You can rarely read an article related to Arsenal these days that does not include either praising Cazorla or questioning/defending Özil. The Spaniard has been absolutely brilliant over the last three-and-half months while the German, who is the most expensive player in our history, is not a player that still does not satisfy everyone’s taste.
That’s why the title of this article might sound a bit weird. I mean, who would send Ramsey and Rosicky in the starting line-up against United and drop both Cazorla and Özil? Yes, yes, me neither but…
What if we field, at any point of the game, this team against United on Monday night:
Bellerin Koscielny Mertesacker (c) Monreal
Walcott Welbeck Alexis
..And come out of the match as the winning side?
“Nothing sensational,” one might say. Or: “It’s a very strong side even without both Cazorla and Özil. Manchester United, despite being just one point behind us in the league, have been crap for most of the season and only great saves from David De Gea had spared them from defeat at the Emirates earlier this season. So if the aforementioned line-up manage to knock them out of FA Cup, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock ever.”
Of course, I agree with that. But, have you noticed how I wrote the names of some players with italics while Welbeck’s name was underlined?
What do Szczesny, Koscielny, Coquelin, Ramsey, Rosicky and Walcott have in common?
Let me give you a little hint:
Jenkinson Koscielny Djourou Traore
Walcott Van Persie (c) Arshavin
Yep, that’s the starting line-up from that terrible 8:2 thrashing at the Old Trafford in August 2011.
Three-and-half years later, we might see at some point of the game six players from that starting line-up (and we might make it seven, with the inclusion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who made his debut as a substitute in 2011) while Danny Welbeck, who had opened the scoreline that day, plays for the good guys now.
Now, I focused on the midfield as we had been overrun in the centre of the park that day as well. Francis Coquelin has been the biggest revelation this season and also made his debut at Old Trafford only due to suspensions of Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong. Aaron Ramsey was our best player last season had a day to forget as well while Tomas Rosicky, our most consistent performer in the last three years, was one of two players that I had felt betrayed by on that day (the other was Andrey Arshavin.) That midfield axis would dominate at Old Trafford now. United have been the weakest in the middle of the pitch for years, and we have enough drive and creativity to give the United defence a good go.
And, how about the others? Wojciech Szczesny, who was terrorized by Wayne Rooney’s free-kicks and Ashley Young’s curling shots on that day, has improved since while Laurent Koscielny’s positioning has developed substantially over the last two seasons. Theo Walcott is certainly more composed in front of goal than he was in 2011. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was just a promising youngster on that day and now he can burn any defence down with his bursting runs.
Imagine, just for a second, a score-board that states: MANCHESTER UNITED 0 ARSENAL 4 with Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott and Chamberlain scoring goals. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?