A few managers ago, perhaps even as far back as last year, I got quite good at guessing the team. Maybe, you might think, it was because there were few good players to pick then. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
12 months ago (December 6th, 2014) against Liverpool, under Gus, we fielded Pants, John O’Shea, Jonno, Jordi Gomez and Catts, along with Jozi and Connor Wickham. Seb was on the bench and came on for Catts; Fletch was on the bench and stayed there. I won’t go through the entire match squad, other than to say Danny Graham (I saw him score) wasn’t in it and nor was Coates.
Two weeks later, at the the Sid James derby, you might remember Rodwell appearing on the bench alongside Coates, who came on before the kickoff after Reveillere was injured in the warm-up. Danny Graham (ISHS) still wasn’t in evidence despite the praise he had had for his role in the corresponding game just the season before, under Paolo. Was he out on loan, had he been recalled or was he just not wanted? I really can’t remember and I really don’t care (and thankyou statcat for the data).
Whatever Danny Graham’s status, I think I’ve done enough to demonstrate not only that the manager had some flexibility and some choices but that he also used them.
Sam’s now in the same position as Gus was then. He’s beginning to develop a fixed core and they’re doing well but he also has some flexibility. He has some decisions to make, some of which are forced (e.g. injuries to Defoe and Seb), some of which aren’t (e.g. Jones is back from suspension).
This time, though, I’m not so sure what he’ll do. Will he keep Yedlin, who did OK against Stoke, or bring back Billy Jones? Will he drop Patrick to make way for both of them, despite his well-taken goal last week?
It’s the same in midfield. Seb’s out, who will replace him? Lens might seem like the obvious choice as he’s been coming on from the bench but could Rodwell fill in to strengthen the spine and support the back three? Or Jordi Gomez, perhaps, in order to boost attacking options? If not him what about Jonno, a class act if ever there was one but sometimes liable to fade?
On the theme of attacking options, who will replace Defoe? Watmore’s goal might justify his inclusion but he’s still raw. Would Borini’s style and workrate better suit what will be a hard contest, where we risk being overrun in midfield. Or is it worth giving Danny bloody Graham (ISHS) a start to take the edges off their defence?
I must add that I wrote all of this before Malcolm gave his opinion in a response to the the Arsenal “guess the score” post. And, just as Malcolm knows what he’d do, I know what I’d do. The thing is, unlike a year or two ago, I’m nowhere near confident that it’s what Sam would do.
Therefore, I’m handing the job over to you.
Assume Pants, Coates, O’Shea, Kaboul, Catts, M’Villa and Fletch(mm?) will start against Arsenal. That leaves four places up for grabs, in attack, midfield and on the wings as defenders or wingbacks.
Who will fill them?
You can give a view by completing the survey.
You have up to four choices. In addition, and here’s your chance for fame, you can leave comments.
Don’t, by the way, tell me I know nowt about football. That’s a given.