So we beat the team closest to us in the table on Saturday and finish the weekend 5 points clear after 10 games. I had a great time on Saturday – drinking with old friends, meeting new ones, loving the performance, savouring the special atmosphere and wallowing in the glory, perhaps temporary, but wallowing none the less. What in a football sense could possibly deflate this mood on Sunday?
Having to read all day how much fellow Gunners wanted to invest £50 million plus on the Uruguayan half of a special strike force who Mertesacker and Koscielny has kept predominantly quite the previous evening.
I am as desperate to see my team succeed as the next fan, but I also want to enjoy the togetherness in the squad we have not witnessed since 2007. We have invested over £40 million in one of the world’s finest play makers and there are signs of what he can bring to the team already. But although Ozil comes with the price tag he is without the fanfare, publicity and grief. Surely the form of Ramsey, Szczeney and Gibbs this season must teach us something. Yes we needed top class experience but it has to be blended carefully with the talent we have already nurtured. In short it will be a team that will win us our first silverware in 9 years not any one star individual.
Ask yourself this question? How much would you have valued Aaron Ramsey at if a club had made an offer in January 2013? – £10/12 million? Now ask yourself how much we would value him at in January 2014 – £25 milion? More? Hypothetical of course but here’s another one. Would any of you swap Flamini for Capoue? I know I would not.
My point is why yearn for Suarez before we have seen what Wenger has in mind for the team/squad, when all are fit and well. For this observer there are several aspects and combinations within the squad we have yet to see. In the same way that we had to wait for an Arsenal team featuring Ozil and Cazorla I would like to see what Wenger has in mind for Walcott and Podolski before I throw my hat into the ring and call for a super striker signing in 2 months.
Here are a few of the aspects that excite me or set me thinking now ahead of January and they may resonate with you or they may not:
Wenger has played 4231 pretty much nonstop for 5 years now. Most of you know I am an advocate of using 2 strikers but I have no evidence to suggest it is likely. Olivier Giroud is without a doubt the best back to goal striker in the Premiership bar none. Our whole team set up works with his style of striker, his hold up lay and his bringing the 3 midfield creators into play. Now with the talent we now have at our disposal we can vary of game style but will we? Could Suarez play the Giroud role? Are there still fans unconvinced by the Frenchman? Maybe there are but I would not swap him now, not that I ever would have done. For me the logic suggests a similar player to OG but better then Bentdner or Sanogo to share the load. LLorente on loan ticks that box perhaps.
What now for Lukas?
In about 81 minutes of league football for Arsenal this season Podolski has 2 goals. Last year he was into double figure for assists and goals whilst carrying an ankle injury for months. When asked to play centrally on a about 4/5 occasions he looked labored for sure but we don’t know how fit he was and he did score 2 crucial goals v Wigan that took us to the brink of Champions League football. What we do know is that he is the most lethal finisher at the football club and to discard his experience and eye for goal would be crazy. You simple cannot ignore the simple facts that 61% of Podolski’s EPL shots on goals were on target and in case you are wondering Suarez managed on 72 on target from 187 about 32%.
Whatever criticisms we may have of Podolski I am fairly certain that if we are in a game and need a goal we would all want the charismatic German to call upon. Someone else who may be quite keen to call on Lukas is his international team mate Mesut Ozil? Until recently out 2 Germans have played alongside each other fairly consistently sine Ozil made his debut in September 2009. Mostly with Ozil as CAM and Podolski on the Left where he played the majority of his Arsenal games last term. Since the start of 2009/10 Podolski has appeared 55 times for Germany and Ozil 51, virtually all whilst playing together. In that time Lukas had 17 goals, 12 of them in competitive fixtures and Mesut, 17 goals, 15 in competitive fixtures.
Do we all really think that Wenger will simply ignore this history, this bond and this success of Podolski and Ozil playing together without first seeing how it might work for the Arsenal?
Suarez on the wing – What about Theo?
I have asked the question of those who want Suarez where they see him playing? Many seem to agree that he would not replace Giroud as a first choice but play alongside him in a 2, not happening, or that he would play wide instead of Cazorla/Podolski or Walcott. In fact the majority suggested he would play on the right ahead of Theo or perhaps we might move to a genuine 433.
Now we can all use stats anyway we chose and before you say it I know I am worst than most. I do however try at least to be responsible when I use them and hope they are only to validate or prove a theory. For example Walcott is not better than Bale and no matter how many stats we use to prove it we all know that. However despite his off days and his frustrating inconsistencies his value to Arsenal is not really open for debate. His goals last season and his assist the season before propelled us into what was then a minimum requirement of Champions League.
So what stats do I have to back up a point today? Well it surrounds Theo and Suarez strangely enough because most who responded to my question though the Uruguayan would play on the right wing in a position we were all desperate to see Theo ‘sign da ting’ and occupy for years 10 months ago.
I know we should not judge wide attackers only on goals and assists and I accept that Suarez has more about him but a comparison from 2012/13 may surprise a few. If we actually look at minutes on the pitch in all competitions the crucial contributions of both are significant.
|Minutes||Goals||Mins per goal||Assists||Mins/assist|
With a contribution as significant as that I would be inclined to allow Theo to return and prove that he is the player to fill the right attacking role for us. Did any of you think that Suarez’s goal contribution as a striker would only be marginally better per minuet than Walcott’s from the flank? He has the pace and the runs that Ozil will relish and his defensive cover whilst not perfect has improved. I wonder if Lewandowski would have been on his own with Walcott covering Sagna?
I would also question how much of a team player Suarez actually is when a player with his ability is providing so few assists for his team mates. This was evident on Saturday towards the end when he shot from an acute angle his strike partner Sturridge screaming for the pass for a tap in.
For completeness we should also consider the contribution Suarez made when he was Theo’s age which would be 2011/12. In 32 EPL appearances for example he hit 11 goals and 3 assists. At the same age last season Theo hit 14 goals and assisted on 10 occasions.
I don’t like Suarez or the thought of signing him. Too much baggage but I have tried to consider it from a more rational stance and from a position of trying to consider Wenger’s perspective. I hope I have given pause for thought but if nothing else if Podolski and Walcott are indeed approaching fitness we can watch what the management does with the above thoughts at the back of our minds.
I accept that Giroud probably cannot play every game, although our ex skipper did 2 years back and we must have alternatives and a Plan B. That being said this particular Gunner would like the options explored from within the squad first. I believe in Lukas and Theo and I am convinced that the current squad believes in them too. For now the momentum we have is significant and my perception is that it is, in part driven by the collective spirit and togetherness found in Munich in February. Ozil and Flamini have enhanced it but we need to be careful in considering who else will in January.
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