Alternative XI & Montpellier preview

The Highbury Barn was the source of much pre-match entertainment on Saturday lunchtime. James Callen, responsible for last weeks guest article, was the recipient of some horrendous but nonetheless hilarious abuse. Walking to the stadium we were slightly more anxious we than we might have been, having received the news that Giroud was on the bench and Gervinho would be taking up something of a central role. Yes, Gervinho is a man in form, but he is also one of the worst finishers I have ever seen in an Arsenal shirt (at least thus far).

We all know what happened next. I can’t remember the last time I went to the Arsenal and 60,000 people were certain of the three points within 25 minutes. It made a welcome change from the heart-wrenching stuff of seasons past. Podolski was excellent again, completing 100% of his passes. Gervinho’s movement was confusing everyone, me included, whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain put in another fantastic shift.

The consensus leading into the Southampton game seemed to be that we are strong all over the pitch but a world class striker is all that’s missing. If Giroud gets injured then Podolski, more of a wide man in my eyes, is all we have left. Perhaps Wenger’s deployment of Gervinho in an unpredictable kamikaze front three is one reason why he didn’t attempt to buy another last minute striker.

Arsene said after the game: ‘You know we transform all wingers into central strikers and all strikers into wingers’.

Words that brought home nightmarish memories of Bendtner flailing around on the right hand side.

‘I decided that during the tour of Asia when I tried playing Gervinho there against man City in that position. I liked what he did and it was in the back of my mind’.

‘He is such a great mover and he is so quick so when he is central, once he gets ahead of the central defender it is difficult to catch him’.

In other news the official squad photo was taken last week. I was assessing it and I got all excited at the depth we seem to have this year.

If you compare it to the squad from 2009/10, just three years ago, it looks a completely different group.

Clearly the losses of RVP, Nasri, Clichy, Cesc and Song are huge, but the additions of Gervinho, Arteta, Mertesacker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud will, for me, more than replace them.

Players like Wilshere, Diaby, Gibbs, Rosicky and Walcott are still around but have all made significant improvements over the last three years.Perhaps most significant is the amount of dead-wood we’ve managed to offload. Thank God the squad isn’t clogged up with the likes of Traore, Eboue, Senderos, Silvestre, Vela, Merida, Denilson, Bendtner, Gallas and even Eduardo (post injury).

Before Saturday’s match I was thinking about the players we were missing and the potential alternative Arsenal XI. Here’s what I came up with.

Mannone
Sagna Koscielny Djourou Santos
Diaby Wilshere Rosicky
Walcott Giroud Arshavin

Not bad for a second string eh? Maybe we’ll have a chance in the Capital One Cup!

So, looking forward to Tuesday’s clash in Montpellier. Arsene begins his period on the sidelines having been banned last season. Big Steve Bould will get his first, and much deserved chance to take charge of the squad. Good luck to him and anyone on the receiving end of his hairdryer. Incidentally it’ll be the first time he gets to use that too (oh dear…).

The rumours are that Giroud and Walcott will start and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that at all. Walcott’s pace has caused problems away from home in Europe before, whilst Giroud will enjoy going back to his old Club. The Mail is reporting that Ramsey will play as well. He made a good cameo on Saturday so let’s hope he can push on this year. I think I’d rest Diaby, even if he’s fully fit, and save him for the City game. His personal battle with Yaya Toure could prove pivotal.

Enjoy, Nick

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