Arsenal's Starting XI and Why It Needs To Be Changed

Adam HartAnalyst IOctober 7, 2011

Arsenal's Starting XI and Why It Needs To Be Changed

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    Arsenal have had one of their worst starts to a season ever. With only seven points in seven games, the injury-riddled Gunners find themselves lagging at the bottom of the table, just two points off relegation.

    During last Sunday's derby-day defeat to Tottenham, a new starting XI shocked fans. With new additions that could soon become permanent and usual starters moving to the bench, Wenger is looking all over the place for new tactics.

    In this article, we will take a look at Arsenal's starting XI and determine who the best candidates for the positions are. We will take into account injuries.

    Be sure to leave your opinions in the comment section!


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    Possible Players: Szczesny, Mannone and Fabianski

    Starting XI: Szczesny

    There is no doubt that Szczesny is the right player for the job. His overall performance has improved greatly since the start of the season. It is essential for a team to possess a keeper that can make saves in one-on-one situations with the opposing forwards.

    Not only has his performance improved, but his leadership skills have skyrocketed since the departure of Fabregas. In a recent interview, he said that when he talks, he feels everyone listens. The Poland international has shown himself to be quite the keeper, even with a defense so poor.

    What Szczesny still needs to improve is his anticipation skills. He must be able to anticipate when a shot will be attempted. Most recently, in last Sunday's match, when he let a long-ranged goal slip right beneath his outstretched arm. 

    While Fabianski has had little to no game playing time, he, like many players on the Arsenal side, is not good enough. He has improved over the past year but is still not mature enough to be the starting keeper for Arsenal.

Left Back

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    Possible Players: Santos and Gibbs

    Starting XI: Santos

    With so many injuries, this one wasn't hard to determine. The Brazilian international was acquired during the summer transfer window and is already a great player. With the departure of Clichy, and if the entire Arsenal squad were fit, he would have had more competition with Kosceilny. He is a very experienced player, making more than 20 international appearances for the Brazilian national team, and he has participated in the Champions League.

    He is a strong defender who is not afraid to make the necessary tackles and has the stamina to fight through an entire match. He can not only defend well on one end of the pitch, but can be quick on the counter attack to help the scoring players.  

    Gibbs has yet to reach his full potential. He lacks the experience that Santos has and has not mastered the art of defending. In time, he can grow to replace Santos or even surpass him, but for now, Santos is Arsenal's starting left back. 

Center Backs

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    Possible Players: Mertesacker, Jenkinson and Gibbs

    Starting XI: Mertesacker and Gibbs

    The German international, Mertesacker, is the epitome of a great defender. He is tall, agile and isn't afraid to make a risky tackle. Now all he has to do is start applying these advantages. Mertesacker hasn't been living up to the expectations that have been set. We have seen a ball sail right over his head and into another players possession multiple times. He must always keep up with the player he is marking to avoid dangerous through balls. Even though he is the best healthy center back Arsenal currently have, he needs to improve soon before Wenger regrets obtaining him.

    Gibbs can be a great defender at times and would be an excellent addition to the Arsenal defense. He is excelling as a young player and has the potential to be a great defender. He is quick and bright and able to move to a more midfield-esque position to aid the midfield battles. He has a great sense of positioning and can easily force a turnover.

Right Back

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    Possible Players: Jenkinson and Squillaci

    Starting XI: Jenkinson

    After the unfortunate injury of Bacary Sagna, the remaining healthy defenders are Squillaci and Jenkinson. While both of these players are no where near the level of Sagna, Jenkinson is the better candidate for the job. He can make tackles, yet many of them are too risky and certain referees may book him. He is both resilient and fearsome on the pitch even though those aren't always good.

    I can't wait for Sagna to return so Arsenal doesn't have to rely on this joker to support them on the right side.

A Change That Arsenal Needs to Make with It's Midfield and Forward Structure

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    Arsene Wenger has put forth a new setup of 4-5-1. While changing the setup would result in a catastrophic effect, destroying many small, yet vital tactics, they should change it to a 4-4-2. As demonstrated against Tottenham, to have Van Persie at the front alone, waiting for midfield reinforcements to finish the job, just won't do it. During one play, Van Persie managed to streak past two defenders to be running towards the left post of the opposing goal. He was then forced to make a brilliant pass to Gervinho, a forward that game, who then missed an easy goal. The goal could have helped Arsenal either equalize or win the match. 

    Van Persie needs assistance at the front and that is why I shall be portraying the new starting XI as a 4-4-2. 

Left Winger

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    Possible Player: Song and Rosicky

    Starting XI: Song

    Song was no doubt one of the best players of the match in Sunday's match against Tottenham. He was able to streak down the left side of the field and make beautiful crosses, one that connected with Ramsey for a goal. He has an ability to dismantle many of the midfield attacks launched by the opposing team with an array of unpredictable tackles. He also has the ability to retain the ball and keep possession from the opposition's defense.

    Song still needs to improve his positioning. He has been know to travel outside his designated zone to try to play as a defender or as a forward. He has little to no threats on goal and is a very predictable player. 

    Rosicky has lost much of his prestige after his long term injury. He doesn't have the endless supply of energy that Song seems to possess, has lost much of his shooting power and has not been perceived as an offensive threat.  

Attacking Midfielders

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    Possible Players: Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Benyoun and Arshavin

    Starting XI: Arteta and Ramsey

    Arteta and Ramsey are both creative midfielders that can create scoring opportunities for Arsenal. They both have a great vision of the field and have a fierce shooting prowess. While neither can replace the creativeness or leadership abilities of Fabregas, they could make an amazing duo that could be one of the factors that renew Arsenal's EPL glory. 

    Rosicky is more suited to play a winger and Benyoun and Arshavin just aren't good enough to play instead of Ramsey and Arteta. If Wilshere were healthy, he would have replaced Ramsey and played alongside Arteta as the attacking midfielders. Wilshere is probably the best young player in the world and could have the effect that a teenage Rooney had on a young Manchester United.

    Until Wilshere becomes healthy or some other player becomes amazing, the attacking mids for the stating XI are Arteta and Ramsey.

Right Winger

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    Possible Players: Rosicky, Coquelin and Arshavin

    Starting XI: Coquelin

    Coquelin, a reserve player, made his surprising debut for the Arsenal first team last Sunday against Tottenham. He has turned out to be an amazing player and, when Wilshere returns from his injury, playing alongside Wilshere could turn him into a permanently starting player.

    He, like many traditional Arsenal players, has amazing control of the ball and vision of the field. He can cross the ball in for a shot after streaking passed defenders on the side. The Frenchman has great scoring potential and is a threat within the goalie box.

    Rosicky and Arshavin have become more substitutes than starting XI players. While they used to be great midfielders, and they still are, they are no match for young superstars Coquelin and Wilshere. Hopefully Coquelin doesn't reach the same injury filled fate of many of the Arsenal players.

Forwards and Strikers

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    Possible Players: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Van Persie, Gervinho and Walcott

    Starting XI: Oxlade-Chamberlain and Van Persie

    Van Persie has been alone up front for a large portion of the season. With the arrival of Oxlade-Chamberlain, he has a potential partner. OC has attracted the attention of Fabio Capello and is, along with Wilshere and Coquelin, another aspiring Arsenal player. He is fast and confident with the ball, can play defense as a forward. He also has a powerful and accurate shot along with a good footballing composure.

    Van Persie is undoubtedly the other forward. The Arsenal skipper is probably the best player on the pitch at times and has amazing dribbling skills. With all of his strengths, he has certain weaknesses that bring down his footballing ability a level. He needs to be more aggressive with opposing players. Meaning he should be able to obtain the ball when either he or his team loses it.

    Walcott can be a starter, but when Arsenal is playing a 2-4-4, he will be starting the game on the bench. He is probably the fastest player in the EPL, yet his footballing skills and his unsure future with Arsenal don't help his cause. The Brazilian player, Gervinho, still has some work to do before he is put on the pitch with Van Persie or OC. 


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    With so many injuries, Arsenal's starting XI has been reduced to a squad chock full of substitutes. Remember that if the squad was healthy, players like Wilshere, Sagna, Vermaelen and Djourou would have made the list. 

    Hopefully Arsenal can turn their season around and win silverware in the FA Cup and the Carling Cup.