The good news came in yesterday: Mathieu Débuchy, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere are all ready to battle for a place in the squad that will face Liverpool on Saturday. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ready to follow in their footsteps next week already, players are going to take internal competition to the next level: making at least the bench.
We have two valid alternatives in each role, sometimes three, but only eighteen places available to represent the Arsenal on a weekly basis; with only the Premier League and the FA Cup remaining, there won’t be enough games for everyone.
Chuba Akpom has left to get minutes in the Championship and Abou Diaby can’t really be counted as a fully fit player but, apart from them, everyone else is entitled a place in the team. Without them, it makes 23 senior players eligible for eighteen places.
Let’s imagine Arsène Wenger sticks to his 4-1-4-1 fluid system, who would he pick when everyone’s available?
Two places are reserved for goalkeepers, with David Ospina and Wojciech Szczesny battling for the #1 spot; at least six defenders will surely make the team and we have Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Mathieu Débuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerín, Calum Chambers and Gabriel all sure they deserve to be included in the squad: two of them won’t make it, and we are talking about full internationals or Europe U21’s best prospects. Here we have a world cup winner and Club’s vice-captain, one of the most solid defenders in the Premier League and French international, a set of three experienced full-backs that many Clubs can only dream about and two youngsters who already proved they can play at the top level. Don’t forget the latest arrival at the Club and recently promoted Brazilian international!
Competition doesn’t really decrease in midfield, where Francis Coquelin, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Özil are all rumbling to steal one of the seven spots available: who will face the chop? Two of them will watch their team-mates from the stands despite potentially being a regular in any Premier League team; I reckon it doesn’t look good for Mathieu Flamini but what about the other one? Any of the Club’s current captain, the Czech national team captain and two English internationals could sit out of the team.
Francis Coquelin showed on the pitch why he deserves to retain his place, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey would be pivotal in any other team and Mesut Özil is simply the best #10 in European football. Would Arsène Wenger deliberately renounce to Tomas Rosicky’s bursts and drive? Would he ignore Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s trickery and pace with the ball? Would the manager waive Mikel Arteta’s leadership and calm?
Same situation up front, with three spots for grabs and four excellent candidates: Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez. Two of them are virtually untouchable – the Chilean and the Frenchman – but the remaining two have a very good chance to go back to the locker room and realize their names are not on the team sheet.
Danny Welbeck offers work rate and power and, despite lacking composure in front of goal from time to time, he can create goals for this teammates; Theo Walcott doesn’t do much when we lose the ball but his speed is every defender’s nightmare and he is deadly when cleared on goal: who will stay out?
We, as fans, should realize that this team has a huge potential and has nothing to envy to Chelsea, and Manchester City: I can’t recall any team led by Arsène Wenger with such richness and quality; neither the Invincibles nor the 1997/98 Double winning team had many players ready to play week in, week out; maybe the closest example is the squad of 2001/02, another Double winning side who could count on legends like Ray Parlour, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams as well as players like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Sol Campbell. I’m not saying the current players are matching that side’s quality and success, I’m saying that they are well on track to reach those heights. And we all know that the 2001/02 side was the platform used to build something very, very special.
Suddenly, we could wake up in dreamland.