Playing with my baby daughter this morning reminded me of the conundrum being faced by Arsenal at the moment, when I think of our right side midfield, I feel Wenger, like my daughter, keeps trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Wenger is trying to fit all his midfield jewels in the one team which is hindering Arsenal’s attacking threat down their right hand flank.
Against West Ham, Wenger reverted back to early last season leaving Cazorla lost on the left hand flank in order to accommodate Ramsey centrally, the whole flow of the game was impacted until the second half when Santi was moved in to his more effective central midfield position. After the game in press conferences, Wenger basically admitted that Cazorla is no longer suited to playing out wide. As a genuine two footed midfielder and intelligent passer, Santi ensures that the midfield is consistently flowing. He always makes himself available for the ball and thrives in receiving the ball in tight spaces which relieves the pressure on the central defenders. At the moment, Cazorla has to start centrally alongside Coquelin ahead of Ramsey.
Ramsey is trying his best to rediscover the magic of two seasons ago but playing out on the wing, limits his ability to impact and influence games to the best of his ability. A further issue that I see with Ramsey and Giroud on the field together, it allows opposition defenses to play a high line against Arsenal as there is not a threat of either Giroud or Ramsey over the top. Alexi is also most effective dribbling the ball into space rather than playing over the top, so he too thrives on space created by the threat of pace over the top.
This team selection is also is forcing arsenal to play centrally in front of defenses, with Ramsey always coming inside, which also limits the space available to Ozil to thread those killer through balls.
So what’s the solution?
I think Arsene has various options available to him. Although Walcott is terrifying for defenders due to his pace, I think his role should now be through the center as I do not believe he is technically good enough as his other midfield colleagues. Sometimes, he is isolated on the wing and needs to be brought into the game. Also defensively, he would not be as active as some of his alternatives and could leave the team exposed defensively. I believe as he did against Aston Villa in the cup final, against certain opponents, sitting on the shoulder of the central defender his pace can be exploited by Ozil and Santi who can time the perfect pass.
That leaves either Welbeck or Ox as options assuming that Alexi stays on the left.
Ox needs a run without injury to boost his confidence. At times, Ox looks like the finished article, he can electrify games, and his dribbling with the ball can terrify defenders as was seen from his finish against Chelsea. The problem with Ox though is the key mistakes that he makes, losing the ball in key areas against Monaco last year and Crystal during the first game of the season proved very costly. I think Wenger is skeptical about starting Ox with Bellerin and the poor start to the season by Debuchy, hasn’t helped the Ox’s cause.
Welbeck is the ideal solution, his work ethic is fantastic and adds a lot defensively. Against the other title contenders, I think he is the ideal option to start the big games, especially away from home. He also
provides the option for the ball over the top and knows where the net is when opportunity arises. I don’t believe he is clinical enough to take the central striker and would be behind Giroud and Walcott in the pecking order. His pace out wide can also add a whole new dimension to the right midfield attack.
Finally, I think Wenger has to place his faith in Bellerin. With a more attacking threat in front of him, I believe Bellerin can quell his attacking tendencies and blossom further into a world class right back. I think Wenger is hesitant to play Ox or Walcott in front of Bellerin as he believes they may be exposed defensively, however as he is clearly number 1 right back, Bellerin deserves the opportunity to show he can be the defensive rock Wenger needs and doesn’t need protection.
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