Last week, everyone started criticising Arsene Wenger after he made 8 changes to face Wigan after the Chelsea game. What made it worse is that the changes didn’t pay off, as Arsenal went on to draw 2-2 with Wigan. Wenger changes the winning lineup, we draw, so it’s Wenger’s fault.
The thing is I think Wenger would love to play his best lineup every match. If that ensures the win, then I think that’s what every manager would do. Play the same set of 11 players game in and out. With Arsenal, it’s a special scenario. Wenger has to take into account quite a few factors before making changes like that on a regular basis.
First of all, we have to consider that all our players are injury prone. Yes I said it, all of them are! Let’s just keep Vermaelen out of this since he’s still injured, you’ll find very few players who haven’t faced a lengthy spell in the sidelines. Especially out attacking options in Fabregas, Van Persie, Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott, Nasri, Diaby and Ramsey have all faced injuries at times which have left them out of the side for months. Did I miss someone out because I am sure the list is longer.
Fans were so upset that Djourou didn’t play in the Wigan game after producing a match-winning display of keeping Drogba quiet against Chelsea. So we wanted him to play after 48 hours with barely any recovery time. We tend to think of only Eduardo and Ramsey having horrific injuries, but Djourou is making a remarkable comeback after a dreadful knee injury too. Would we rather see him be match fit for more of the season or risk the chance of him being injured again at a crucial point in the season?
Secondly, our squad is just way too strong. Arsene has a tough job in trying to keep them all happy. In football, the only way you can keep a player happy other than financial incentives is to put them in the starting lineup on a regular basis. As soon as Walcott didn’t start for 3-4 games this season, he started voicing out concerns of how badly he needs to start now. Walcott starts again and scores and assists against Chelsea. When Bendtner’s groin troubles are gone for good and he still didn’t make the starting lineup, he just wanted to leave outright. Wenger plays him against Wigan and he scores a wonderful goal. I’m predicting Arshavin might have to sit in the bench more often these days, so just wait till he starts speaking out publicly when that happens.
Wenger has to rotate his players, he doesn’t really have a choice in this scenario. Maybe he could toggle around with the lineups a bit more and possibly set two lineups that are a bit more equally strong. That will take some weeks to sort out as well. Regardless of that, expect a rotation policy to be there throughout the season. There is no way of avoiding it.