By Walter Broeckx
Ah the life of a football supporter. Easy in the good days. A bit more difficult in the bad days. And we seem to hit a few bad days for the moment. There is no denying that.
From the game against Schalke and Norwich it is clear to see that without players who bring speed to the team we struggle. We have a few players with some speed like Walcott and The Ox to play on the right flank. And on the left flank we have Gibbs who is also blessed with some speed and who can join the attack with his overlapping runs.
If we analyse the defeats so far we see that the game against Chelsea was lost because of 2 mistakes when defending set pieces. We weren’t outclassed in that game. Without the two mistakes we could have won it or got a draw.
But the defeats against Norwich and Schalke showed that the team played at the same speed for most of the time. No acceleration. Almost no player with a good timed run in to open space. On the right hand side we usually had The Ox or Theo there. Their pace is stretching a lot of teams and when they play on the wing they can open up the defence. With both being out we don’t have the speed over there.
On the left flank we had the good combination between Podolski and Gibbs. Very influential in the first games of the season where they found each other rather well. Gibbs with the overlapping run and some good combinations with Podolski. Podolski looked really good with Gibbs behind him and Gibbs look good defensively with Podolski in front of him. That combination has been gone for the moment. Let us hope that they can play together as soon as possible.
But since we lost Gibbs we look a different team. There is no speedy left back/winger to do the overlapping runs and open the defence on that flank. And if you combine this with the absence of Theo and The Ox on the right flank you know exactly where the problem is in attack.
Cazorla has no wide options to stretch the opponents defence and make them spread their defenders so that gaps open up from where Podolski and Gervinho could run in to. So we get a kind of short passing with no real advantage or chances as a result. And that makes it easy to defend.
If we would have Theo, The Ox or Gibbs back Cazorla will have the options again and we can put more pressure on the other teams with our speed. The only player who can do this now is Gervinho. And maybe Wenger can go for another youth player and put Gnabry on the field. He has speed and looks a promising player. Maybe he can fill the gap till Theo and The Ox are back? But we cannot put our hopes too much on the youngster. Can we?
Another option could be to bring in … Sagna. If he is really fit. Now I don’t know if you remember it but he used to run up and down the flank before his broken leg and bring something to defence and attack. A bit like Gibbs has done in the first games on the left flank.
Now I know that you will say: dropping Jenkinson? Well maybe it is time to give him a rest? In troubled times you need players who have a lot of experience and Jenkinson is still a rough diamond and Sagna is a seasoned warrior. And I do think, no I am sure of it, that Sagna is attacking wise much more important and can bring more than Jenkinson.
I think it is amazing to see how good a defender Jenkinson has become in this one year at Arsenal. Really and utterly amazing. But his game going forward still needs a lot of improvement. But I am sure that the first thing to learn him was to defend in a proper way. And I think as a right back he is now very capable of doing this. He is almost always in front of the central defenders so he will not play players onside. A very important thing to do. But going forward he is only effective when he can run with the ball in front of him along the line. He can’t go inside as Sagna can and the passing range of Sagna is bigger. Experience shows of course.
So I think it is vital to restore the partnership Gibbs-Podolski on the left as soon as Gibbs is injury free. And it will be vital to have or Theo or The Ox back on the right flank supported by Sagna. On that moment we will have back the overlapping runs from our backs, we will have the speed on both flanks and our midfielders will have options on both flanks.
But never has the “need for speed” been bigger in this team than now in my opinion.
And then we can hope that with the other injured players like Diaby and Rosicky back in some 2 weeks if all stays well and like the prognosis is now. That would give us more options in midfield.
And of course we then still have Jack Wilshere. Some call him already injury prone. But let me doubt that. He had one major injury with his foot that needed surgery and the heeling didn’t work out as planned. He then also had a problem fixed in his knee. But before that Jack was almost never injured. In fact the reason why he played so much in his first season was because of him always being fit. Maybe it would have been better if he would have had some injuries. And some rest to recover.
Now it wouldn’t be wise to expect Jack to be the answers to our questions as I think the answer lies on the flanks and in bringing in speed in to the team. But with Jack his vision and his eye for the unmarked player and his fighting spirit he will bring also something extra to the team.
But for now we only can swallow the bitter pill. Wait for the injured to return to full fitness. And when that happens we will see the real quality of this team.
And until then I will do what I always do. I will support my team. I will wish every player to hit form as soon as possible and to do their best. And I, I will support them. Because that is what a real supporter does in the bad days.
I will not desert you my Gunners!