Who’s Got The Strongest Bench?
While watching the Tottenham v Liverpool game last weekend, Gus Poyet mentioned on Sky Sports that he thinks that Spurs have the strongest bench in the Premier League. I’m sorry, could you say that again? The Spurs bench?!
Anyways, it got me thinking. I decided to compare bench strength of the top teams in Premier League, position by position.
Manchester City probably have the strongest goal keeping options at the moment. Having a player of Shay Given’s caliber sitting in the bench is a luxury. However, that may not be the case for too long as Given’s exit from Man City looks more evident every day. Tottenham’s Carlo Cudicini is probably another good goalkeeper who’s had to sit in the bench for most of his career (making him a bench expert!). I still don’t get how he doesn’t start for the Spurs ahead of the erratic Heurelio Gomes. However, that’s not really my concern because their stupidity is good for us. On the other hand, Arsenal’s goalkeeping strength is still a doubt. Who actually is our first choice goalkeeper now? I’m not sure if Almunia is still injured, or whether he has just kept falling down the pecking order. Fabianski still remains to be a bit inconsistent. Our goalkeeping future does look bright though as Szczesny has impressed in both of his Carling Cup starts against Newcastle and Wigan. However, he didn’t have too much to contend with so we still need to see his ability against much tougher oppositions. Tomas Kuszack is also not a quality cover for Manchester United, which is possibly why Ferguson has signed the highly rated Anders Lindegaard. I am yet to see him play to comment on his goalkeeping credentials.
It’s difficult to determine who has the strongest bench defensively. I wish I could say Arsenal, but our defensive record has been horrible as of late. Kieran Gibbs is probably our best defender, but its difficult to consider him a bench player since he gets quite a few first team opportunities these days. Koscielny needs to improve his consistency and the likes of Djourou and Nordtveit need first team opportunities on a regular basis to prove themselves as quality defenders. I guess without Thomas Vermaelen, our defense is a bit out of shape. We can also count out the Manchester United bench after their horror show mid-week in the Carling Cup. Their defense looked in tatters after conceding 4 goals to a struggling West Ham (Jonny Evans had no clue on how to mark/tackle Carlton Cole). The Chelsea defence also looks weak on the defensive side(currently). John Terry’s injury has already created some problems for them, but Carlo Ancelotti is adamant to bring in cover this January. Alex is having a surgery and could be out for up to eight weeks. Tottenham have never really been a team that have done well to protect their goal. Gareth Bale’s promotion to the midfield and constant injuries to Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate have simply left their defense hanging. Tottenham have kept just one clean sheet in the season so far, the lowest in the premier league. Man City possibly have the most over-rated defense in the whole of the Premier League. The likes of Micah Richards and Jolean Lescott just make their defense a threat from an attacking perspective, rather than a defensive one. They have kept the second highest number of clean sheets this year(mainly due to some great goalkeeping at the start of the season) but I think it will not continue to be that impressive by the end of the season.
This time, I will not hesitate to say that Arsenal has the best midfield bench in the Premier League right now. Having the likes of Rosicky, Ramsey (who should be back soon) and Walcott (effectively been used as a bench player this season so far) provide a bench full of creativity and an envy for any other team in England. Chelsea and Manchester City are probably a tied second with Zhirkov and Ramires, and Adam Johnson and Shawn Wright Phillips, who are extremely capable players at the top level. Manchester United benefit from having the best bench player in the Premier League in Ji-Sung Park, but the rest of bench seem to be a bit too young and lack experience. I’m also happy to say that this time, Tottenham’s attacking cover is the most over-rated compared to the rest of the top teams. Niko Kranjcar and Giovani Dos Santos are inconsistent and more flash than effectiveness, which is why their responsibilities are limited to the bench in the first place. It’s also the same case with David Bentley and Jamie O’Hara while Sandro is yet to have adjusted himself to the rigours of English football.
This will probably hurt (A LOT) to say but Manchester City do have the strongest forward options as cover for their first team. A team that can send Craig Bellamy out on loan and have Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz in the bench just shows that. The other strong bench strikers in the Premier League such as Niklas Bendtner, Federico Macheda, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Daniel Sturridge aren’t able to threat at that level (at the moment).
What’s surprising to see is that Manchester United have the weakest bench strength out of the top 5, but they are still in pole position. I’m predicting that won’t stand for too long, especially late in the season when tired legs will lead to more injuries.
I’m going to finish this post by showing you why out of all teams Arsenal have the strongest bench. This is the team that played against Aston Villa last weekend:
Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh
This is an alternative lineup which doesn’t include any of the players that thrashed Aston Villa:
Almunia, Eboue, Vermaelen, Djourou, Gibbs, Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey, Fabregas, Walcott, Van Persie
We pretty much have two first teams in our squad. So Gus Poyet, please do think properly before making comments publicly like that in the future! 🙂
By the way, Cesc Fabregas is having his own website soon. Bookmark it: www.cesc-fabregas.com