’t considered destructive, his options are limited.
Sanchez’s departure is a big problem, one which Danny Welbeck can’t solve. He’s the internal solution but not of the Chilean’s calibre. Nor is Zaha; maybe they are and need the opportunity to prove themselves.
That’s the problem with transfers; they look good on paper. Doesn’t work out that way all of the time but that’s part of the decision-making process: assessing probabilities.
Food for thought for the coming months.