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The Complexity Of Rotation

Rotation is harder than you think. Back in the late seventies, Sussex CCC was blessed with four outstanding International cricketers: Imran Khan and Javed Miandad from Pakistan, Garth Le Roux and Kepler Wessels from South Africa. Two fine batters and two exceptionally quick bowlers, the quickest I ever kept to. The only problem anyone could see was that the cricketing rules at the time stated that only two “overseas” players could play at any one time, but that was felt to be easily overcome. Fitness levels, natural rotation and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition would all come into play, and the management confidently expected to play every match that season with two top, top quality players ready to give their all for the club. Except it didn’t quite work out like that: in fact it didn’t work out at all. It soon became apparent that each of them needed to feel that they were the best at the club, that they would be the automatic choice for the most important games. Other issues came into it of course: exact contract details, personality clashes and political allegiances all had their part to play, not to mention the age old distrust of batters for bowlers and vice versa. However, at the heart of it, or so it seemed to me watching them on a daily basis, was the atavistic impulse to be the alpha male.

When I look back to those times and recall the bitter jealousies and furtive conversations I realise that it wasn’t a very happy club at all. And I go on to think about how hard it must be to manage young men not only in the prime of their life but also at their most aggressively competitive, and then I think of how easy it is for us Arsenal watchers to call for squad depth and regular rotation. But I also see that the whole notion of depth is perhaps fundamentally flawed, because you simply can’t have a squad of 24 players all good enough to be automatic first team choices, unless you have unlimited resources and extraordinary man-management skills. Imagine for a moment what would happen if everyone stayed fit, and how you would keep everyone at a peak of match-readiness, given that only 14 can be actively involved in any one match, only 18 chosen for the team. Think what would happen to those internationals who don’t quite make it onto the bench, and for how many matches they would stay happily involved with the project. I doubt it would be long before the whispers and the accusations of favouritism began to spread, and before you knew it you’d have a divided dressing-room and small groups playing for themselves rather than the club.

Injuries do happen, of course, and it is prudent not only to expect them but also to cover them. I do wonder though how many long-term injuries it is realistic to expect in a season, and I doubt if anyone would think it would have been as many as The Arsenal suffered in the season just gone. Peter Wood of Le Grove fame would argue that many of the injuries were caused by lack of rotation and the over-playing of key individuals, and to an extent I think he is probably right. However, that initial lack of rotation was caused by key injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski , Cazorla and Walcott, while Wilshere was also in the process of returning from long-term injury himself, and so was perhaps not the force he has been (and we very much hope will be) in that exciting yet ultimately damaging pre-Christmas period. To have adequately foreseen and covered for those absences before the season started would have required a crystal ball and huge spending: to have managed all of those players (and those covering for them) had no one been injured may well have been virtually impossible.

 

Before the Cup Final I did what many fans always do, and tried to pick the Starting XI and bench – and found it hard to do. It would have been that much harder, of course, had Walcott and Chamberlain both been fit, because that might have seen Podolski and Cazorla on the bench, and Rosicky and Wilshere not even in the squad. I am using these names as examples, rather than expressions of preference, but they do help make the point that once you have genuine squad depth and more than 17 fully fit outfield players you begin to run into real management problems. How long would any competitive player wish to stay at a club if he doesn’t even make the bench for the top games? We often hear the cry go up about some prospective fancy signing of “how would he cope with a wet January night in Stoke?” but of course the fancy players don’t have to cope with those sort of nights, because they are left to the journeyman squad members. The real question is “how would Podolski cope with those nights” if due to depth of squad they are the only ones he gets picked for? My guess is that while he would cope with them very well because he is a wonderful player, he is sufficiently competitive to be straight on the phone to his agent with instructions to find him a club where his talents would be showcased in the glamour fixtures.

And this is where I find transfer talk so hard, because I know that for every top, top player that comes in, one of my favourites will either become ever so slightly surplus to requirements, or will leave the club pretty quickly. And I think it is probably also true that given reasonable luck accompanied by top medical support you don’t need a squad of much more than two keepers and 20 outfield players who are genuine first team players. But even with those numbers you are going to have rivalries and disappointments unless you have an outstanding manager with a proven record of earning the loyalty of his players and inspiring them to impossible achievements, like, say, going through a whole League season unbeaten. We have that man, and I am thrilled that he has committed for a further three years. I know that he will add to this group of players, but I also know that he will do it in a way that somehow manages to keep all of them happy. They are going to be very good indeed.

 

 Today’s post was by @foreverheady

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111 comments on “The Complexity Of Rotation

  1. Cesc would be ideal but only after we secure more pressing targets in positions we need to strengthen. We need players of quality so Arsene feels comfortable in rotating and resting players. The more quality we have the easier it is to rotate. This, combined with a serious look at our injury situation and we’d be ready to rumble.

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  2. Having just watched the second half of the French game I would think AW will be trying every trick he knows to get hold of Pogba. Giroud merely confirmed what a good player he is, and if he keeps trying he will get a bit of luck with his more spectacular efforts. I’d love it if Remy came to us to lend support to the big fellow, and sense he is much better than many on Twitter give him credit for. If my memory is right he nearly scuppered our top 4 finish last season with a great effort that produced a fine save from Szczesny. There’s a bit of pace about him too, which always comes in handy.

    By the way, thanks for all the nice comments, and for the record I didn’t wear a mouth guard, but probably should have done. As for the fingers…

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  3. @ Mandy Dodd June 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    “Have a funny feeling Cesc will be going somewhere else in the EPL fungunner.. maybe even to the club where lots of ours end up…possibly joining Bac? ”

    It would make a lot more practical sense for Citeh than for us, Mandy – relatively cheap to buy by their standards, not massive wages, homegrown player, readymade replacement for Yaya Toure. There’d be a more obvious hole to fill.
    And quite right with the rest of your comment as well.

    @ layksite June 1, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    “giroud and remy combination, who can beat that! wenger pls make it happen.”

    I like the sound of that as well.

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  4. redgooner at 9:24 pm
    “I really hope Arsene spends some of the money Gazidis says we have.”
    Not as much money as the oily clubs or Manchester United for that matter. That is the basis of the fear and uncertainty that the media and the various shysters in the goonerdom will seek to exploit. If you are weak they will easily get to you.
    So get a firm grip my friend as this will be a long ride until August 31st.

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  5. Thanks again FH

    Not sure if Chamberlain is going to make it for teh WC, which would be bad for England but good for arsenal.

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  6. 41 trophies in 26 years ?
    13 FA CUPS FINAL WINS IN 14 appearances.?
    heck , they deserve a parade just as much , maybe more, than the ARSENAL men’s team. Well done and do climb back up the league table. Please.

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  7. foreverheady, between cesc and pogba, i will sign pogba. he is much more needed, he has the presence, he is a threat in set piece situation, he is younger, stronger and less injury prone. plus i cant help salivating on the combination of him and ramsey in the heart of our midfield.
    as for giroud, i said it before the start of the just concluded season that cavani or higuain can displace giroud. his work rate and one touch flicks are unreal.

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  8. Layksite: with regard to Cesc I find it interesting that Barcelona seem so ready to sell him, and that given today’s crazy money deals the price bandied about seems low for a player of his quality. Something doesn’t seem quite right to me.

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  9. barca need cesc more than we do in my opinion. forget what some disgruntled fans who never see him as part of them are saying, he is the most natural replacement for aging xavi both in barca and spain. his stats are far better than most. even koke.
    just as some people keep talking about benzema even when all stats prove giroud is better.

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  10. I think the answer might be Cesc is quite generously priced for the player who has performed modestly in the Barcelona side for the past two years. Based on his output since joining FCB £30 million would be a mighty fee to pay. Given his earlier success in the EPL presumably Barca are looking to generate a bit of interest over here and get an auction going.

    I have not seen much of Pogba or if I have I have not taken much notice. Last night however he was very impressive. He glides across the turf – lovely mover !!

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