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At the start of every Premier League campaign, teams are instructed to present a list of 25 players that will be used for the grueling 10-month Premier League campaign. While 11 players take on the pitch, each team is eligible to bring in three players from a possible seven which will include a spare goalkeeper as well as a couple of defenders, midfielders and strikers.
When Arsenal visited St. Mary’s Stadium yesterday, Arsene Wenger had a bench that had Damian Martinez, Per Mertesacker, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Gervinho and Olivier Giroud.
Martinez is a relatively untested Argentine goalkeeper that hasn’t impressed me in his Capital One cup appearances this season. Mertesacker was returning from an illness, so he wasn’t at his optimum health levels. Rosicky is also in that mold with his fitness levels not at 100 percent, and Coquelin, in my honest opinion, hasn’t done enough to contend with Mikel Arteta for the holding role.
This ultimately meant that Arsene Wenger’s surefire cards on deck were Ramsey, Gervinho and Giroud, and as expected, he used the aforementioned players as reinforcements as the game progressed.
Giroud was the first to be thrown into the thick of things, with Podolski withdrawn, causing Wenger to change his tactical setup, with the Ox drifting to the left and Walcott to the right, allowing Giroud to strut his stuff through the middle.
Sadly, the same Giroud that whetted our appetites against Newcastle was pretty poor, to say the least, and his late miss didn’t do anything to help his cause.
Ramsey and Gervinho came in simultaneously for the fatigued Cazorla and the ineffectual Ox. The Welshman couldn’t stamp his authority on the game and the Ivorian has become a complete shadow of the player that did well in the early part of the campaign.
If Arsenal had that seasoned center forward like, let’s say, Fernando Llorente or Demba Ba, and a midfield enforcer like Yann M’Vila or Cheick Tiote, their outstanding qualities would have helped the team through a game of this magnitude when there’s no place for mental fragility.
Demba Ba’s attacking prowess needs no introduction, as Arsenal got a first-hand demonstration of his lethal abilities and predatory instincts in front of goal. Having a Tiote or M’Vila in the team would have allowed Arteta to impose himself on the game, as he has done in times past.
With no one to protect the shaky back line that had potential time bombs like Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny, Arteta couldn’t dare drift farther up the pitch, and to make things worse, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla were struggling up front.
Arsene Wenger has the entire month to sort the state of his team, and if Arsenal passes through January without making any signing, no one should raise an eyebrow if the club fails to qualify for the Champions League at the end of the season.
This article is also featured in Toni Okike's Arsenal blog, Gooner Daily.