Date: 26th October 2012 at 1:47pm
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The reunion lunch with some old colleagues up in town was as hugely entertaining as ever with the obligatory excess of beer and wine. Returning home I wasn’t in particularly great shape as the train pulled into my local station and wishing to minimise the risk of disapproving smirks from the missus and the triumphant mockery of my son I decided that the best way to clear my head and remove the odour of stale beer cellars was to break into a brisk jog rather than simply walking home. As I got to the park and with no-one around I gallantly charged forward. I’d only managed a few strides before, for some inexplicable reason possibly associated with drink, I found myself veering off the pavement and towards the road. Thinking as quickly as my partially anaesthetised brain permitted I corrected this by moving my left leg determinedly to the right. Though this was accomplished more or less as intended, in order for the manoeuvre to have been a total success it would have been necessary to have moved my following right leg in the same direction immediately after. Sadly this I’d neglected and my right leg continued on its path towards the road as my left satisfactorily headed towards security. As I picked myself up from the gutter, thankful that being late and dark no-one had witnessed my undignified dive, I now not only stunk of stale beer cellar but looked as though I’d spent the night in one before being thrown out. I arrived home to find my son out and the missus engrossed in a film so at least my dignity was saved further damage. The moral of the story might be that one good step needs to be followed by another.

As Arsenal have tripped over their own feet after equally bright initial steps this season the reasons for their stumble are less easy to identify but it might be the same inability to follow up a good step forward with another. The club has bought well in the summer. Cazorla is a great forward step and in terms of midfield balance Arteta was a decent preceding forward move the summer before. Clearly Wenger had his doubts that enough steps had been taken given the reported pursuit of Sahin but as a deal, for whatever reason, proved impossible he believed that the frailties of Diaby and Rosicky could be overcome just as RvP’s had in the seasons before. This would have allowed Ramsey and Wilshere to continue to develop their game at a pace that wouldn’t compromise our team performances but in the same unpredictably predictable way we’re now accustomed to seeing we find ourselves with only Ramsey available for the third midfield role. Good player though he is, as yet he still falls some way short of consistency at this level in much the same way that Cesc, Walcott and other young players had done in their formative seasons. With a forward line that doesn’t look properly balanced as yet too much is needed from Cazorla and Arteta to create the chances that have been stifled in the last couple of outings for a forward line that has barely played more than a handful of games together.

The problem with building the steps in putting together a fully balanced squad to go forward with is that they aren’t as instant as simply moving one leg in front of another. The next step might not be available until the next transfer window and/or an intended targets contract position allows a deal to be done. The next step might well rely on the patience of allowing players to develop as was the case with Cesc and RvP. Even if you have planned all the steps correctly you may, and do find that sod`s law can scupper them and still leave you with an unbalanced squad to pick from. Injuries to our first and second choice keepers and three of 4 midfield options make other perhaps less key absences more critical. Ultimately though the team put out in the last couple of games isn’t as balanced as it needs to be to be sure enough that it can stay on its feet in every game.

In part that’s due to the difficulty in building a football squad in the modern game with the complexities of player contract laws and restrictions on squad sizes and make up – a brisk jog is always needed when you can only go at the pace conditions allow.