It is incredibly joyous to look at the talented players Arsene Wenger has at his disposal when injuries don’t plague us. Our attacking options are especially impressive even with Lukas Podolski and Yaya Sanogo on loan – there are so many goals in our midfielders and attackers that reaching 100+ goals in the league wouldn’t be a problem if injuries stopped messing with us.
However, when you have a lot of quality options, there is a problem that journalists from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia usually refer to as “the sweet pain”. A manager has “the sweet pain” when the number of eligible options exceeds the number of places in the starting eleven. Now, when a team enjoys a good run like we have been enjoying for past three weeks, a manager is reluctant to make changes.
In our case, there is a question: what does that mean for players that are currently on the bench but are usually considered as the members of the starting eleven?
After sharing the Golden Glove accolade with Petr Čech last season, the Pole has endured a tough season so far. He has managed to keep a clean sheet on just three occasions in the league this term and his last appearance against Southampton was one of his worst in the last few years. His father’s media outburst wasn’t the best thing either – the former goalkeeper Maciej Szczesny wanted to abolish his son from the guilt by putting the blame on Szczesny’s team-mates in defence. It wasn’t the first time Szczesny Sr reacted poorly to his son’s poor performances – you might remember the way Wojciech reacted to his father’s criticism of Arsene Wenger by supporting his manager and publicly apologizing for Maciej’s statements. The smoking incident was just a cherry on top of the cake.
Perhaps this good run with David Ospina in our goal is just what our cheeky Pole needs at the moment. He has enough time to think about his performances, about his flaws and strengths and how he can fulfill his enormous potential. Remember, even if it looks like he’s been with us for almost a decade, he’ll be just 25 in April. He was 20 when we won the game against one of the best teams in Champions League history (Barcelona). He has a lot of experience for someone of his age though and his height and reflexes should make him one of the best goalkeepers in our club’s history
The English left full-back has had a lot of problems with injuries during his career and we haven’t had the best results with him on the sidelines. However, at the moment Nacho Monreal is a very solid member of the starting eleven so Gibbs will have to work hard to return to the starting eleven. The Englishman should add more of a final product to his game as his talent requires. He is a pacey full-back with nice technical skills but the moments like that wonderful volley against Anderlecht don’t happen often enough. The fact Nacho Monreal is also used as a replacement for Laurent Koscielny in the center of the defence suggests that Gibbs will have more playing time than the other aces from this article.
The most expensive signing in Arsenal history returned from a long spell on the sidelines but he hasn’t returned to the first team. At this moment, it looks like a new sequel of “Mission: Impossible”. The German’s biggest rival for a place in the first team is Santi Cazorla who is enjoying his best football since he signed for Arsenal in 2012. The Spaniard has been exceptional lately and his attacking contribution has been combined with a defensive responsibility. Özil’s defensive game hasn’t been on the highest level but his ability to pick pacey wingers with a delightful pass that is second to none is a strong argument in his favour. So far Wenger hasn’t been able to find a way to make the mouth-watering duo Cazorla-Özil work well together. Neither of them represent a real force on the left wing – not to mention what that means for either Gibbs or Monreal in defence – and it’s questionable whether Cazorla would be as effective from a deeper position in the midfield as he is now (not to mention that would open another can of worms: what to do with Aaron Ramsey?). Given that our next match is against Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup, Özil might get a good run-out and improve his chance to return to the starting eleven.
There have been some promising runs from Theo Walcott so far that suggest he’ll return to his best form. However, none of those runs ended with goals from the pacey Englishman – his final touch is still too heavy. Theo had spent a year on the sidelines and it’s logical that he is still rusty. He suffered a serious injury and a short peek at Radamel Falcao’s record at Manchester United will explain why an ACL injury is a huge set-back for a player. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been rather solid on the right wing this season (even if he should have been more involved in goals) and Walcott is not the only pacey attacker at Wenger’s disposal (Welbeck, Alexis, Campbell, Akpom, Chamberlain) like was the case in previous seasons. Personally, I don’t expect Walcott to return to his best before 2015-16. He’ll have to go through a preseason with the rest of the team so he can build a strong partnership with Alexis and Welbeck in attack. Until then, however, a few goals wouldn’t hurt and perhaps the place where he has already scored a winner might be lucky for Theo this weekend.
Conclusion: even if our four aces might not agree with me at the moment, it’s so nice to have “the sweet pain”!