|Mesut has already stated his intent to improve|
on his first season in England
Sam: Stepping up the pitch to midfield, I think it's safe to assume that the deeper roles will be occupied by Arteta and Ramsey during the season's opener on Saturday. Ramsey looks like he hasn't missed a step this summer, with a great goal against City last weekend; his first touch to lift it over his defender's foot was perfect and showed great speed of thought, while his finish was exactly what we Gooners have come to expect when we see him in those positions. I assume you agree with me on those selections Andy? I'll also go on a limb and assume you agree with me that further forward, Arsenal's best options are Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, and Alexis Sanchez...
Andy: I think I may be in the minority of Arsenal fans here (at least the ones I've talked to or read material from) but I don't think that Walcott is an auto-include in the starting XI. This is ignoring the health issue which will obviously have to be resolved; I'm not saying to hold him out just because he's coming back from injury. Rather, I think there is a strong argument to include Santi Cazorla over Theo to add more creativity to that midfield. I view Sanchez as an improvement over our former recording holding speedster and though they are different players who offer nuances to their general style, the Chilean is the more complete player who can operate at full capacity in a variety of different types of games. So if I'm saying that Alexis is a must start, that means, for me, it's a choice between Santi and Theo.
Why I like Santi more is that he provides creativity in midfield, an attribute that does not diminish with duplication, while Walcott provides pace and runs in behind, which is redundant to a degree. This isn't to say that Walcott is a very good player who would be of use on the pitch, but think of it this way; the most important thing about Theo is that he makes runs in behind, which stretches the defense. He is also great on the counter and has become a solid finisher, but the most important part of his game is what his does to the opposition's back line. Well, now Arsenal has Sanchez and he can do the exact same thing, playing off the back shoulder of the last defender. He may not be Theo's equal in pure speed, but he's pretty damn close and he will accomplish the same goal of stretching the shape of the other team. In same cases, it will be useful to have two players doing that, feasting off of through balls from the likes of Ozil and Ramsey. But one player of that type is enough to create the right kind of problems, so I would prefer to have someone like Santi on the field who can work angles and create for the other talented offensive players. I like him and Mesut together rather than Mesut feeding for both Sanchez and Walcott.
Does this wreck our happy harmony over the other choices, Sam? I still like the Ramsey and Arteta pairing, I swear!
Sam: Interesting selection there. Playing Santi in the first-XI means that when Theo returns, the English media can fall back on one of their favorite tropes: bring on your speedster with 30 minutes left to run at a tired defense. At least you'd make their job a lot easier for them if you were in charge, Andy. Seriously, though, I would have no objections to a Sanchez-Özil-Santi line. There would be so much guile and creativity there, and Santi has shown in his last two matches at Wembley that he can put the ball in the net. I'd just be very intrigued/excited to see Özil pulling the strings and Giroud holding play while up while Alexis and Walcott buzz around the opposition like mosquitoes on a beach holiday. I think that line-up would strike more fear in opposing defenses, but it's not hardly a bad problem to have. And we haven't even mentioned the likes of Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky or Campbell. Arsenal are particularly stacked in the attacking midfield department this season.
Let's move to final position on the pitch, and seeing as we agree Alexis will be used in the wide attacking midfield positions, I think it's hard to argue that Olivier Giroud is the best center-forward in the squad right now. Having said that, I am a huge fan of Yaya Sanogo, and I'm desperate for him to score his first competitive goal! I actually expect him to lead the line in the season opener against Palace, mainly because Giroud probably isn't 100% in terms of match fitness. It's just so fun to watch him flail his limbs around and confuse the opposition. Realistically, though I accept that Giroud should be first choice in the position; one of my favorite things about Olivier is that he always points to or kisses the badge when he scores, and I love to see that passion for the Club in our players. Where do you stand on the strikers, Andy? Are you as sold as I am about Yaya?
Andy: I don't know if I'm quite as sold on our weekly reminder than Wham! was actually a thing, but I am optimistic for the future. Yaya should get some league cup starts at the very least and his presence in the lineup for any important matches will depend on his development and performances in the games he does see. It's exciting to have Joel Campbell around as well but I think this comes down to another season where Giroud is the featured striker and anyone else seeing time up front is doing so in order to spell the main man.
I don't think that's a bad thing either, which would make me the subject of all kinds of hate tweets if I had more than 79-odd followers (it's exactly 79, trust me, I know). For the life of me I can't understand why our fan base will not accept Giroud for what he is: a traditional number nine with excellent passing skills and superb hold-up play. He's not going to wow you with technical brilliance and no, he doesn't have quite the poacher's instinct that we want. But he brings our other offensive players in brilliantly and when you have the likes of Sanchez, Walcott, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ox, and others buzzing around him, that's a very important talent to have.
The main change from the 2013-2014 Arsenal Offense Featuring Olivier Giroud should be Sanchez seeing some time up top as well, either to spell Giroud or to work with him if tactics dictate it. I know that not everyone is sold on this idea as people don't think the Chilean is tall enough or whatever other dumb things people say, but I'm quite excited to have the option of a pacy, clever striker who will stretch defenses and provide options for the creativity of the midfielders. It will be something of an experiment, but one that could provide serious dividends if successful.