That was the original content and title of this post. Arsenal lost 3-1 (to WBA) in the most predictable fashion possible (WBA are dead ball specialists) and I was not surprised, hurt, depressed, or angered. I was sanguine. And with Arsenal currently in 6th place, even on points with Everton, I’m resigned to Arsenal finishing below Spurs and very likely out of the Champions League places.
This team has been a slow motion train wreck now for two and a half years. I know many will disagree and that’s why I have this site, so you can disagree.
I know a lot of people, smart people, have been talking about the importance of partnerships. This is hipster football 101 now, diagnosing a team’s problems in terms of partnerships. Partnerships are important and I’m not denying that. I would only say that yes, matching up two players who complement each other is hugely beneficial – but more important is to have quality players who don’t NEED a specialist partner next to them in order to raise the level of the team. This is Arsenal’s fundamental problem. We lack the quality of players who can play in multiple positions. And we have now for years.
Now, obviously, I don’t mean all the players. Özil is talented enough to play in the 10, 7, or 11. He doesn’t like playing wide but he has the engine, speed, dribbling, and quality to play wide. A 100% motivated Özil, who is willing to sacrifice for his team, could play in any of those three positions.
Alexis is another player who has the talent and training to play in a variety of positions in the Arsenal attack. He can be a 9, 10, 7, or 11 and has proved that he can play all of those positions. You probably disagree about the number nine and maybe the 10, though he’s Arsenal’s most creative player from open play over the last 3 years, but you have to agree that he’s versatile.
Bellerin is another player who I feel is technically and tactically gifted enough to play in a variety of roles at Arsenal. I don’t think he would be at all out of place played further up the pitch. He is Arsenal’s most gifted crosser and is able to break defenders down with a deft dribble. Bellerin would thrive in a 352 and is able to play in a flat four system with a high line. I think he would even get a look as a wide midfielder in a straight 442.
Welbeck is another player who seems at ease playing wide and centrally. Though, it’s tough to tell because he’s not played much due to injury. And I have to admit that Ramsey is a player who has played in a variety of positions. There is some room for argument that he’s not been entirely successful in any of them but I did like him wide, preferred him there actually.
The question here, however, is which of these players, which Arsenal players at all, would make it into Bayern Munich’s starting XI?
Why Bayern? Well, that’s the standard I expect Arsenal to aspire to. I think Arsenal, the fifth richest team in the world, should be building teams that are top five in world football. I also see Bayern has a number of older players who are getting ready to retire or who need to be replaced: Alonso, Robben, Ribery, and Lahm at least.
But let’s do a thought experiment. Assume that Bayern need a player in every position. Which Arsenal players would they take? For me it’s only Alexis, Özil, and Bellerin. Maybe Koscielny and maybe Ramsey (if you can get him to sacrifice his desire to be a center forward for the betterment of the team and get him to move the ball more quickly). But remember that Bayern require tactically adept players in all positions.
And if those five players are our only five players who are at the required level then, doesn’t Arsenal need a complete rebuild?