By Walter Broeckx
After our loss at Swansea I have seen a few comments blaming Wenger for not having interfered enough by letting Chambers play on right back after it was clear that he had a difficult match against Montero.
The reasoning was: we had Bellerin on the bench so he should have brought Bellerin on, put Chambers in the middle and take Monreal off.
It was an option. And of course after the match we can say: he should have done it.
But let us look at it from another angle or a few other angles.
I am not a professional manager but I am a follower of football over the years. And one thing I have learned over the years is that a manager almost never replaces a defender unless he really has to do it. The back 4 who starts usually finishes the match and only if one of them gets injured they are substituted.
Of course we can find matches where this wasn’t the case. Managers have taken off defenders without them being injured. But if 100 defenders are taken off I think in 98% of the cases it will have been because of an injury.
The reason is of course that managers usually like to make changes in the attack or in midfield. Because that is usually where the match can be more influenced. In fact the Swansea match was a good example of this. Swansea making substitutions in the attack changed their match.
Another angle is that if he would have done as proposed by some it would have lead to a few changes. And again no manager really wants to throw more than half of his back 4 in new positions during the match. Because when Chambers played in central defence it was usually Per who shifted to the left hand side of the defence. So that would mean 3 of the 4 defenders taking new positions. If a player is injured and it has to happen then it will happen of course. But not really something a manager likes to do.
And if he would have done this he would have taken off one of our more experienced defenders in the person of Monreal and would have made a defence with a 19 year right back – a 19 year centre back playing on the right side – a 30 year old centre back playing on the left side and a 26 year old left back.
So that would have as a result that on the right hand side of defence where the problem obviously was you would have two less experienced players. Would that have been a wise thing to do when the score was 0-0? Or would that have been a wise thing to do when the score was 0-1 in favour of Arsenal?
Now imagine if Wenger would have done the asked and we would have lost? It takes no big imagination to know what would happen then. We all know that Wenger would be crucified and called a fool. How could he possibly dare to take of an experienced player and bring on a kid who only played one PL before for Arsenal.
And then imagine what it could have meant for Bellerin himself. Coming on at 0-0 or at 0-1 and then losing. We all know what the moaning part of our fan base would do. They would go on all the blogs and ask for the head of Bellerin on the same plate as the head of Wenger.
Bellerin would be crucified, haunted and for a young player with not even a handful of games for Arsenal it could mean the end.
We have seen it before how players who had been the victim of that part of the fans suddenly turned better when leaving Arsenal. In fact you only have to watch at the keeper in the Swansea goal to have an example. Flapihandski they called him ignoring the fact that referees allowed him to be pushed, shoved and kicked when trying to go for the ball. Or when referees broke the laws of the game to allow what looked silly goals against Arsenal. But Fabianski was vilified by the moaners because that way they could take a turn on Wenger. Because after all : it was Wenger who put him in the goal or who had bought him.
And then we can also argue why would Wenger take off Monreal who for most of the 90 minutes had a good match against Wilfried as long as he was on the field. Yes I know that Monreal is not a born central defender but I think he doesn’t do that bad. I have reviewed the match and apart from their second goal he most of the time was beating his man. So why should he have been taken off?
And just replacing Chambers with Bellerin might also have been an option. But then again how can any of you be 100% certain that this would have been an improvement? Even I who have been writing enthusiastic articles on Bellerin for a few years now would not even dare to say that Bellerin would have been better in that position than Chambers in this match.
Because I know that the strength of Bellerin is in his attacking game. And I can see that he still is a bit naïve at times and still has the habit of running out of position too easily. That is the reason why I think Debuchy will stay in the RB position for a few seasons while Bellerin will learn that part of the game more and more and then will take over. And the reason why I think that Chambers will be used in another position by then.
Of course you could always argue that we had to buy more right backs. But when you look at the career of Debuchy there was no reason to imagine him being injured for such a long time. He had a few injuries but most of them were rather short term injuries. But then of course being allowed by referees to being kicked left; right and in the centre maybe never happened to him before he came to Arsenal. But that is something we forget as we can’t blame Wenger for that.
Talking with hindsight we can see that Wenger made the wrong choices. But nobody of those hindsight managers can tell me that the options we had and the changes proposed would have made a difference. It was a match between two teams who kept each other in balance. And I think that the lack of discipline of the midfielders and attackers cost us more than Chambers or Monreal did. And no change in the back 4 would have changed that lack of defensive discipline.
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