Many surprises happened during the London derby between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates yesterday. Arsenal for only the fourth time in all competitions this season, failed to score and also mustered only two shots on target with the first coming late in the second half (85th minute) but the climax of the drama was Wenger’s refusal to ring changes during the course of the match. Le Prof didn’t effect a single substitution throughout the game.
That decision would have been understandable if there were no experienced players on the bench but there were a la Cazorla, Podolski and Flamini but the Frenchman elected to stick with the team that started. Trust fans and pundits, they have been quick to criticize that action but also trust Wenger to defend himself even when faced with assault rifles. Hear him,
“I felt we had the balance defensively and we had four or five offensive players on the pitch” said Arsène Wenger
Asked why he didn’t call on any of his substitutes, Wenger replied: “Because I had plenty of offensive players on the pitch and we were in the need to attack. I had Theo Walcott, I had Aaron Ramsey, I had Mesut Özil, I had Olivier Giroud, I had Tomas Rosicky, and because we didn’t play for nine days none of them looked really jaded.
“That’s why… I felt we had the balance defensively and we had four or five offensive players on the pitch, let’s continue to do that. And we had the chances, of course. When you don’t score you don’t score.”
Interesting to hear what Wenger got to say. It is understandable if he didn’t bring on Podolski since the German was just returning from injury and it would be stupid to loose him for a longer period in a bid to get 3 points that wasn’t even guaranteed if he had come in but the refusal to bring in Cazorla surprised me. The Spaniard was an unused substitute against City and now against Chelsea. I agree he hasn’t really gotten the form that saw him light the Premier League last season which was his maiden season but his exploits against Liverpool meant he could have done something had he been brought in for the ineffectual Walcott. The Englishman was rendered ineffective owing to the lack of space which is what he usually looks for but a man with quick feet and silky skills like Cazorla could have offered a different kind of trouble for the sturdy Chelsea backline.
Wenger is a weird man with his substitutions, leaves them late and at times few but yesterday he went a new high by not using at all. My take is that his goof against City could have played on his mind. He must have been keen not to tinker with a team that maybe wasn’t looking like winning but was doing well defending which was in tandem with his new philosophy which is if you can’t win the game, don’t loose it and that was what they held out for.