Our twenty first game of the PL season saw us play one of the top sides in the division and perform very well. It left us ninth with 31 points however all the teams above us have played less games apart from Manure and the three teams immediately below us could go above us with wins from their games in hand which would leave us in 12th. Not all teams will win games in hand of course and in an extremely game packed season points in the bag and being out the F.A. cup could work in our favour.
So, what should we asking ourselves and speculating on for the remaining 17 games? Well, the biggest question is does Mikel now know what type of football to play to get us both results and performance after his piece of luck against Chelsi saw his fortunes change and poor old fat Frank fail as he could have got his cards had he carried on playing the same tired team in the same tired style.
Who is our best eleven and does Mikel know? For me its Leno, Hector, Bob, Mari, Kieran, Granit, Partey, Saka, ESR, Joe and Laca. Obviously form changes and Martinelli and a few others will be seriously challenging that line up especially our new number ten who may turn out ok. There will be many who question my view that Joe should be in there, but football is a team game and I believe he gives more stability and balance to the side defensively and will chip in with goals more than the so-called flair players that are supposed to be in front of him in the pecking order(Willock is now on loan and so can’t be considered). The next big omission in that eleven is Aubameyang, well I have always thought he gives very little to the team apart from goals and as time has gone on that has become more and more apparent. Now he is not scoring he should be an impact player for the rest of the season with Laca and Eddie sharing the starting birth. I think most people know my views on Pepe, he is a day dreamer which makes him a liability and does not produce enough at the other end to warrant a gamble with his defensive frailties.
How will Mikel manage the battle of the number tens? From what I have read Odegaard wants to play for Real Madrid and there is little chance signing him on a permanent basis especially as we will not be in the Champions league next season unless we win the Europa Cup. While the emergence of Emile has shown how much we needed such a player, and he could not do it every game for the rest of the season pissing him off in his breakthrough season could prove disastrous for ARSENAL long term. If Mikel goes with Martin more often and then he goes back to RM or another CL side next season and Emile thinks he hasn’t been trusted, we could lose the pair of them and then we would be back to pre-chelski.
What should we do about the set piece coach? Defensively we do not seem bad although I did notice yesterday that the player, we have been leaving on the edge of the box at corners to chase down the second ball was missing sometimes. At the other end we have no potency, our free kicks are rarely on target and so we should be using a bit of imagination to get the best out of free kicks in dangerous positions and corners have got to be more varied to produce goals. The pile a million players round the keeper to give him COVID-19 ploy has never worked and should never be seen again. If the Set piece coach is not working, then they should get rid of him and reemploy Audrey the tea lady.
What do we do with the ex-Academy players for the rest of the season? So, its January the 31st and most of the players who have been in the squad are still here which is what I had hoped. As I alluded to at the start of this piece this is an incredibly competitive league this season and because of our bad start top six is probably beyond us in which case the use of the youngsters and the progression of the squad is vitally important for next season and beyond. I think the manager must make sure that players get game time with each other and not 100 miles away playing for cold balls utd. Obviously below that Edu must make sure the younger players loans are at the correct clubs to develop them in the way we want, and which will maximise the chance of the players integrate into our first team squad.
How good are we? Even after the performance yesterday and the run of the last seven PL games it is still difficult to tell how good we are. We seem to have improved defensively despite having to change personnel to often however going forward scoring does seem a problem with defenders, midfielders, and forwards all under scoring for their respective sections. I believe selection based on cohesion rather than individuals will cure this although I do have a nagging doubt that Mikel does like a “Name”.
All in all, although there are still some worries especially politically at the club there are also some cracks of optimism starting to appear so start thinking and enjoy the rest of the season.
(ed. This was written by seebs @arse_or_brain before transfer deadline day, thanks Ian)