Grumpy at injuries and our Rubik’s cube defence

This horrible weather we’re having in London can do one. Sideways. With a spatula. That’s on fire. So can signal failures, which are the bane of everyone’s lives.

If you can’t tell already, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, the one with the Velux windows that sound like the heavens have fallen on your house when it’s windy and raining.

So I give you this disclaimer of grumpiness: if today’s blog seems overly morose, please don’t think that I’m turning to the dark side or something like that, I’m simply a tired man feeling increasingly like an old man. At 32. And yes, I’m painfully aware that my professional football career is all but over. Anyways, I’d only get a one year deal at The Arsenal, so it would be fleeting as it is.

So to Arsenal, and Arsène, who appears to have crossed the paths of so many black cats he’s started tripping over them. The team news made for grim reading on the official site yesterday didn’t it? No Koscienly, no Monreal, no Chambers, no Arteta, no Walcott and Ramsey is being assessed for a severe case of ‘Butt Rot’ or something similar. It reads like the transcript of the opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan, with bodies just littered around the treatment room like some sort of morbid Christmas decorations.

Quite what it means for our defensive worries I haven’t the foggiest. With the arrival of Debuchy we took one step forward, but the news from Le Boss yesterday was effectively that we’ve taken one step back. I was really looking forward to seeing our back four all be players from their natural position. But there you go, such is the cross we all must bare.

So it looks like we’ll have our 9,253th combination of four defenders – the only four senior defenders we have left mind – that will take to the field. More speculation on how they will line up against the Geordies in tomorrow’s match preview, but I do wonder if the gods are testing the old Rubik’s cube theory on us. You know the one; how there’s about a million permutations for just fifty or sixty coloured squares. I wonder how many different variations of an Arsenal back four could be used for the duration of a season?

A saving grace for tomorrow will be that Newcastle seem to have just as many injury problems as we do. I joked a few weeks ago that ‘only Arsenal’ would have two goalkeepers out at the same time. Turns out that statement should have had ‘plus some Geordies’ added to it as well, because they are pretty Donald Ducked by the sounds of it. You never know, we might get treated to a five-a-side score line tomorrow evening. Hopefully it’s an 11-4 in our favour though, eh?

We’ll get a better indication on where we’re at this morning when Arsène takes his seat in front of the microphones for his regular pre-match chin wag with the national hacks. I’m not so sure he’ll be as eager to dish out the platitudes about his opposite number as Alan Pardew did yesterday. ‘Pards’ was effusive in his praise (straight out of the Football Manager archives, that one) for Arsène, going as far as suggesting that he should have a stand named after him, which fiend respective two managers history, was certainly a surprise to me. This is a guy, after all, who has aimed pot shots at Arsène for fielding too many Johnny Foreigners, before deciding that he had French ancestry and delving into Ligue Un to populate his side with Gallic fellows. Or, a guy who likes a bit of shovy-shovy on the touchline, with Arsène and other managers/players in his managerial career too.

So Alan wants a stand named after Arsène, does he? Well I’m sure Arsène will get his statue one day, but he’s got some repair work to do first, starting with a win tomorrow evening. And besides, the Emirates is more of a bowl these days anyway, so doesn’t really have ‘sides’ or ‘stands’ so to speak. So ner-Nicky-ner-ner Alan.

Anyway, that’s it from me for one day I think, to which there’s of much more to do other than point you in the direction of this humurous ditty from http://www.twitter.com/gunnerblog, which is an ode to the Cesc saga – http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=YJMr6nrl7c0 – bravo sir, bravo.

My mental mindset for Southampton

It’s Southampton at home for us today and I for one am going to change my mental approach to this game. All season, for all of the games against supposed inferior opposition, I have been a little bit blasé in my expectation levels. Pre match I’ve talked about the potential for slip ups, for defeats or draws, but I’ve not properly believed my own rhetoric. Not really. I’ve deep down just been waiting to see the three points fall on our laps like a gift from Dennis.

Well not any more. From the weekend I changed my mindset and actually expected us to slip up and yes, had the Berahino header been lower or an incorrect offside decision to our way, perhaps my mindset would have meant the square root of naff all. After all, what influence do I have on a game happening over a hundred miles away?

But as a superstitious fan, I always believe my little rituals make something of a small difference, so tonight I’m heading over to The Emirates knowing that the Saints could easily leave us feeling morose once again.

To say our form this season was ‘patchy’ would pretty much nail the head square on. It’s the one word that keeps reverberating in my mind every time we have a game to play. We’ve suffered the worst start to the season in a generation and you have to go back to the dark old Bruce Rioch days to remember what life was like when we were this poor.

There is a bit of cause for optimism tonight though. After all, we’ve picked up back-to-back wins, with another victory tonight being the first time we’ve managed three on the trot. It seems weird that we’re in December and this same team that came so close last year in the league (I know it’s not EXACTLY the same as last year, injuries etc, but the squad isn’t wholly different) has been so markedly different. But what it shows you is that form and confidence means so much in a game which is defined with such short margins.

So what of tonight? What will befall us? Well, the good news is that having already been kicked in the nuts by an almost full strength Southampton team in the Capital One Cup, we know exactly how they will line up. They will be with Schneiderlin – a big blow as their Talisman – but I’m Wanyama they have a ball winning midfielder who can protect the leagues most miserly defence. And they will be miserly tonight. I’m not expecting us to get many goals at all. The front three of Welbeck, Giroud and Sanchez was exciting in its mobility, but you could see that they just weren’t clicking. It will probably take another three or four games for that to happen so we should all be expecting a tough team to break down and not a front three of ours that will have a field day.

There are some that are saying that the seal has been broken; that the 0-3 home defeat to Moneychester City was an example of how Southampton can’t compete with the bigger teams. I say that’s poppycock. Southampton aren’t looking at Moneychester City and Chelski as their rivals, they’re looking at us and the top three and four spots as their end game. And they will be expecting to come to the Emirates and demonstrate why they’d only conceded six goals all season before Sunday’s loss.

If the game does look like it could be decided by a goal, it will be important for us to get the first I think. A Southampton counter, or sloppy bit of defending (I know! When have we seen that happen, right?) that leads us to being behind yet again, will be no good for the flow of the game. It will turn it into a match of defence versus attack and as we saw against United and Hull this season, that situation rarely works out in our favour. Usually with the defending team catching us on the break to finish off the game with a minute or two to spare (United this season, Villa the season before, Swansea the season before that).

Defensive stability will therefore be everything. Per and Kos at the heart of the defence gives cause for optimism, but there’s more to our defensive solidity than having the first choice centre halves fit. Chambers and will need to ensure that the high pressing of Clyne and Co will not be able to get in behind our back four and Flamini needs to repeat what he did against West Brom i.e. don’t venture over the halfway line. If he can keep his defensive composure then we can concentrate on letting the Ramsey’s, Cazorla’s et al try and unpick a stubborn Southampton reserve.

I don’t buy the comments that Southampton will be mentally fragile after their defeat to City. Everyone keeps forgetting that this is a team tipped for relegation, yet they keep defying the odds each week and they will continue to do so, because the pressure is completely off them. That’s what Ronald Koeman will be saying to his players tonight. He’ll tell them that a draw is ok, but to see if they can nip in with a goal against an Arsenal team that can look as wobbly as a freshly made piece of trifle.

We have to make sure that the trifle has been made with cement and not Robinson’s. Or some similar metaphorical description that involves us not conceding any goals.

See you tomorrow, hopefully with a nice positive blog, which talks about Arsenal back on form.

But I’m not expecting it. Honest.

Santi turns lead vocalist at West Brom

It’s a real shame that what was essentially a gritty, hard-fought away win against a dogged West Brom side, was overshadowed somewhat by a banner unfurled at the game by a selection of supporters with an agenda to remove Arsène Wenger as manager.

I believe people are entitled to their opinion and I understand that opinions are divided over the managers’ future, but it’s just a shame that all the papers will focus on today is that banner. Which we’ve all seen before has been in existence for a number of years, but has never really managed to get any of the coverage that the owners would have liked. Until now that is.

I too, find myself questioning whether Arsène is the right man for the job, and one win against the Baggies won’t change that at this stage just yet. But I am a firm believer that you keep your opinions outside the stadium and rely on adrenalin of supporting your team to override any thoughts of the future of the club. Whenever I take my place at whatever ground to watch The Arsenal, the only future I’m ever bothered with is the subsequent 90 minutes. No more, no less.

So what about our 90 minutes yesterday? Well, perhaps it’s a measure of the first half that the banner has been given so much coverage, because it was a pretty turgid affair. We started with a trio of Giroud, Welbeck and Alexis up top which gave us an interesting compilation of target man and pacey wide men, but very quickly it showed that rotational positioning was the Soupe du Jour, as Welbeck found himself both central and wide right, as did Giroud and Alexis at times. And we seemed to pop the ball around nicely after the first 15 minutes or so, keeping possession well and testing Foster with a few pot shots, most of which were down his throat. It all felt very ‘Unitedy’ in that respect, which makes for uncomfortable viewing when you know that the Premier League quite often punishes you for not taking your chances.

But we had the return of a familiar face in Koscienly and you could tell that Big Per felt a little more at ease as a result. In some respects perhaps this was the perfect game for him to get back in to the swing of the Premier League, because West Brom played with Berahino up top who never really troubled us too much in the first half. He could have done, had a poor non-offside decision been given, but we got the run of the green for a change and at halftime West Brom hadn’t even racked up a shot on target.

The second half felt very similar to the first actually. As the clock ticked on you wondered where our goal was coming from. Step forward Santi Cazorla. He’d been good all game, but that dinked ball from the byline on to Welbeck’s head was perfectly placed and helped to secure him the man-of-the-match award in a game where quality was at a premium.

I have to say, I was really pleased that it was him that stepped forward and bossed the game, because we haven’t seen enough of that from him over the last year and a half. We know the talent is there, I don’t know about you, but it feels like he’s happy playing second fiddle to some of the other big name players in the team. Two years ago he was the lead vocalist, but it’s almost as if the band got a few more singers and he volunteered backing vocals as a result.

The thing is, he showed yesterday that he can still step up and run a game. So I’m hoping that this gives him the confidence boost he needs to start influencing and dictating the play more. Let’s have more acapella’s Santi, we know you’ve got the pipes for it, so just come out of the shadows and do it man.

It’s also good that a different player shows that he can be an influencer. It always feels a little uncomfortable when you look to one person to drive the team on, so sharing that burden around will give all of us fans a little bit less worry if the rest of the team does put in shifts like that, as opposed to Alexis all the time.

Plus, Welbeck got himself another goal and after going four or five without scoring, it was good to see him on the scoresheet. Arsène has hinted that he will play more on the flanks to accommodate Giroud, but I hope that yesterday’s flexible approach to rotating will give Welbeck more cause for optimism than concern. We don’t play with as natural wingers as he was asked to with United, so hopefully we see more of him popping up all over the pitch.

If that is to be our front three for the foreseeable future, it’s going to take them time to function as a cohesive unit, but I saw signs yesterday that it might just work. We shall see on Wednesday night when Southampton come to town.

Catch y’all tomorrow.

A reversal of fortunes from when we played the Baggies last year

Good matchday morning to you my friend, I hope Saturday is one that can bring both you and I what we are all quite desperate to see, three points away to West Brom. It’s a game in which last year we stuttered having been on a decent run and, if I recall rightly, it was the first game in a while last year when we really didn’t play that well, after having played well for a number of games previously. This year we are all hoping for a reversal of those fortunes, having played pretty poorly all season this time around. A stellar performance from the team would make this weekend marvellous I must say.

The weekend didn’t exactly get off to the greatest of news, after all, because we have an all-star cast of players who have been knocked about more than the occupants of a Catamaran on the Bay of Biscay. Walcott, Arteta, Wilshere, Welbeck, Debuchy, Ospina and Szczesny all remain either a doubt, definitely out or facing a race against time to be fit through late fitness tests. IT’s interesting how much has been made of Man United injury problems, but theirs have all been short term and will disappear as quickly as they appeared. For us, as we all know, we’re likely to have this problem throughout the whole season.

It’s why it wouldn’t surprise me if we actually saw Podolski get some game time if he remains at the club beyond January. I don’t believe it is possible for our stand out player – Alexis – to go the entire season Injury-free. The second he signed his paperwork at the club he was a marked man and so at some stage – providing he doesn’t tell Wenger he wants out – he’ll get his chance. But for now it looks like that door is closed to our social media loving German. Arsene was asked about Lukas in his presser yesterday and gave the usual response about how he expects him to stay. It was as believable as the old “three weeks away” stuff we have heard from the club over the years. But hey ho, they’ll be plenty of time to speculate on the ins and outs at the club in about a months time. For now, a trip to the Hawthorns looms, to which we absolutely must build on the victory from midweek against Dortmund.

Thankfully, it sounds like Koscienly is back and, if he really is fit enough to start, I don’t see how he won’t alongside Mertescaker. They’ll both be flanked by Chambers and Gibbs and with Debuchy a maximum of two weeks away, we’ll have our first choice back four back just in time for the January window to open and Arsene to declare he has no more available space in his squad for incoming players. Happy days.

West Brom will be up for this. They’ve lost their last two league games as well and will want to take a big scalp today. And they’ll have seen that even shocking teams like Swansea and United can have their day of glory against us, so they’ll probably up their game to give us an extra hard afternoon. There was some suggestion yesterday about the early kick-off playing against us when you look at last seasons games, but I don’t see that as any factor whatsoever. After all, before we lost to Moneychester City, Liverpool and Chelski in those early kick offs, we’d also beaten Crystal Palace away. So you can hardly say there was a pattern developing. Unless you say it’s a pattern of bottling it in the big games. That we can all agree on.

Tactically, you can already see signs of what Alan Irvine wants to do. He highlighted to the press this week that he thinks Arsenal are vulnerable at the back and at times have left just three players (including the ‘keeper) in their own half, so I think he’ll look to see if he can draw us out and catch us on the counter. Think the first goal we conceded against Swansea, or the Rooney second goal last weekend. He’ll probably line up quite defensively and hope that the pace of Berahino will cause us a headache. Where we can help ourselves will be to replicate the responsibility of the defenders in getting forward. Two centre halves and one full back in position when we lose the ball is essential. And a Flamini that is disciplined and not drawn forward is important. If West Brom do try to play us on the counter, there will be no need to try and win the ball high up the pitch, because they will only counter in ones and twos, so if Flamini is sitting, it would give us plenty of cover to deal (in theory) with their attack. Sessegnon will also be an important player to snuff out. He’s a tricky and fast little player who, whilst not having the best scoring record, will sit behind Berahino and be a handful all afternoon. That’s where Flamini will be important in breaking up the play. With his now customary yellow card, of course.

As for us, I expect we’ll line up with Martinez in goal (it didn’t sound to me as if Szczesny had fully recovered from last weekend’s knock, so why risk it?), with the back four as described above. I think injury dictates that the two in front of the back four will be Flamini and Ramsey, which will mean two wide of Cazorla and The Ox and Sanchez sitting just behind the striker. I think Arsene would probably ideally want to go with Welbeck if he is fit, but if there is any doubts then Giroud will get the nod. And who knows? The Giroud/Alexis combo might just work. If Alexis knows that he has a target man who will hold up and feed him in, we might see him latching on to more knock downs and flick throughs. I guess we’ll see in a matter of hours.

Right, I’m off for some breakfast, a morning chore or two, then the pub. Come on you reds!

Ox in the box and Jack the quarterback

If you go down to the Ems today,
You’re sure for a big surprise,
‘Cos Arsène’s worried and running out of his footballer guys,
They’re injured, battered, bruised and sick,
They can’t play very much so this is it,
If you go down to the Ems you’ll be an Arsenal player!

Little ditty there I thought up about ten minutes after I saw Welbeck hobbling off against Scotland last night, having spent the entire game steaming into challenges and scaring the bejeebus out of this here gooner. Honestly, I thought Jack would be the one that we’d have to close our eyes every time he went near a Scottish player, but it was our rampaging Manc-Gooner (‘Mancgoonian?’) up top that turned out to be the most worrisome for you and I, didn’t it?

Despite what Roy said afterwards about him being fine for the weekend, I think I’ll wait until Arsène has his day tomorrow with the ‘who’s fit?’ webpage on the official site. I fully expect Wenger to tell us all that Welbeck came back in a plastic bag and is currently trying to be reassembled by the Top Gear team using sellotape, string and ‘little bit elbow grease’.

With Giroud not fully fit, Walcott still not being afforded too much game time (we should probably be pleased with the sensible approach being adopted), Alexis only probably touching down from his trip to Mars to play a select Martian XI against Chile, we find ourselves unsurprisingly reliant on young mister Welbeck. So it would be good if Roy is right, but how he can make an effective diagnosis about ten minutes after a game is a little beyond me. If he’s going on what Welbeck has told him…well, we all know where that has got us with players like Jack in the past. Young guys just want to play football. They think about the here and now and not the potential to knock a year or two off the tail end of their career by playing through the pain.

Cross everything, will you? I certainly am.

The plus points of the evening have to be the performance of The Ox, who with more displays like that and a few more goals to his game, will probably run Theo very close when it comes to retaining his place in the side. He was one of the stand out performers yesterday and I’m sure it wouldn’t have escaped your attention that the first England goal was born straight out of London Colney. A wee knock from Welbeck to Wilshere, then a sumptuous diagonal pass from Wilshere to the ‘Ox in the box’, resulting in first blood to The Arsenal. Ahem, I mean, England.

When you watch it again you see just how good that goal is from the pass, to the run, to the flicked header in. Replicate that in the Premier League lads, and you’ll have us all purring, because that’s the sort of movement and vision that we’ve been painfully lacking at times this season.

It does make you think about Jack’s future role at The Arsenal though, doesn’t it? I mean, in the last four England games that I’ve seen, he’s been deployed in this sort of quarterback role for England, and he’s flourished. We all know he can travel with the ball and is good over five to 10 metres – Arsène has said so himself – but what I’ve seen whilst he’s been on international duty is a player who also has a fantastic ability to spot a pass. I don’t want to draw comparisons with a guy who now plays for the oil whores, but it was Fabregas who was the last player in an Arsenal shirt that I saw with the ability to spot a run like Jack did yesterday. The thing is, it wasn’t an isolated incident either, as he has found Rooney time and time again over the last four games. In Estonia he put the ball on a plate for the England captain more times than I can count. It’s just a shame Rooney couldn’t finish his dinner on that night.

I said it on Twitter last night and I’m more than happy to reiterate; surely Arsène now has to look at him as a deep lying midfielder? Surely we should be playing Wilshere and Arteta at the base of our midfield, with an all-action number 10 running the length of the pitch to get forward and back? How about we have Alexis as that guy, with Walcott and The Ox either side of Welbeck? Isn’t that just a little bit sexual as a prospect? I think so.

I will wait with eager anticipation on the starting line up on Saturday. We just need to find out who is actually available to play.

As for other factors in Saturday’s game, it probably hasn’t escaped your attention that Mike Dean will be refereeing our weekend game against the red Mancs. Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, is good about having that guy referee. He is a blister on the game as far as I’m concerned. As much as I’d love the idea of him being the pantomime villain in that ‘celebration’ that he made when the Spuds scored against us at The Emirates a couple of seasons ago, in my heart of hearts I know that it’s probably unlikely he was actually celebrating. That doesn’t stop him giving United absolutely everything on Saturday, to which I’ll probably cry foul come the end of the game, but for now I just have to contend with a disliking for a guy who probably isn’t a complete hater of Arsenal. Hopefully he can prove us all wrong by giving us 55-60% of decisions as the home team. That’s what you normally accept as a fan, whether your team is at home, or away.

Anyway, enough conspiracy theories for one day, let’s just sit quietly and wait patiently for Arsène to give us the good news. He’s holding open trials for spots in the team on Friday and everyone’s welcome.

Internationals helping the fringe players; the reality of online opinions

I know it was ‘only’ Gibraltar, but I thought it was really interesting that Poldi played – and well by the sounds of it – for Germany last night. He’s only started one league game for us this season and that was in the uninspiring defeat at home to Southampton. From what I hear he was deployed on the left and clocked up a couple of assists (one from an own goal), so although it’s painfully obvious that Arsene doesn’t fancy him as a first teamer any more, he has shown once again at international level that he can do it.

I don’t know if you’ve been the same as me, but I’ve been looking so much at Theo getting some game time and that being beneficial for the team, that I haven’t really paid much attention to the fact that there are a number of other fringe players at the club, for whom this international break is a much welcome opportunity to get some minutes under their belt. Just take Rosicky and Campbell for example. I believe Rosicky will most probably start this weekend, whilst the dotcom site confirmed that Joel got 86 minutes under his belt. I hope Le Boss has ordered some tapes or some kind of modern equivalent (series of 30 second Vine’s to patch together?) to watch the performances of the players, because I really think that e should be looking at mixing it up a bit after what we’ve seen so far this season. After all, it can’t get much worse, can it?

Actually, it probably could, because half of the draws we’ve had this season could have turned into defeats.

Anyway, the games that these players will get will at least give them a chance to regain a bit of competitiveness and hopefully when they return back to the manager (fingers cross not broken) he will see that he has options and that he doesn’t need to run the same players into the ground week-in, week-out.

Of course, Alexis scored last night, but that’s becoming as frequent as minor delays on the Circle Line, so I’m becoming quite blasé about it now. It’s a nice feeling.

One other thing I wanted to touch on – having flicked through the official site this morning – is the poll that the club ran on who should be our first choice striker when Giroud is fully fit and fighting again. To my surprise, our handsome Frenchman got the largest proportion of the votes with 32%. Hold on a second, isn’t this the Giroud that we all lambast for his lack kof chance conversion? Isn’t this the Giroud who looks like he’s running through treacle and has an annoying habit which involves an Ali-G-esque flicky hand? Huh, turns out that he’s not as hated amongst the fan base as some corners of the world would suggest.

Shows you, Twitter, shows you real good. Or, perhaps it shows, as I have experienced over the last couple of years of being on social media sites and speaking to gooners pre-game, that most people actually have a more moderate view of players, and probably that those that are so extreme on Twitter are in fact a minority. That’s probably why when you see protests seemingly gathering pace about the manager online, rarely do they translate to anything substantial on matchday’s. People are happy to be vocal from behind a keyboard – hey, I’m just as guilty sometimes – but when all is said and done when they’re at the ground they just want to support the team and see us get a result. The last protest I saw at the ground involved a bedsheet and about 25 people. Hardly a vocal majority. Which is probably why the Giroud online poll shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it has. After all, Giroud may not be as quality as Sanchez or Suarez, but having seen how Sanchez can operate just as effectively alongside Welbeck, there are probably a lot of people thinking ‘hmm, I wonder how successful Sanchez will be if he had someone strong like Giroud to win flick-on’s, hold up the ball and release him into space?’.

For what it’s worth, I still think our best front three contains Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott, mainly because with that pace you can always frighten teams, but I can certainly see that Giroud will provide us a different option. And not just from the bench either. There will come a time when the opponents that we have will sit deep and we might have to play the ugly side of the game, with balls up to a burly centre forward in a crowded box and, as much as Welbeck has a good go at that, you have to think that Olivier would be better, so Arsene can shuffle his pack accordingly with his attacking options over the coming months it seems.

If only he could do the same with our defensive options, eh?

Injuries, rotation, tactics: dammed if you do/don’t?

Blimey, it’s colder in London this morning than a shoulder that Arsène would give you, after asking him why he didn’t buy a centre half in the summer.

Still, at least we’re not staring down the barrel of a Champions League gun this morning, or ruing the miss of a penalty that cost us qualification against a team who two years ago I’d have asked you if it wasn’t an alcoholic liquor of some kind.

Yesterday on Twitter I said that Arsène’s pre-match presser can’t come quickly enough, because at least we’d get to look ahead at the weekend’s game, rather than look back at the midweek debacle. At least Chelski and Moneychester City did their level best not to make us feel so bad by diluting our failures with their own. I didn’t watch any of the games (why would I?), but I wish I’d have been in a place where I could have seen the post match dissection of both fixtures. I wonder if there was as much of a savaging as we got on Tuesday? Was Merse present?

Anyway, we can all engage in that lovely bit of Schadenfreude at least for this week, chuckling away at our fellow English Champions League entrants this year. Nobody in this country made it out of Matchday 4 with an real semblance of success. I can take solace in that. Glass half full and all that jazz. I’m sure you know how I feel. You know you do.

But we have to look forward and selfishly (we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we?) we have to look at ourselves and what is going wrong at The Arsenal. There will be plenty of time to look at those other teams around us – barring Chelski – and be thankful that everyone is buggering up their season, but at the moment a little bit of inward soul searching needs to happen at The Arsenal. The form of players like Flamini, Mertesacker and probably most notably (because of his superb displays last season) Ramsey, are all being questioned and at the moment the only person that is answering is a diminutive Chilean who this time last year was probably waking up to a Spanish sunrise. We’re not playing well and everyone is looking for answers. But rarely do we ever get any. There doesn’t seem to be anyone that I have seen that can effectively articulate why we seem to have dipped so dramatically compared to last season. Sure, there are eloquent people who write excellent blogs with tactical analysis of how we have played, but nobody has a time machine to go back and test their theories by replaying games by trying different things like I used to do for Championship Manager back in the late 90s. Until someone invents that real-life DeLorean, everything will be speculative.

Take me, for example. As I was walking towards the Tube station this morning, I began to ponder why we look so different this season, compared to last. We have not lost players through transfers, only injuries, but the team still feels like it should have the requisite quality to be able to successfully dispatch some of the teams we’ve played this season. So what is it? I’m probably not qualified or knowledgeable to give you chapter and verse on the tactical nuances of Arsenal, version 2.014/15, so please forgive some humble assumptions or out loud musings on potential causes. Feel free to dismiss or add your own input. As I say, it’s only ever going to be a hypothesis, with no real ability to test the thoughts until Doc Brown comes knocking at my door.

It’s easy to say injuries have cost us and, invariably, they have had an impact. But the reason for our stuttering so far is not a linear equation that can be solved by adding Laurent Koscienly back into the team to instantly transforming us back into Arsenal version 2.013/14, because we had Koscienly earlier in the season and we were still shipping silly goals. We were doing it when Debuchy, Per, Kos and Gibbs were our back four and it seems a widely accepted view that swapping Debuchy for Sagna was an acceptable ‘like-for-like’. There’s no doubt we should improve with that back four back together in December – fingers crossed – but I don’t think it’s injuries alone that have caused our doddery season to date.

Or is it because of the injuries we’ve had, we haven’t been able to put together an eleven that get to know each other, who therefore can put together a run? Again, this might be something worth considering, but as a person who has often question why Arsène hasn’t rotated more, how can I merrily type away that we need a consistency of our first team in order to foster that winning mentality and put together a run in the league? It’s inevitable that even if you can put together a team that is unbreakable in terms of impact injuries, eventually through over-playing them they will break down and you will have to dip into your squad to find players to fill in who haven’t had any chance to build up any kind of form.

It strikes me that Arsène is dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn’t. To rotate and risk having to spend time getting lots of players in form all at once through game time, or not to rotate, which may bring an 11 to the boil quicker, but at the risk of broken footballers in the New Year and the falling away of any title challenge (not that I’m convinced we can mount one this season, mind). I’m not trying to excuse the manager here, let me tell you, but I am trying to understand the consequences of certain actions, or trying to understand both sides of his footballing dilemma.

Perhaps the issue is his tinkering? He’s tried different formations against different teams and they either have worked (Galatasaray at home, Villa away), or they haven’t worked (Chelski away, Hull at home). Do we, as fans, want to see this kind of tinkering? Again, it strikes me that we want the best of both worlds, and I include myself in this bracket too. I want Arsenal to have an answer – tactically – to every single team we come up against. If the answer to tactical success is the experimentation of different formations, then why (“get back to playing 4-2-3-1!” and “ditch the 4-1-41!”, etc, etc) am I – and vast swathes of the Arsenal fanbase – getting annoyed when the manager tinkers with the team and it doesn’t work? We’ve all accused Arsène of being tactically negligent at times, but if we found out that he was going through a bit of a teething period whilst he gets the players acquainted with different styles to play during the course of the season, would we all cut him a little bit more slack?

Probably not. Because, and herein lies the nub of my desires and point in this protracted prose, all we want to see is Arsenal winning games. We want the here and now and whilst we’re all happy to make suggestions on rotating players to keep them fit, or changing formations to counter the opposition, ultimately victories negate any kind of desire to see a specific type of football philosophy realised. Arsène Wenger is by far an infallible man. He makes mistakes and he frustrates the hell out of us. But could it be that the pain we’re going through at the moment could actually be beneficial in the long run – formation and tactics-wise?

Don’t know. All I know is we want a win. Then another win. Then another after that. Repeat to fade. When you don’t do that. You’re doing everything wrong. When you do, you’re a genius.

Anyway, like I say, I’m no tactical genius. I’m just an Arsenal fan with no copy of the Metro to read every morning, so I spill my Arsenal thoughts on to this blog. I’ll see you in the morrow for the next ramble.