Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Time for Plan B to step up

"When people tell us "you have no Plan B' he gives us a little bit. We always want to play football be he gives us an option in the air that we don't have without him."

- Arsene Wenger, who believes Bendtner is Plan B for every scenario

About this time last year, I had the thought that Wenger took the whole "Plan B" idea a bit too literally. The press had criticised the Arsenal for always wanting to pass the ball into the net, and for not having alternatives when the opposition defended narrow and deep. They criticised Wengerball for lacking a Plan B.

Last year, it seemed that Wenger had found that Plan B - Nicky Bendtner. He's good in the air, holds up the ball and provides a bit of directness. Perplexingly, though, Wenger used him as Plan B for every situation. If we were one goal up and needed to keep possession, we'd send on Bendtner. If we were a goal down and needed an equaliser, we'd send on Bendtner. If we were three goals up and lording it up, we'd send on Bendtner. It got to the point where I was worried that Wenger thought a Plan B had to involve a player with a "B" in his name.

Anyway, it turns out I was right - Wenger uses players with a "B" as his Plan B. Eboue's the other one; Wenger always brings him on if he takes off one of the wingers. I still think Wenger's taking it too literally, but it seems to be working. Bendtner's really coming along as a centre-forward, and Eboue's playing out of his skin.

Up against Barcelona tomorrow night, and we're up against it. Gallas, Cesc, Song and Arshavin are all out. It's time for Plan B to step up. Bendy up front to occupy the centre-backs. Eboue on the left to mark out Alves. Theo Balcott on the right to offer pace. And we need Diaby in the middle to have the game of his life and actually put in a defensive shift.

I think we can do it. I don't think it's likely, but I think we have a chance of beating Barca tomorrow. We're at our best when we're written off and the odds are stacked against us. We play without the handbrake then. Remember that game against Chelsea last season, when we were written off and trailing at half time? That could be us again come tomorrow night.

One-nil to the Arsenal will do me nicely.

Considering the injuries we've had this year, it wouldn't surprise me if Wenger's going after a Plan C next season. He's already signed Chamakh on a Bosman. Rosicky (when fit) deputises for Arshavin. Walcott should get more playing time next season. Campbell can be resigned for another year. And with Plans A, B and C in motion next year, there's no way we'll be caught out by injuries.

But spare a thought for poor Carlos Vela. He won't get a look in unless Wenger goes all the way down to "Plan V". Maybe he should think about changing his name to Carlos Bela?

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