Wenger got it right! Underlines the power of picking the right players in the right positions
The result was a nil-nil against a team that was taking a cautious approach. Nonetheless, Saturday's Arsenal team selection by Arsene Wenger for the match against Man Utd - and congratulations to them for being very worthy champions - struck me from the outset as correct all the way down the team line-up.
It shows that Arsene Wenger - as you would expect despite ridiculous media hyped-up hysteria that would want you to believe the contrary - is still an analyst to believe in.
Number one good move: Playing Alex Song at centre-back. For me this is the position that is best for Song and for Arsenal. For sure he can do solid job as the anchor Central midfielder - but for me he does not quite have the attacking instincts, nimbleness of movement and forward passing skills to be a top player in this position. Indeed, this was shown in the big games that Arsenal had against Man Utd in the Champs league - an inablilty to apply forward pressure against them left too much of a burden on Cesc/Nasri to launch attacks, who in turn were shutdown by the stampeding Fletcher, Anderson and Carrick.
Number two good move: Playing Denilson in the anchor role. Denilson is my player of the season. I like his hard working attitude and his ability on the ball. Why Arsene Wenger decided he should be left out for Alex Song in the Champs League semis is beyond me. Even a non-Arsenal fan but very astute analyst - Andy Gray - said the same in the commentary yesterday, saying that he feels Arsenal have lacked without Denilson in the midfield. So it was great to see Denny back in the proper first team yesterday - and again for me he had a very solid game.
Number three good move: not playing Mikael Silvestre. Silvestre has the unforunate distinction of having played in two four four draws this season - plus conceding another four against Chelsea last week. For sure these defensive nightmares for Arsenal can't all be pinned on Slivestre - but for me he is noticeably an unsteady centre-back who appears far past his best when playing for Man Utd at left back around six or seven years ago. Song is far better than Silvestre at CB - and must always be the preferred option if there is an available centre-back slot.
Number four good move: keeping Walcott on the bench away from home. Walcott is a superb player in the making. However, when he starts on the right side of midfield away from home the opposition team have an advantage. Walcott is not a natural midfielder and does not have good defensive instincts or ability. This means that the home team have a better chance of winning the midfield battle and getting in our defence. And if you are playing against very good opponents you are then asking for problems. Moreover, Walcott is an excellent impact substitute, as he has shown a couple of times at Anfield in the last two seasons. Putting the speedster on fresh when the game is stretched and the opposition is tired is always a positive move. Next season Rosicky - we all hope! - will be back. With him and Nasri well adept as solid right hand side midfielders, I hope Wenger declines to use Walcott as a starting right winger next season - and instead promotes him to the centre-forward line.
Number five good move: having a right midfielder on right midfield. Basically an extension of the argument above. Having Nasri on the right midfield tightened up the defensive side of our midfield and consequently the whole team had a better stability.
Number six good move: keeping out an out of form Adebayor. After his FA Cup semi final and Champs League first leg performances, I would have dropped Ade and have opted for the in-form Nicklas Bendtner to have started the second leg against Manchester United. Adebayor's demeanour is not good at the moment and he does not look to have a good focus on the game or Arsenal at present. Arsenal need eleven players who are ready to give their all with full focus - and with Ade in the team we would only be getting on 10 and a half players which is not good enough.
Number seven good move: keeping Diaby in central midfield. Please Arsene - do not play Diaby on the left wing anymore like you did in the first leg at Old Trafford. It just doesn't work against world class teams to play a gangly central midfielder on the wing.
Aside from these good moves which gave me confidence before the match on Saturday that we'd see a more stable Arsenal team there was one other move which is very intriguing.
Number one intriguing move: Keeping Cesc in the 'hole'. I prefer to see Cesc play deeper so he can get on the ball earlier from defence, take control of the tempo of the game, and pick out his incisive forward passes. Wenger said last month that he believes Cesc is better at playing deeper and gave reasons to back it up.
So why does Wenger persist in playing him in the 'hole'? Is it because he has someone lined up to play Cesc's naturally deeper position next season and he is trying to groove Cesc in the 'hole' position to accomodate this new player? Is it because Wenger has found out that Xavi Alonso would be willing to come to the Emirates if Liverpool agreed to sell him? Is this the core reason why Cesc is stil being played in the 'hole'?
I would find this move to be an exciting development were it to happen (with respect to my Liverpool supporting colleagues here at EFT).
Saturday for me showed what a difference it makes to get the team selection right. Arsene in my opinion went off the boil in the last month in terms of his team selections for big games. It was reassuring and very good to see him get back on track on Saturday.