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Selection Headaches

Morning to you all. We look back on a day filled with international matches that brought Arsenal players good fortune. Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all had fine days out for their respective countries, and none have been reported injured.

It bodes well for us, as the players who are yet to play their second game look to maintain their match fitness over the coming week. You have to imagine there will be some rotation in the squad when we face Southampton, and it makes you realize that our second string isn’t as weak as people make it out to be.

The first person to be taken off the starting sheet is Diaby. Yes, he’s shown great form, but we still have to take it easy with him. Players don’t simply stop being injury prone, there are countless examples. Abou isn’t made of glass, but everyone could use a rest now and again. I think it’s best we don’t put too much strain on his body too early.

“I have revenge to take over the time I lost but I want to prove to myself that I can go higher. I am getting to an age and to a time in my career where I need to show what I can do on the pitch in the long-term.

“I don’t want to miss out on anything. I know what my qualities are and I want to use them to go higher. I have played three games this season, I getting better but I can do more. Physically, I am only 70 per cent.”

Judging by these quotes, it doesn’t seem Abou is keen on missing too many matches. We wouldn’t be missing much should he sit out a few though, as we have young Francis Coquelin waiting in the wings, eager to make his mark. I was extremely impressed with his versatility, hunger and most of all, skill last year. He made most of his appearances from right-back, a position that isn’t his first choice. Of the limited times he’s played in the middle of the park for the first team, his talent has been on showcase. His dribbling skills are impressive for an attacking midfielder, let alone a defensive one. I don’t see him making more than 15 appearances this season, unless injury strikes. It’s a bit of a shame there isn’t much room for change in this midfield at the moment, but such is life at a top football club. The chances will be few and far between, but hopefully Francis can earn his stripes. In him, we may have Diaby Mk.II, and this one’s reliable.

With the midfield pretty much locked down at the moment, the back four is very much up in the air. Kieran Gibbs looks the clear favorite to start over the less defensively inclined Andre Santos, and Carl Jenkinson impressing in his deputy role in the absence of Bacary Sagna. All four full backs are good options in my opinion, but the real predicament is who to start in the two centre back slots. I understand picking a team to suit your opponent, but our centre back options aren’t as diverse as you’d imagine. In Koscielny and Vermaelen, you essentially have the same player. Physically and technically, Kos and Verm are extremely close. They’re both good on the ball, in the tackle, and in the air. They’re both tenacious, quick and strong. At times I think they’re a little too similar. Then there’s the completely different Per Mertesacker. He’s a sweeper, a reader of the game. A clean tackler, strong, but slower than his two defensive partners. What he offers is defensive organization and a sense of calm. He compliments both Vermaelen and Koscielny, and this reveals a problem. Vermaeln is captain, so he should be starting almost every game. Mertesacker has been in fine form of late, and compliments Vermaelen’s weaknesses. They’re the ideal pair, but where does that leave Koscielny? He compliments Mertesacker as well, but surely he can’t start ahead of the captain? This is why I wanted Sagna to be captain, with Arteta filling in until his return. It creates a tight spot that we haven’t been in recently. Who do you play? Surely Laurent can’t sit on the bench forever, but can you risk the chemistry between Vermaelen, and how do we know Koscielny will do any better? The only thing to force Arsène’s hand could be injuries or fatigue, so in that sense, we’re covered. Should everyone stay fit however, PerMer and Koscielny are in for a heated battle for the last spot. Things could get interesting.

We’ve got much fewer options in attack, especially on the wings. The Ox seems far happier in the middle these days, so that counts him out. That leaves Podolski – who isn’t a true winger – Gervinho and Walcott. The latter two are far too inconsistent to be depended upon, so we may have to look to names like Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi when he returns from loan for depth from the bench. A dearth of attackers is almost unheard of under Arsène, so we may be in for one come January.

It should be interesting to see how our team settles down as the season rumbles along. I think we’ll see a few players tried in new positions, but for the most part we’ll look the same all year. A few new faces either from within or abroad are certainly welcome, but for now our squad looks a group who take nothing for granted, and rely on no one. I’m excited.

That’s it for today, until tomorrow.

Anders

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