By Tony Attwood
So off we go on our run of four consecutive home games starting this week with Swansea and then with a game against Ludogorets Razgrad on Wednesday. And the associated need to finish top of the Champs League group to avoid the child molesters in the next round.
And the good news is that we have a full squad of 25 plus five youngsters and only five injuries. Danny and Per are of course out long term. Akpom is still out with a back injury but there are no details on his return, but Ramsey and Giroud are out but looking ready to return either for Ludo or next weekend.
Lucas Pérez is back from his injury and at last Jenkinson is back after his experiences with State Aid United.
So just for fun I created a little list to see how I would rotate between the first two of our four home matches.
|Kieran Gibbs||LB||26 Sep 1989||Substitute||Playing|
|Aaron Ramsey||Mid||26 Dec 1990||Injured||Substitute|
|Theo Walcott||Forward||16 Mar 1989||Playing||Playing|
|Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain||Mid||15 Aug 1993||Substitute||Playing|
|Danny Welbeck||Forward||26 Nov 1990||Injured||Injured|
|Carl Jenkinson||RB||8 Feb 1992||Not selected||Substitute|
|Emiliano Martinez||GK||2 Sep 1992||Not selected||Substitute|
|Francis Coquelin||DM||13 May 1991||Playing||Substitute|
|Matt Macey||GK||9 Sep 1994||Not selected||Not selected|
|Mathieu Debuchy||RB||28 Jul 1985||Not selected||Not selected|
|Per Mertesacker||CB||29 Sep 1984||Injured||Injured|
|Gabriel||CB||26 Nov 1990||Substitute||Substitute|
|Laurent Koscielny||CB||10 Sep 1985||Playing||Playing|
|Alexis Sanchez||Forward||19 Dec 1988||Substitute||Playing|
|Mesut Özil||Mid||15 Oct 1988||Playing||Playing|
|Olivier Giroud||Forward||30 Sep 1986||Injured||Substitute|
|David Ospina||GK||31 Aug 1988||Substitute||Playing|
|Nacho Monreal||LB||26 Feb 1986||Playing||Playing|
|Santi Cazorla||Mid||13 Dec 1984||Playing||Playing|
|Yaya Sanogo||Forward||27 Jan 1993||Not playing||Not playing|
|Granit Xhaka||CM||27 Sep 1992||Substitute||Playing|
|Petr Cech||GK||20 May 1982||Playing||Not playing|
|Mohamed Elneny||Mid||11 Jul 1992||Substitute||Substitute|
|Shkodran Mustafi||CB||17 Apr 1992||Playing||Playing|
|Lucas Pérez||Forward||10 Sep 1988||Playing||Not playing|
The following U21 players are included in our First Team Squad
|Rob Holding||CB||12 Sep 1995||Not playing||Substitute|
|Alex Iwobi||Forward/MF||3 May 1996||Playing||Substitute|
|Hector Bellerin||RB||19 Mar 1995||Playing||Playing|
|Chuba Akpom||Forward||9 Oct 1995||Injured||Injured|
|Jeff Reine-Adelaide||Forward||17 Jan 1998||Not playing||Not playing|
Of course these are rough and ready selections, but they are there to make the point that we have choices on the pitch and choices on the bench.
Now if we combine this little piece of thinking with the article on the range of tactical approaches (the article about 4-4-2, 4-3-3, and 4-2-3-1) it is clear just how much flexibility the manager is building into this squad.
Indeed you will notice that some of the players who played against Nottingham Forest in the league cup are not mentioned here at all, and will make up a major part of the team for the last of our four consecutive home games.
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The team for the Forest game was
Martinez, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine Adelaide, Xhaka, Akpom, Elneny, Lucas
The subs who came on were Willock, Zelalem, and Bielik.
Akpom is now injured, but leaving him aside there are still six players there who are not going to be playing in other games. Mix in five other players who are only getting occasional matches, and we also have a very strong league cup squad.
Despite the usual ravings about injuries, we are neatly placed half way down the injury league (the top team in the league, Sunderland having twice as many injuries as we have). Plus we have a full compliment of 25 players in the 25 list (a rarity as we showed the other day), and five rather clever under 21s in the squad.
Which means that even with injuries, the league cup game is going to be a welcome change for some of the squad to get another game under their belt. No more having to throw on first team players because of injuries.
This turn around in numbers has come about not because we went out and bought player after player after player, but rather because we have that mix of our own players (the second list above) and those brought in on big money.
This is why the stories about “we were the only team not to buy an outfield player in the transfer window” 14 months ago were so stupid. If we bought any more players aged over 21 we would have to be forcing players out of the 25 list. And although Sanogo remains a mystery to us all, I am not sure who else we should be saying is not good enough. Remembering of course that players who are not going to get every game need to be young enough to realise this is part of their growing up process.
And I haven’t really taken account of one of the youngsters not listed in the under 21s set making a breakthrough as Bellerin, Coquelin and Iwobi have each done.
There is a further point to all this – when players come back from injury they are not going to be rushed back into the squad. We can afford to take our time.
So, what we have, in my estimation is
a) Flexible playing systems that can be changed from game to game
b) Enough players to be able to select players for games
c) Enough players to remove the temptation of rushing players back after injury – hence fewer injuries.
Four home games in a row. Even though I will miss the league cup match, I am rather pleased about seeing the rest of them.