Do Arsenal now have England’s left-sided problem?
Plety of options on the flank for Arsene Wenger, but none seem to be working
Arsene Wenger does not take kindly to people questioning his managerial acumen, and some would say his record probably gives him the right to do so.
But when two different journalists inquired as to why the Frenchman had decided to play Aaron Ramsey in a left-sided attacking role at Loftus Road on Saturday, he probably knew what they were getting at.
The Welsh midfielder looked like a fish out of water shunted out on the flank and was replaced by Gervinho for the final 20 minutes, and the media weren’t the only ones wondering quite why Wenger had asked him to play there.
“He played there because I picked the team and told him to play there,” said Wenger, tersely. “It is not something new, he has played there before.”
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He may not play there again, however, after a truly anonymous display that was one of the many reasons Arsenal created so little going forward against QPR.
The decision highlighted a new selection problem for Wenger, which has its roots in the impressive form of Tomas Rosicky. The Czech midfielder has excelled in the last month in the central attacking role that used to be the domain of Cesc Fabregas, and briefly that of Ramsey.
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With Alex Song and Mikel Arteta the mainstays in front of the back four during the recent winning run, there are no places available in central positions, but that is not the case out wide.
Arsenal’s left-sided problem is not yet on the scale of England’s, who have struggled for about the last 20 years, but it is becoming an issue.
It is even more of a shame given the excellent recent form of Kieran Gibbs, who looks to have the technique and energy to be an attacking full-back in the mould of Ashley Cole.
Wenger’s problem now is to find the solution to the man in front of him. Cole had Robert Pires operating ahead of him, a partnership that was nigh-on perfect and saw the Gunners win four trophies in three years between 2001 and 2005.
There is certainly no Pires now, even if the great man can be seen on most match days at the Emirates. Gervinho has had an indifferent season, even more so since his trip to the Africa Cup of Nations where his miss for Ivory Coast in the penalty shoot-out final defeat to Zambia appears to have drained his confidence.
The man who started the season in the position, Andrey Arshavin, is now back in his native St Petersburg on loan, while Yossi Benayoun is another who Wenger seems reluctant to play there despite his decent track record of doing so for Liverpool and Chelsea.
Ramsey has been given the job almost by default, but there is little doubt who most Arsenal fans would like to see given a game or two on the left or in fact, anywhere, and it is not Marouane Chamakh.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain only came on after 81 minutes at Loftus Road, but in that brief time showed more appetite for the battle than most of his team-mates had done all afternoon.
Wenger feels the 18-year-old is not 100 per cent fit at the moment, which might be behind his omission from the starting line-up for the last three games.
However, after Ramsey’s display at QPR, Wenger might feel he has little alternative but to unleash the Ox on Manchester City on Sunday.