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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

No discernible tactics - Schalke 04 (a) preview

Everything he does is annoying these days

The team news ahead of tonight is not great, depending on your point of view. Aaron Ramsey is out injured, which will be a relief to a few supporters who have grown frustrated by his lack of pace. I have had a lot of patience with Ramsey, largely borne out of sympathy with the reasons why he has lost the zip he had as a teen aged prodigy. I also have sympathy with him for the fact that Wenger first tried to use him as a highly inadequate replacement for Cesc Fabregas and now sees him as the man for all positions across midfield - the new Yossi Benayoun, if you will. Unfortunately for Ramsey he is becoming more like the new Emmanuel Eboue in the eyes of some fans and Wenger has been doing him no favours by keeping him in the firing line like he has. The fact that Ramsey has been deployed on the right wing ahead of Theo Walcott in recent matches is a joke. Up at Manchester City Ramsey produced his best performance since coming back from his leg break. As is often the case with Wenger he saw this as a reason to keep playing him out of position in the ridiculous hope that he would keep on doing it. Abou Diaby found himself playing on the left of midfield for months after a stellar showing in the Carling Cup Final in 2007, despite that being the only time he played well out there. It is maybe a sign of how bad things are for Ramsey that Arsenal fans are now calling for Theo Walcott as the man to save us this season. It's easy to forget how bad Theo can be at times, but Wenger's treatment of him since the start of the season has ended up to the detriment of the team. Normally I would be of the opinion that a player who hasn't signed a deal should be frozen out, but Walcott has got his head down and produced the goods, despite his situation. To continue to leave him out is the action of a mad man. As it happens, it seems that Walcott will miss out tonight due to illness but it would have been interesting to see if Wenger would finally have given him a start in a game that matters to the Manager.
With Ramsey out injured there is a space in the squad from Saturday. Of course Ramsey plays in midfield, so you would naturally expect him to be replaced by a midfielder. Not so. Wenger has brought in Johan Djourou instead. There is no doubt that, if fit, Ramsey would have been on the plane to Germany. That being the case it would be sensible, would it not, to suggest that Wenger felt the need for a midfield player in his 18 for tonight? Why then has he selected his fourth-choice centre-back to come in to the squad? Yesterday I was lamenting the fact that Tomas Eisfeld (who got yet another goal in the under-21's last night) was not going to Schalke before it was pointed out to me that he was not included in Arsenal's UEFA squad. But then that doesn't explain why Gnabry, Frimpong and Yennaris have all been left at home. It just strikes me more and more that Wenger has lost all idea of any actual game plan or tactics. When you had Gilberto, Vieira, Ljungberg, Pires, Henry and Bergkamp you could play just about how you wanted, against any opposition, without worrying of "tactics" as Arsenal were that good. What Wenger fails to understand is that the players we have now need a plan to beat other teams, especially against sides that might just have some players better than yours.
Walcott's illness show us another problem with the way Wenger chooses to operate. Arsenal have named an 18 man travelling party for the game this evening. At the same time it has been admitted that Walcott is unwell and, therefore, doubtful for the match. Surely one or two more should be travelling with the squad in order to avoid such a problem. Would it hurt to have someone like Gnabry tagging along on the off-chance that he might need to lace up his boots? This is a Club who flies players from Luton to Norwich so it can't be a cost saving measure. George Graham always took two or three extra players to away matches (at least one of whom would be a youngster on the fringes of the first-team squad) just in case. It rarely did his Arsenal side much harm. Perhaps I'm picking on small things that may end up being entirely insignificant, but such is the frustration I feel towards Wenger at the moment that I just fail to see any logic in anything the man is doing.
As for the game itself tonight a draw would be a belter of a result. We have been playing abysmally and were well and truly canned by Schalke a fortnight ago. The 2-0 scoreline at our place was generous to Arsenal. One or two of the papers claim that Andre Santos will be left out this evening and anyone who has been watching him can't be surprised. The interesting thing will be seeing who replaces him. For me there are three candidates. Wenger could bring in Koscielny and move Vermaelen to left-back. He may bring in  Jenkinson and move Sagna across, or simply put Jenkinson on the left. Personally I would be bringing in both Koscielny and Jenkinson, while dropping Vermaelen and moving Sagna over to the opposite side. We will see what Wenger does this evening. Whatever it is, Arsenal need to improve by about 200% if they are to get something out of tonight.

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