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By Tony Attwood
Just imagine what it would be like if we just had a first team with a few reserve players who could pop in when things were not quite on the boil. That first team would be playing every game, league, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League. They’d be stitched up when injured to just go out and make up the numbers.
Instead we really do have a double set of players, with a very minimal amount of overlap. (And if Diaby had not been a very naughty boy he could have given Song a rest on Sunday).
Man U are of course playing the same game – two teams, one for the big games, one for the little ones. They squeezed through against Crawley, we drew away to Orient who are a couple of leagues above Crawley and have less money to spend.
Which suggests that the backup squad isn’t quite as good as it ought to be in either case.
But then just how good can you make a backup squad, without ending up with players who think, hang on if I went to Wigan or Tottenham or Blackburn or Bolton or Liverpool, I’d be able to play in the Premier League each week (unless until they get relegated).
Of course there is a counter argument to that which is Bentley, who believed he could rush his way into any club, and encouraged by certain elements in the media and on the blogs, started to believe that Wenger didn’t like English players and always deliberately held them back. So off he went on a meander which eventually took him from the edges of the Arsenal first team, to Tottenham Reserves.
Of course he doesn’t play for Tottenham Reserves any more, but that in part is due to the fact that Tottenham wound up their reserve team and don’t play in the league any more.
This season we have a squad of around 23, something like 18 players out on loan (by the way did you see that Carlos Vela scored on his debut, and that Cardiff – for reasons not yet clear to me – dropped Ramsey and so went on to lose), and then a reserve team – which is where Ignasi Miquel came from (as predicted in this very blog).
So the only question is, why is our second eleven not that little bit better that they can sweep the likes of Orient aside?
Several reasons I think. One is that it is not as easy as we might believe to sweep lesser clubs aside. For them it is the cup final, and they will give everything to get a game out of it. I seem to recall Man U slipping up with Burton and Exeter in recent years, and Liverpool (OK not a top notch team but still with a few decent players kicking around) being knocked out by Northampton.
Herbert Chapman, as we all have read in the history books, took the champions to Walsall and lost 2-0, and as I’ve pointed out several times, we had the devil of a job getting past Port Vale when doing the first Wengerian double.
It is not impossible of course – I remember trotting along to Yeovil to see us win 3-0, and Man City knocked the stuffing out of Notts County (two for Patrick you will have noticed), but it is not an automatic 6-0 thrashing each time.
Another reason is the irregularity of the reserve team playing together as a team. If only they could get more matches together that would really do it, I think. Which takes us into the whacky world of some of Untold’s reforms which just don’t seem to be on the cards (playing a team in the Scottish second division and another in the Spanish second division, or even playing a team in the English Championship).
We are helped by the fact that there is an Arsenal way of playing and we don’t change things around just to suit an individual player, but still, more games for the second XI as a unit would be helpful.
Which is why these replays aren’t such a bad thing. These players get another bash at a game, and of course those who want to get to a game but don’t usually get the chance will be able to buy tickets. (The replay is, I guess, the final cup match on my season ticket which means I’ll have to fork out for the quarter finals of the Champions League, but, ah well. That’s life.)
A final thought: we have got through this season without Vermaelen – clearly our best central defender last season. And yesterday we saw Ignasi Miquel, who looks like he could come through the ranks like Djourou before him. Maybe that’s why another defender hasn’t been bought.
And there’s still…
- Aaron Ramsey
- Carlos Vela
- Kyle Bartley
- Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
- Henri Lansbury
- Craig Eastmond
- Vito Mannone:
- Sanchez Watt
- Benik Afobe
- Ryo Miyaichi
- Gilles Sunu
- Francis Coquelin
- Armand Traoré
- Wellington Silva
- Pedro Botelho
- Samuel Galindo
A very personal note from Tony: Barclays Bank made £11.6bn profit last year and paid 1% tax in Britain. It’s not football, but for me it is just as important. Read the Guardian article if you find it troubling that more is paid in bank bonuses than in tax.