While watching Eboue play against Blackburn Arsene`s earlier description of the squad came to mind. “We have a very compact squad and people are interchangeable,” he told us at a press conference last week. I wonder though how many considered that a player seen only as a right back before last season would play in all three midfield positions this season let alone be comfortable with it.
In yesterdays game Eboue started in right midfield, a position we had become used to seeing him occupy last season, though perhaps not with total acceptance. He switched positions with Walcott about half an hour into the first half of Saturday`s game and spent much rest of the game playing on the left but also regularly popped up centrally. In other games this season he has started centrally. Few had fully come to terms with Eboue the right back as a right midfielder but it seems that we may have to get accustomed to seeing him in a variety of roles.
Debates about players` positions crop up regularly when discussing the team. But Wenger puts no such limitations on players preferring that the player adapts to the team needs as far as his ability and physiology allows.
The question of whether Walcott is a striker or a wide midfielder (winger in old parlance) is one that supporters still argue about but when asked the question earlier this season Arsene doesn`t see a need for such labelling. “He is not really a link player he is more a runner so you need to find a link player who can play close to him,” he said. “It depends on who he plays with and you need to find the right combination. But he can play wide, right, left, central.”
The tendency to stereotype players to positions is bound to lead to frustrations in looking at Wenger teams. The picture that central defenders have to be ‘big, ugly, arially dominant giants` fits the desire to have someone that can clear anything that comes into the box but not necessarily the requirement to step forward into midfield and help dominate midfield possession as game circumstances might demand. That`s certainly the pattern that we have seen with both Toure and Gallas doing so with good effect from time to time. Players like Hyppia, Terry and Campbell prove useful in exploiting set pieces but not in exerting as much influence in open play as our central defenders are seen to be able to do. That`s why a player like Song seems to fit the Wenger rationale for a central defender more comfortably than the archetypal stopper.
It is interesting to look at many of those players recruited by Wenger recently who are, with a few exceptions, players with a high degree of adaptability. Is Aaron Ramsey a wide midfielder, central midfielder attacking or defensive, for example? You`ll find him described in different quarters as each of these. Samir Nasri can, and has played for Marseilles, all across midfield. Silvestre is both a central defender and full back as was Gallas when he joined us.
There is a fluidity developing in the team that may make it hard, especially when things don`t go according to plan, for us to tear up the mental pictures we have of ‘stoppers` and ‘ball winners`. When things go wrong, as from time to time they must, the cry will be to plug the perceived weaknesses with just such one-dimensional solutions. But our pattern of play increasingly relies on multidimensional players. Interchangeable may well become the watchword for the next few seasons if the squad is allowed to develop together.
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