With our beloved Gunners in pretty mixed form thus far this season I’ve refrained from writing. There being so many problems and seemingly no solutions to get the boys to click and every Tom Dick and Harry’s angle and thoughts are there to read. There is the midfield balance, the lack of a top striker and my God if Coquelin gets injured long-term. We’ve heard it, read it and seen it. So rather coming out and repeating it, ramming it down your throats till it’s creeping out your nether region I’d thought I’ll go for a more speculative piece involving two of our young Englishmen. And I’m going to reserve my thoughts on current form and the team until ten premier league games have passed. Because after ten you can properly start to gauge where the team’s at.
Two gym sessions brought me to my way of thinking about this meandering of thoughts.
First I was plugged into a podcast doing some Russian twists when someone brought up the ‘British core’ and how it was starting to look like a failed experiment with Jack perennially injured and the Ox not living up to his big season billing. Out of all the players Gibbs is unfortunately the only one I see as close to failure because in the cold light of day he’s just not a defender. To be a defender you have to love defending and sadly he just doesn’t but maybe a switch to a backup left winger might salvage his Arsenal career but that’s for another day.
My second Gym session brought me to the cross trainer where I found myself watching Chamberlain’s best bits on YouTube to inspire me to smash through them walls and get this cider gut gone. Two particular games flashed up on this video, his Milan and Bayern performances, arguably his two best in an Arsenal shirt. One common denominator in these European forays was the former Southampton man started in the centre. Which got me thinking maybe our great white hope for the right flank could swap with our great white hope for centre Jack Wilshere?
I know we’re sick to our stomachs of seeing our central players out wide a la ‘Aaron Armando Welsh Jesus Ramsey’. But I think our young Englishmen has got all the tools and more to offer than the Welshman on the wing. This seed was planted in my brain at the back end of last season when Jack started yet another comeback from injury coming on for Ramsey on the right. It stuck out because he didn’t look out of place. He can beat his man, completing on average 2.29 take-ons per game last season. He’s quick, we’ve heard Wenger talk about his burst on numerous occasions. He’s good with the ball and can come in on his left foot and have a crack. Not only will it suit his game cause he’ll be in the final third quicker which is where he’s at his best. If starting on the right I can see him playing as an inverted winger which will be a lovely caveat to Bellerin’s overlapping runs. Which could make for a formidable right hand side for years to come. I think Ramsey’s only occupying the flank at the minute because of work rate which Jack will also give us. I actually thought with his cameos against Hull, Sunderland and West Brom he was unlucky to miss out on the cup final.
Unfortunately I can’t talk about ‘our Jack’ without having to bring up injuries. A lot’s been touted about him taking up a deeper role in the middle to dispel his injury woes as he does for the three lions. But for the life of me I just can’t see it at this stage of his career.
From a technical point of view he just doesn’t have the patience or the reading of the game to see the whole picture just yet. I’m not knocking him but he’s no Scholes or Pirlo unfortunately. Maybe when his legs give over he could slip back like Beckham and hit the Hollywood passes but at this stage of his career, not for me. And to do it to protect him for injuries doesn’t add up either.
Teams press Arsenal in the centre and get about it aggressively – is that really looking after his glass ankles? However I do agree he needs a role change to help his injuries.
And I think the answer is to take him out of the centre of pitch to the serenity of the flank. Not only does it give the team another dimension and creative force in the final third but it keeps him out the way of the Lee Cattermole’s of the world.
Also he won’t be travelling with the ball from deep into the danger zone aka the middle third of the pitch where opposing players make rash fouls to break up attacks well away from the box to avoid dangerous free kick positions or worse penalties. So I say let’s make Jack the new Pires once he’s back because he’s got the tools to do it and Bellerin could be Jack’s Ashley Cole. I know it’s not the Wilshere we wanted but it could be the Jack that works.
If super Jacky Wilshere’s going to be our star right winger for years to come what happens to the Ox? He becomes our midfield powerhouse ladies and gentlemen.
We’ve seen a mixed bag from Chambo this year, from the sublime in the Charity Shield to the despair vs West Ham and Zagreb. I think his biggest problem is on the right – he’s not in the game enough and he’s a crowd pleaser – we all want him on the ball power running past opponents. Which at the minute we’re just not seeing him do enough; he’s seemed to be on the periphery far too much. When I was dying on the cross trainer clips from two games kept popping up. Of course they were his starts vs Bayern and Milan, probably his two stand out performances in an Arsenal shirt and where did he play in these games? You guessed it – the middle! He was fantastic, talismanesque, taking the game by the cojones and making stuff happen. He earned plaudits from all corners – a star was born. Wenger himself described the performance as one of ‘pure class’ after the match.
It was everything you wanted to see from a central player beating men, passing, a constant goal threat and more energy than a six year old wired on Coca-cola and not the sugar free crap the real McCoy. Before them fatal nights we had on more than one occasion heard le boss and his dad Mark say his future’s in the middle and not on the right flank. Leaving one question, why haven’t we seen him here more frequently?
Since the departure of Viera, Arsenal have not had any real power driving from the centre of the pitch barring cameos from Abou Diaby. And it’s something I’ve pined for! I don’t think there’s a finer sight in the premier league than when you see Yaya Toure driving full tilt at defences, you can smell the fear of opposing players. It’s like trying to stop a freight train.
Now I accept the Ox isn’t as tall as the aforementioned players but where he is similar is his strength and the way he power dribbles which were characteristics of his Milan and Bayern performances. Stats would suggest he’s a better dribbler than Yaya averaging 3.6 successful take ons per game to Toure’s 1.7.
I know he doesn’t have the guile of a Ramsey, Super Tom, Santi, Wilshere, Arteta or Ozil but we have that in abundance at the minute, Sanchez is the only truly direct player. We’ve got more guile than anyone what we don’t have enough of is ‘ballsy take the game to the opposition’ players and I think the Ox is one of them.
Given our problems so far this campaign why not try the Ox next to le Coq it would give the team more umph. And on what we’ve seen it’s where his future lies. So I say unleash the Ox in the middle let him give us them performances again what have we got to lose? When the teams not firing on all cylinders you have to try something different. Repeating the same sequence again and again and not changing anything is definition of madness. So why not roll the dice and start Chamberlain in the centre. When things aren’t going your way you need players to take the game by the scruff of the neck and that’s hard to do from the right.
I’m not ready to write off the British core yet. I accept they’re not coming on as we all would have liked to have seen but luckily they’re all young enough to make their own destinies within the game still. Maybe they won’t be the paths we envisaged them going down but if they’re successful it really doesn’t matter. I can’t speak for everyone but I for one want nothing more than to see them all fulfil their potential. It’s going to require patience and more tinkering but they can all do it. So come on Arsene – take a gamble.
Red member and 26-year-old engineer from Dorset. My life’s biggest regret is never going to Highbury. I try to attend as many games as possible. I’ve always had a love of Arsenal left wings, starting with Overmars, through Pires and Nasri, right up to Alexis. I don’t have an agenda: I just write about the game and club I love as I see it.