Arsenal – Modus Operandi: Team Selection in the FA Cup

The Situation

For a side still in three competitions and with injuries racking up, prioritisation of targets has to be number one on the agenda right now at Arsenal. Just one point off the top of the league, many would suggest they put all their eggs into that basket and discard the FA Cup and Champions League. However, it seems that the FA Cup is the competition that many fans want to win, if only because it seems the most likely source of ending the barren run without a trophy.

Just one week ago, Modus Operandi covered Arsene Wenger’s team selection and the verdict came in fairly negative. A lot of underperforming players were still in the team, and some obvious starters were omitted, without good reason. After the 5-1 defeat to Liverpool that weekend, a vast majority were dreading the FA Cup game against the same opponents. Would Wenger heed the advice of Twitter, pub locals and the media?

The scenario was only made slightly more enticing given the fact that Arsenal face Bayern Munich on Wednesday and have to consider that, as well as a tricky next six weeks. With a squad as thin as this one, Wenger and his team have some decisions to make.

Arsenal – Modus Operandi: Team Selection in the FA Cup

Modus OperandiThe Decision

Interestingly, and quite scarily, the team sheets came out and shocked a lot of people. Arsenal’s side featured six players who would not normally start, whilst Liverpool’s featured just three. Yaya Sanogo was selected to lead the line and this was a bold move, gambling on an unproven striker to help banish the team that had so easily brushed them aside just a week before. Nacho Monreal was also in the side. The same Monreal who had been caught out by pace, positioning and other things in pretty much every game he went to.

With Carl Jenkinson at right-back and Lukasz Fabianski in goal, it seemed Suarez et al would have a field day, running riot once again. Where was Tomas Rosicky? Where was Kieron Gibbs? Did Bacary Sagna not deserve a place in the line up for a match that could lead the team to glory?

Of course, much of this selection decision will have been made due to midweek games, but does the club really not want to seek out glory in one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments.

The Verdict

By the beard of Zeus, it worked! Every player that had doubt surrounding them seemed to work twice as hard and play better than they have in quite a while. In goal, Fabianski was a monster, making a few brilliant saves and forcing Wenger to stand up and take notice.

In defence, although they all worked extremely well, Monreal (the usual big game screw-up) worked his socks off and was the best defender on the pitch, for either side. Jenkinson also did well in keeping Raheem Sterling quite quiet.

The midfield worked well and seemed to be a bit of a trump combination. Lukas Podolski showed industry and, dare it be said, looked to be a favourable option with Mesut Ozil, over Santi Cazorla. The final bright sparks for Arsenal in their team had to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sanogo.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was easily man of the match and he looked to have matured. His head seemed screwed on for one of the biggest games in Arsenal’s season. Sanogo was simply a nuisance. He hassled and tussled with Daniel Agger for his entire time on the pitch, and came out on top in most cases. He played a key role in the game and his physical style was reminiscent of Didier Drogba, albeit a very, very unrefined version of the great Ivorian.

Overall, the decision with the team cannot be faulted. It rested key players and the team is still in the cup, with Everton up next in the quarter finals. Good work, Arsenal!


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