Santi And Sanchez Key for Gunners
Arsene Wenger chose a peculiar starting lineup in the North London Derby verse Tottenham Hotspur, omitting Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez, a decision the manager will be disappointed with after only just scraping a point at home.
The lifeless 1-1 draw left Arsenal supporters with more questions than answers.
Mikel Arteta was paired with Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere in the center of the park, and once again appeared as a middle-aged, off the pace, fading player.
Arteta can no longer be selected against the top teams in the Premier League - he’s not sharp enough, not quick enough, not tough enough, as evidence showed once again Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, Matheiu Flamini isn’t any better this season.
Last Campaign, the Frenchman was full of vim and vigor, rejuvenated by his move back to the Emirates; a bulldog that bit hard in the challenge, offered vocal leadership and cajoled commitment from others, coupled with boundless energy and enthusiasm, Flamini was a crucial signing.
This year Flamini belongs with Arteta: tethered to the training ground goalpost away from the action.
Both of Arsenal’s holding players are dog tired and can no longer contribute against the big boys.
That leaves Arsenal with zero first choice holding midfield players suited to the demands of the Premier League.
Wenger miscalculated and misjudged by giving the armband to Arteta. I wrote on Football.com back in August that it was a bad idea.
Sadly, that opinion is proving all too true. Arteta’s poor performances, and now injury problems, mean that Per Mertesacker will likely take on the Captaincy and that was a choice that would have made more sense on a full time basis (though Laurent Koscielny is still my first choice).
Of course there’s always Abou Diaby to provide a ray of hope, a splash of sunshine, perhaps the lanky, injury-plagued Frenchman can be converted into the holding midfield player Arsenal need, as Wenger now seems to be postulating to the media.
Let’s be honest.
If Diaby is the answer to Arsenal’s holding-mid problems then supporters can expect to see lycra-clad pigs soaring about the skies of the Emirates swooping down to harass the stewards.
Diaby showed immense potential as young player, but putting any stock into him being part of a regular run of games is a pipe dream and one that Wenger needs to forget well before the January window opens.
The Premier League has only gotten faster since Diaby's latest injury and trying to come back just isn’t in the cards.
The news of Ramsey, Wilshere, and Arteta being injured is cause for alarm.
This injury report once again brings into question Wenger’s lack of ambition in the transfer market.
The Professor didn’t do enough to bolster his player pool after releasing Thomas Vermaelen.
There clearly was no well-thought plan on how to replace him and this was a critical error by Wenger.
It is also hard not to wonder what impact Shad Forsythe, if any, has had at the Club?
The German fitness coach arrived to help fight the injury bug that decimated Arsenal last season and it’s hard to see if he’s made any sliver of difference as we see Ramsey (and Arteta) out once again with muscle injury.
Despite all the criticism, Arsenal remain the only team other than Chelsea (who they face next weekend) to remain unbeaten. If Arsenal can find a way beat the Blues it will go a long way to convincing supporters, and more importantly themselves, that they are still capable of mounting a season long title assault.
The United Kingdom partnership of Ramsey and Wilshere may not be a paring destined for longevity. Ramsey and Wilshere both typically play better when the other is left out of the side (either due to injury or selection). They are too similar; neither is best suited to sit deep in front of the back-four and play-break; both would rather focus their energies on play making, and with Mesut Ozil in the team there is no room for Wilshere to play as a true no. 10 (his best role).
There can only be one luxury player in the side if Arsenal are to survive the Premier League and Ozil has a foothold on that role - thankfully he looks to have been reenergized by his performance verse Aston Villa and played a decent match verse Spurs. Let’s hope that continues.
Wenger must reaffirm his faith in Santi Cazorla.
It is unacceptable to leave him out of the side. There is no one that should come before him on the team-sheet.
Without question, Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s most exciting (and hardworking) player. If he’s fit it is irrational to leave him out. Arsenal is not winning the Champions League and there’s no point in saving him for that competition.
Sanchez should have started Saturday just as he should every matchday when fit.
If Arsenal are looking to compete verse Galatasary, avoid embarassment at Chelsea, and make a legitmate run at the title, Santi and Sanchez are key for the Gunners...