Yesterday’s game at Southampton summed up where Arsenal are. We had an unchanged line-up, despite it being the second game of the week and despite the fact we were playing a relegation zone team. And we struggled. Struggled for energy, creativity and impact.
We looked good for the first ten minutes but after that Southampton got a grip and stifled our best midfield line-up. We ended up passing the ball sideways or backwards so often you began to think Denilson must be back. I don’t have a problem with Arteta, Cazorla or Wilshere. Love all three of them but we can’t rely on playing them game after game.
Our alternatives to Arteta are Coquelin or Diaby. Coquelin has promise, could turn into a great player but he’s young and inexperienced. Diaby is a stat but rarely fit. It’s sad and I really feel for the guy. But he just isn’t a reliable option.
Our alternative to Wilshere is Ramsey. I like Aaron Ramsey. I don’t think he’ll ever be a ‘great’, but he’s competent and quite good to bring on when there’s a straightforward physical battle to be seen out. He isn’t someone to supply a missing creative spark.
Our alternative to Cazorla is Rosicky. Another player I like and not as frequently unavailable as Diaby. But too often he isn’t fit. He was on the bench last night but not used. I assume that he wasn’t really fit enough. When he is, he can change a game. I think that in time we may see more of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle though he isn’t quite the same style as Cazorla.
When it all got bogged down yesterday, Walcott was cut off. No supply to feet and too small to capture the high balls. Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs and Sagna all had poor games. Walcott began to forget what the ball looked like and dropped deeper and deeper until we had no strike force at all.
Even when Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain are on their game, they aren’t genuine wingers. Walcott can play on the wing but he doesn’t want to.
The result of all this is that when all out first choices are fit we can pull it off. But only just and take out one or two, or lose a bit of form, and we are in trouble with nothing in reserve.
Clearly not all of that can be put right in one January window and not all of it has the same urgency. Most of the speculation has been for a new striker. It’s true that we haven’t replaced Van Persie, but I wonder if the more urgent need is for genuine wide players and to double up on Arteta and Wilshere. Genuine wingers would give use Giroud, Walcott and Podolski as striking options. If they got the service, they might be enough.