At the risk of setting light to my own funeral pyre a few years too early, I will (perhaps stupidly) stick my neck above the parapet again.
As 1979 posted in the week, an Arsenal first XI would be a very different looking beast to the team that played against Porto and Sunderland. However, I am not aware of Arsenal putting out the "first XI" at any stage over recent years. There may have been the odd match, but nothing more than that. But the injury prone nature of our team is another topic of conversation. But what is apparent is that a club who wants to challenge at the very top of the game in recent years needs a big squad, and cannot often make the excuse about injuries. Arsenal's record on injuries is bad, but a lot of our competitors have problems as well. Infact, Sunderland were missing a lot of their first XI as well, and Sunderland are shite anyway. So I am not going to talk about injuries today.
Neither am I going to talk about what being a "real fan" means. The topics of discussion on this blog are not simply blind loyalty to the cause. If you are unable to speak in a normal and civilized way about the state of the Arsenal team, its pros and cons, the players who are doing well and those that are not, then look elsewhere. However, whilst we take a relatively circumspect view on how we are doing at the moment, this blog has no particular causes to campaign for. Asking questions like "Should we accept £30m for Cesc?" or "Is Wenger still the man for the job?" does not pre-suppose an answer. The idea is not that everyone will agree with us. Its not a popularity contest. But we would ask that you try and read what we say before launching into purile "you're not proper fan" tirades. However, if that is what you feel, then so be it. The world is full of morons. So congratulations.
Instead, I am going to speak about what we are doing up front at the moment. Because the goals have dried up for Arsenal in recent games - only 6 goals in our last 7 games, which is very different from the start of the season.
There are a number of factors, it was a tough run of games, and the injury to RVP is a massive factor. Nikki B was also missing for 3 months and used sparingly, and Eduardo seems unable to stay fit. But I said I wasn't going to speak about injuries. And fair enough, becuase there are plenty of other 'forwards' in the squad - Arshavin, Nasri, Vela, Rosicky and Theo.
And a lot of the forward play comes through Cesc, who has chiselled himself out a free role in the heart of midfield. Its a role that I don't think Wenger has bestowed on any other player. In many ways, the entire purpose of this 4-3-3 system seems to be to give Cesc that role.
Now whilst Cesc is having a good season, there is not much happening around him at the moment. Cesc played almost as a centre forward against Sunderland in the second half, and I think its great to see him getting in the box so much. But the rest of the forward line is full of potential, but otherwise its ifs, buts and maybes, with not a great deal of final product at the moment.
However, I think it will come. We did a lot of good stuff down the right against Sunderland. The threat of Theo's pace opens the game up in a way that Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky etc rarely offer. A couple of games with Theo on the right and Nikki B in the middle will lead to more goals, I am quite sure of if. Give them at least 2 or 3 more games before making any judgments. But one of our problems at the moment is that we almost never put the same XI out twice, let alone for 3 or 4 games. I sincerely hope that Theo now gets a run in the team - lets see. Eboue should also keep his place. The Ivorian Mystery Man was terrific on Saturday.
But it will be difficult for Wenger to resist the temptation to rotate the players again, and you would expect a fit Diaby to play ahead of Ramsey, but will he also want to find a spot for Rosicky? I suspect he will, but like Nasri, Rosicky does not like getting much chalk on his boots and loves to come inside. The temptation might therefore be to go for a front line of Nasri, Bendnter and Rosicky, which could work just fine, but I really think Theo Walcott has the ounce of magic that is worth a gamble.
Theo's instinct is to look at the space beyond the back line, whereas Nasri, Rosicky and Bendtner like the ball to their feet, usually in front of the back-line. Now whilst it would help if Nikki B looked to stay on the shoulder of the centre-backs more often, Theo's movement gives an option that the rest don't really offer.
Ljungberg used to move beautifully along the back line waiting for Bergkamp to slide one through. Theo is not as composed on the ball as Freddie, but if Theo continue to make the runs then Cesc can play the passes. With the added trickery that Eboue throws in, its a thought that would scare the daylights out of most back lines.