By Tony Attwood
I can’t recall a new season starting so early, but that is how it seems. We’ve still got to establish the order of the top four, play Man U, Sunderland and WBA in the league, and sort out the FA Cup. And yet all the talk is of next season.
No real celebrations of another St Tots Day, another passage into the Champions League, and the scoring of 100 goals in all competitions (incidentally from a bigger range of players than any other top team).
Speaking of this Mr Wenger said last night, “I feel we have made progress as a team and tonight was a demonstration we have improved. We played the kind of football we love to play with pace, quality and desire. Most importantly we’ve made progress since the start of the season. We’re playing a different way from September.
“We’ve passed a few positive tests. What is at stake now is to maintain our run and finish second.
“Chelsea are worthy winners this season because they have been the most consistent team of all. Let’s finish the season well, prepare well for next season and give them a good fight.”
Which is fair enough, but what happens now?
Obviously we know that the rest of the top four will all be developing, buying and selling, but they face different issues:
Chelsea seem to have found their own unique way around FFP through a complex loan scheme and flogging players off to non-Champ League teams for top prices, so presumably can keep on buying. Unless they have hit another FFP barrier – which is certainly possible. I just can’t work out how they are doing it.
Man C might change manager, which could reduce their ability to prepare quickly. And this season proves they are not impervious to slip ups. And of all the top four, they are the ones who are tightest against the FFP ropes.
Man U are… well, I don’t know what’s going on. They are not like the Man U teams we are used to. But they have the cash to buy anyone they want.
I don’t see too much threat from Liverpool or Tottenham to the top four. Both will be distracted over their stadium building enterprises, and neither have looked that challenging this season. Liverpool did push for a while, but it was just for a while, and their squad doesn’t look at all right to me, and there are internal mumblings too.
Of course they could find another Suarez, but that would be extremely lucky. And they will have to play Europa League football again, so that will keep them occupied.
So what do we do?
I still think the key factor is that we know the first half of the season was a disaster because of injuries, which basically means we must have a bigger squad of top players and rotate a lot. But there is a problem because even with some culling, we haven’t got much in the way of space.
I’m going to take a punt and guess that our list of over age players will look like this, pretty much as I have outlined before…
- Arteta Amatriain, Mikel
- Cazorla, Santiago
- *Coquelin, Francis
- Debuchy, Mathieu
- *Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo
- Giroud, Olivier
- Koscielny, Laurent
- *Martinez, Damian Emiliano
- Mertesacker, Per
- Monreal, Ignacio
- Ospina, David
- Ozil, Mesut
- Paulista, Gabriel
- *Ramsey, Aaron James
- Rosicky, Tomas
- Sanchez, Alexis
- *Szczesny, Wojciech Tomasz
- *Walcott, Theo James
- *Welbeck, Daniel
- *Wilshere, Jack Andrew
- Alves Da Silva, Wellington – (now 22)
- *Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexander Mark David – (now 21)
- Sanogo, Yaya
* = home grown.
That gives us two spaces. (Just for clarity Akpom, Bellerin, Chambers, Gnabry, Toral and Zelalem will still be under age so don’t count).
As you can see I have not brought back our over age loanees other than Wellington and Sanogo, and I have cut out Flamini and Diaby.
So, two spaces to fill. But who to put in there?
Of course there could be a straight swap going on, as in bring in a new keeper but let one of the existing ones go, but otherwise we are still stuck on two spaces unless we drop someone from the squad.
The key drop outs could be Rosicky and Wellington – but I only say that of Wellington because I don’t really know how good he is.
Thus one could just fit in another centre half, another centre forward and one more just for luck – just to cover the injuries. But in doing this we have to remember that when they are fit, the current group of first teamers who play or sit on the bench are a pretty formidable bunch.
And that is the problem with building a squad. One never quite knows who is going to be injured.
I think I might go back to celebrating the 100 goals, St Tots and Champs League. Just for a bit longer. I can cope with that.