Thursday, March 30, 2023

Should This Arsenal Midfielder Be Dropped Against Watford Next Weekend?

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Arka Tarun Mukherjee
Arsenal fan and football expert, Arka Tarun Mukherjee actually used to play cricket at semi pro level. An ardent student of football tactics, ATM is very passionate about the tactical aspects of the game and has a dream of being a football manager in the future.

Arsenal drew with Leicester City away from home to open their account in the points table for the current season. After the disappointing loss to Liverpool at home in the previous week, it was absolutely mandatory for the side to get some points from the tie and they were expected to win it despite the threat of the home team with their pace up front. Last year Arsenal defeated Leicester 5-2 at the King Power with Alexis Sanchez grabbing a hat-trick. This time round, there were some concerns regarding the defence but the return of Laurent Koscielny eased things at the back.

Wenger was a bit concerned with his backline and he thus fielded Francis Coquelin with Granit Xhaka in the deep midfield to provide them more protection. The decision to start with Coquelin was also partly due to the fact that Ramsey was injured and Santi Cazorla was required to play in a much advanced position than usual, as the manager didn’t want to take another chance of an injury by playing Mesut Ozil from the start. Ozil did come onto the pitch late in the game to replace Cazorla and immediately made an impact but the team was unable to finish off the chances.

The biggest problem with Coquelin, all throughout, has been his recklessness. While he displays tremendous fighting spirit, he lacks maturity and lunges into the tackles far too often. Against Leicester, after picking up his first yellow card as early as in the 22nd minute, the Frenchman continued to commit fouls and taking chances and was very lucky to stay on the pitch for the full length of 90 minutes. The very fact that he continued to test the patience of the referee who could have very well sent him off, putting Arsenal in real danger of losing two games in a row.

The defensive midfielder also didn’t do too much with the possession and played just 12 passes in the forward region when the team lacked the cutting edge and unpredictability in the opposition half. The limitations of Coquelin in possession have prompted Wenger to buy Xhaka who combines the hard tackling with his neat passing attribute. Also, when Jack Wilshere came on as a late sub on Saturday, he showed how he is able to provide the drive from the midfield which brought some urgency in the attacking phase.

In the coming weeks, it would be better for the team if Xhaka is paired with the likes of Wilshere or Cazorla depending on whether Ozil plays or not, for with the French defensive midfielder on the pitch, the Gunners do lose their ability to exploit multiple lanes of passing with the quick incisive give and go’s creating spaces in the midfield. Wilshere and Cazorla are both quite capable of providing the defensive cover with Xhaka, who is very good in holding his position, but will offer a lot more in terms of passing and intelligent gameplay from deep midfield.

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