Arsene Wenger finally got it right—with Theo Walcott at least. That’s not to say he hasn’t been doing good by the player, but Walcott was never cut out to be a winger.
What’s the promise and hope? Well that’s one more player who isn’t struggling to squeeze into a position that isn’t ideal for him. Yes, Walcott has looked great at times in the past, most notably last season with Robin van Persie to aim for in the penalty area. But the inconsistency of the player is attributed to playing out of position.
Where’s the other hope? For now, it’s just another player that keeps the ineffective Gervinho away from striking duties for the team. When the manager pays a reported £12 million for Olivier Giroud, a top scorer in France last season, there has to be a few questions raised as to why Gervinho is played out of position and ahead of more obvious members of the squad.
But it’s been like this for years under Wenger, all over the pitch there were players in unnatural positions. Maximum points weren’t coming in and fans would look to the market to fix the problems. There have even been suggestions that the manager places far more importance in the development of his players than the results of the team. Sometimes it goes hand in hand, but there’s no reason for Wenger to sacrifice the short-term stability of the club just to prove a point. Not even he is that stubborn.
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But he can be that frustrating. The Aaron Ramsey on the wing project isn’t working. The player, like Walcott, doesn’t have the makeup to be effective from the wide positions. It could be in an attempt to prepare him for the demands of the central position. The protection from the flanks is a logical tool in aiding in Ramsey’s development, but it does cost the team come the final whistle.
Once again you have to ask whether Wenger is being forced to make do with what he has, thus requiring the need to use ’square pegs in round holes.’ Despite recent revelations (albeit a very subtle one), we’ll never know.
Wenger’s desire to experiment has had mixed results in the past, however. Early decisions to play Robert Pires, Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky on the flanks and seemingly out of position might have appeared baffling, but each of those players became successes to varying degrees from the wide positions.
The other end of the scale has seen disappointments such as Andrey Arshavin, who initially started his Arsenal career extremely brightly. The Russian was an example to Wenger that forcing another dimension out of a player won’t always bring the same response as it has done in the past.
Would Arshavin’s career have turned out as it had if he were regularly played in his correct central position? The same can be said for a number of other players, many of whom have played a role in Arsenal’s poor performances on the pitch and subsequently found themselves on the fringes or out the door.
It’s a need from Wenger to see players moving around the pitch, rotating positions and seeing goals from more than just one or two individuals. But using players in unfamiliar positions can also have a negative effect of their confidence and development. One mistake is overanalysed and sooner than later the player goes into meltdown. It’s not to say that Aaron Ramsey’s performances, for example, are totally due to the frustrations from the fans, but it can’t be a good thing either.
Wenger has always tried to identify certain traits in players and put forward an experiment by which he can successfully turn them into something the team needs. It’s regularly been the case, most notably with shocking results such as Emmanuel Eboue appearing on the right-wing for the majority of a season.
But the manager seems motivated by past achievements such as Thierry Henry and Kolo Toure, remaining confident that he can continue to pull off the incredible almost every season. The key factor is that many players are not the quality of Henry.