Midfield Headaches & International Tension
Arsenal go into the international break on a high – compared to the two previous ones this season – with the recent run of form giving a relatively feelgood factor. Well, compared to a month ago it is. The usual trepidation is surfacing; the players that are travelling left the club fit, will they return is as good condition?
One who is not going is Mikel Arteta. Arguably, he had his best game for the club on Saturday against West Brom, he and Aaron Ramsey have a partnership that is growing in understanding with each game. They had almost double the number of completed passes between them compared to the entire West Brom midfield. That emphasises the dominance the Arsenal pair held.
Arsène was effusive in his praise,
He is an important player for our team. He is really a player between Song and Ramsey or Rosicky and that gives us continuity. When we need to keep the ball he can achieve that – Jack [Wilshere] can do that as well. But with Jack missing he is a player who can keep the ball when it is needed.
He is adapting to our game. If you look at the stats in the Premier League, Arsenal are the team who play the least balls backwards.
That means when you have the ball it is not only a question of decision-making, it’s a question of opportunity. It’s about how many players you have in front of you – if you have players behind you have to play it backwards.
The midfield is as intriguing an area as the back four was with Vermaelen out. The question is who will make way for Jack Wilshere on his return to the side? That presupposes that the youngster is a first choice. It is hard to imagine a state of affairs where he would not be but nonetheless if Ramsey and Arteta are playing well, would Arsène be forced into a tactical change to accommodate his key players.
To revert to 4-4-2 would mean Wilshere in all likelihood being moved to the wider midfield position, which may not entirely suit the player’s abilities to open up space for his forward line. The reality is that Ramsey is likely to give way at the moment or at least rotate into the starting line-up with Arteta. But these are the headaches a manager likes to have and, provided Arsenal are still in cup competitions at that time, a heavy fixture list as Winter turns to Spring means that even the squad players will be busy.
Wilshere is not too far away from returning to full training and has apparently committed the remainder of his professional career to Arsenal. We’ll see. Not that I disbelieve that this is Jack’s intention, simply that one-club men such as David O’Leary or George Armstrong, where they rack up 700+ games, are just a throwback to the pre-Premier League era. Still, Sky would no doubt be loving it if he did, “Jack Wilshere becomes the first player to reach 500 games for one club since football began in 1992, conveniently forgetting all those previously eulogised.
Any sign of complacency over recent form has been slapped down by the manager,
I have always said ‘come back in December’ because, for us, the real test we knew was Chelsea. After winning a big game we had to see if we could repeat that performance and then get the consistency from now on. Of course we are not at the same level as were one month ago but we still have some work to do.
Quite right too. He has recovered from the shock of a negative goal difference but is still in a position where consecutive wins may keep the team outside of the top five as others are equally consistent. The key is to be able to take advantage of any slips that may arise such as the next round of matches that see Newcastle travel to Eastlands and Liverpool to Chelsea. Arsenal do not have any ‘big’ matches until the trip to Manchester City by which time a significant number of top five clashes will have taken place. Chelsea in particular, are vulnerable to being caught, meeting Manchester City and Newcastle in that time as well as the Liverpool clash.
It is a case of keeping your head, getting on with your job and seeing where you are once the FA Cup starts in January.