Josh's view on the balance of the Arsenal midfield prior to the Italian job...

Hey guys, Tuesday morning is here and we are one day from the crucial tie in Rome and I for one am very excited.  There is a new buzz around the club right now and we seem to be turning a corner.
Wenger seems to be set upon two deep lying central midfiel
d players who allow for four attacking players to make us tick.  With players coming back, it will be interesting to see which four players decides to go for.  Competition for places can only be a good thing, but what is our best combination?  I have been mulling this over during the last week and am still finding it tough to decide.  The Burnley game showed me that a big target man is not necessary for the system to work, but that all we need is a clinical finisher as the spearhead.  For me, when fit, there is only one man for the job, Eduardo.  Just look at the positions he has gotten into, and the goals he has scored since his return and you’ll see why.  He is that missing link we have been craving and he will only get better as he gets games under his belt.  Theo Walcott summed it up perfectly:

“As for [Eduardo’s] finishing, that is ridiculous. It is unbelievable to watch in training. He hasn’t lost his touch and he never will. He is going to score many more like that one on Sunday I hope.
“He’s a brilliant finisher and we’ve missed that. I think that goal was the best finish I have seen this year so I am very happy for him.”

That leads me onto my next point, the return of Theo.  Although Eboue has started to do this in recent weeks, another thing we have needed is a bit of pace when going forward.  Our play got too methodical and our slow play allowed defences to sit deep.  When Arsenal are at their best, the players are moving the ball at pace, committing defenders and creating space for team-mates to move into.  Theo is crucial in this system as he can beat a man, scaring defenders out of their positions.  Eboue has shown the way forward in the last few games but is just not the same quality as a fully fit, in-form Walcott.
Another man who has changed our play is Andrei Arshavin.  It may only be a small thing, which did happen to lead to a goal, but the fact Arshavin didn’t want to settle for a corner, and would rather keep the ball in play, says everything about the guy.  He wants the ball at his feet and just loves the game.  He has an eye for a pass and an ease with which he carries the ball.  Too often, we were moving the ball from side to side but Arshavin has come in, demanded the ball and always attempted to make a forward pass or take on a defender.  Fans are expectant when he has the ball and this brought fresh life to the side, He can be a top, top player for Arsenal.
Then there is the two players who have been there all season, our main creative outlet for most of it, Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri.  Robin has been awesome this season, and it is only recently that his high standards have dropped slightly.  His ability to create something out of nothing, a moment of genius, tells me he must be in the side.  He has that spark that makes him dangerous.  Grant him a moment of time or a bit of room, he can punish you.  Nasri reminds me of Hleb in the way he seemed able to play with most players.  He has immediately struck up an understanding with Arshavin, reminiscent of the one he developed with Cesc.  He keeps the ball brilliantly for a small guy, can spot a pass but does need to shoot more when in good positions, my only criticism really.
You may have noticed that I have named 5 players that I believe are crucial to the line up: Eduardo, Theo, Arshavin, RVP and Nasri.  There are only 4 positions that these players can fill.  This is because I cannot make my mind up.  The beauty is that all of these players can play in numerous roles within the 4-2-3-1 formation.  The interchange of positions has made us harder to mark and far less predictable going forward.  One extremely key factor I haven’t mentioned yet is rotation.  The reason United are so good right now is that they can leave Ronaldo out of the squad, Berbatov on the bench, bring in Park and Tevez, and still win 4-0 against a side who have been awesome at home.  With players coming back, we may soon have that luxury.
You’ll notice I haven’t mention Adebayor and Bendtner at all so far.  Adebayor has not been the same player he was last season but now could be the time for him to really work to get it back.  His work-rate seemed to have disappeared at times; did he think he was undroppable?  Now, with Eddy knockin’ ‘em in, he may realise, he is no longer top dog.  Bendtner did his chances no harm at W.B.A and I think he can offer us something.  He has the added ability to play wide left or right, fitting into the system perfectly.  Ade can provide a focal point, a target man if you like, to the side, but only if he bucks up his ideas.  United have three strikers determined to play well to keep their place, it seemed to me Ade got too comfortable.  Now we shall see if he really is up for the challenge.
Oh and don’t forget Eboue who has come on leaps and bounds in the last month; and Rosicky, if he can get fit, he was a really good player remember!?
It is not only in the front four positions that Wenger could have a selection headache.  When back to full fitness, Fabregas will walk back into this side; the question surrounds who will partner him.  If you look at Liverpool, they have Alonso as the deep lying playmaker, in our case, Cesc, and Mascherano as the defensive midfield player, whose job it is to win the ball and play it to someone around him.  This is where Wenger has a choice to make.  Denilson has been ever-present this season, and despite pathetic scapegoating towards him, he has improved hugely.  His tackling is better, his determination has improved and with more work he could be a great player, he just needs time.
My only worry for him is that Song may compliment Fabregas better.  Song needed the performance he had against Burnley.  He was brilliant.  He broke up attacks with well timed tackles and bossed the midfield as a true defensive midfielder can.  Both he and Denilson will do what they can to prove they deserve the midfield berth; this can only be a good thing.  Couple this with the fact Diaby will want to be involved.  He is far more attack minded but could fit into the system also.  He can tackle and is unbelievably strong on the ball.  The worry I have is whether he is disciplined enough to sit deep and carry out more defensive duties.  His best hope of a central midfield place is to replace Cesc if Wenger rests him.  However, like the others, he will want to give Wenger a selection headache.
My overall point is that we could soon have a squad to match United.  I haven’t even mentioned players like Vela, Ramsey and Gibbs who have all featured.  I cannot pick a starting midfield and attack but will plump for
========Denilson=======Cesc===========
Walcott=====Van Persie===Arshavin (PL) / Nasri (CL)
==============Eduardo================
Just a quick note on Roma as there will be more specific reports focusing solely on the game itself.  I feel Eduardo should start the game, simply because his ability to finish a chance in an instant could be crucial in getting an away goal.  We may only get a few chances and he is the man to get it.  I would give Eboue a game as he has huge amounts of confidence right now.  Theo can provide fresh legs and pace off the bench as he did in his earlier days for Arsenal, and in last years Champions League.
The defence has been on form recently and if we are to progress, Gallas has to be at his best.  We do not know who will play alongside him but the Frenchman’s experience and big game reputation could be crucial in taking us to thequarter finals.

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