Football FanCast columnist Scott McCarthy wonders whether the lack of a Plan B is what is hindering Arsenal.
The doors on advent calendars up and down the country are only just being opened, and it already looks as though the Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet will not be holding the Premier League trophy come May.
They already trail leaders Chelsea by 11 points having lost to them on Sunday, and with the number four occupying their lost games column, it means they have lost just under a third of their games this season – even the most ardent Gunners fans must be doubting their sides title credentials.
People are quick to put it down to the age of their squad and lack of depth – see Robin van Persie’s injury – excuses which are all too easy to make. Their starting eleven is good enough to be challenging at the top end of the table, and even their back up players are good enough to come in and do a job.
The trouble with Arsenal is that they are arguably the most one-dimensional side in the Premier League. If their style of play works against a side then they will almost certainly win the game, regardless of the opposition. It is when things are not going to plan that they tend to end up in trouble, due to the lack of a plan B.
Take Sunday’s defeat for example. Chelsea were outclassing their opponents, and taking a 2-0 lead into half time, most managers would change the way their side were playing in order to get back into the game. Arsene Wenger cannot do that. His alternatives on the bench, that are supposed to be there as an option to change a game, will not do so as they are exactly the same as the players they replace.
Eduardo, a fox in the box style player who is good on the ground but not in the air is replaced by Carlos Vela – exactly the same type of player. Samir Nasri, an unphysical, tricky playmaker is replaced by Tomas Rosicky – exactly the same type of player. If plan A is not working – which against Chelsea it plainly wasn’t – then if your plan B is exactly the same it is highly unlikely that that will work either.
What Arsenal need is a different type of player to sit on their bench. Too many of their squad come under the young, unphysical, technically good banner. And if too many of your players are similar it restricts your options. With the pretty football that has become the Gunners hallmark in recent years so obviously not working on Sunday, a more direct style of play may have asked more questions of Chelsea – but because too many of Arsenal’s players are similar and moulded in ‘the Arsenal way’, they lack those options.
What Arsene Wenger needs to do is splash some cash in January on different options – an Emile Heskey-type player who can come off the bench and change the game by allowing Arsenal to play a different way. As long as Wenger sticks by his believe that his way is the only way, even when it clearly isn’t working (and not just against their fellow big four teams – Sunderland away anyone?), then the Emirates trophy cabinet will be bare. And for a club with the tradition and history of Arsenal, that really shouldn’t be an option…