When an understrength and undercooked Arsenal went down 4-3 to Liverpool on the opening weekend of the season, the mood at the Emirates was gloomy and querulous.
However, since then Arsene Wenger’s side have rallied and recalibrated; picking up seven wins and two draws from their last nine league matches.
The deployment of Alexis Sanchez as a striker has changed the tone of Arsenal’s attack completely. Wenger has always favoured a formula based on quick passing and speed of movement, and Arsenal have that back in abundance.
Theo Walcott has been almost born again as a footballer. Alex Iwobi has given the side another avenue to play through the lines. Shkodran Mustafi has settled in well, and his added pace next to Laurent Koscielny has enabled Arsenal to play a higher line.
True enough, Arsenal have been in a strong position at the end of October before and their title challenge has faded. Moreover, Arsenal have had a fairly straightforward fixture list of late, though home games against Chelsea, Southampton, Swansea and a trip to Sunderland is a set of fixtures they took two points from last season, compared to 12 this.
The other factor that could be in Arsenal’s favour is the layer of players waiting in the wings who are yet to feature fully this season: Gabriel, Per Mertesacker, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez. We suggested three things Arsene Wenger should do to keep them on track.
Use The Squad And Rotate
Arsenal are in a luxurious position where they have numerous options in almost every position, especially in midfield. They are going well in the league, nailed on to qualify from their Champions League group and have a home quarter-final in the League Cup. All being well, the Gunners should play a lot of games this season. They have the squad to compete on multiple fronts, and they also have the options to tailor their team on a ‘horses for courses’ basis. The challenge for Wenger as the season progresses is to make the right calls at the right time, and to give key players rest when needs be.
Arsenal’s propensity to pick up injuries has been picked over in numerous articles down the years, but he should be able to avoid soft tissue injuries by rotating well. However, having this sort of squad is a relatively new experience for Wenger. He has been a manager for 30 years, and for most of that time would have relied on a squad of around 15 to 18 outfield players. He is also a manager that likes to keep winning teams together to respect the principle of meritocracy. However, to keep important players fresh and squad members interested he might have to be a bit more proactive with his rotation policy. He has already shown caution with Giroud and Ramsey’s return, which suggests he is thinking about keeping legs fresh.