Arsene Wenger‘s team selection for Arsenal‘s 2-1 FA Cup win over Liverpool was wise and spot on.
The fantastic cup tie was revenge for Arsenal after their 1-5 defeat away at Liverpool last week in the Premier League. With Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in the Champions League, it is a huge week for the club.
Wenger’s players are going to undergo some physical strains this week and the squad selection inevitably would reflect that. The first test, Liverpool saw Wenger name a team sheet that at first many saw as too week. But it was spot on and showed all his experience.
Goalkeeping duties were left to Lukas Fabianski as Wojciech Szczesny was rested. People took that as if Wenger perhaps didn’t care for the FA Cup all that much. Many will feel a goal keeper doesn’t need rest, they exert little physical energy. But the it was a mental rest. The stresses and concentration levels of having to be ready for endless runs of big matches — as Arsenal is currently — will get to all his players. That’s why Szczesny wasn’t even on the bench, it was a chance to prepare mentally for the huge Munich game.
Trust comes into play too. Resting several of his usual first team players was perhaps a risk, but the replacements were wise picks. They need to be fresh for Wednesday. Carl Jenkinson was always going to give Wenger 100 percent in effort and the trust was given to him. Bacary Sagna may well have had tired legs had he played, and it’s likely Liverpool would have exploited that.
Wenger also knew that it would be a chance to mentally put things with Liverpool right. That’s why the likes of Nacho Monreal and the usual partnership of Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny were given 90 minutes again; they were torn apart at Anfield, but trust was given and they performed extremely well.
Obviously, 21 year old Yaya Sanogo was the big talking point though. His first start for the club and first appearance in months triggered worry among Arsenal fans pre-match. But again, trust was given as it so often is by Wenger to his players. Sanogo performed very admirably. Certainly for what was effectively a debut he bullied two strong Liverpool central defenders and presented to the Emirates Stadium his dangerous sides and effort.
Wenger gave him nearly 90 minutes and a huge confidence will not only now be installed in Sanogo, but also the Arsenal fans, who initially feared they had no credible back up for Olivier Giroud.
The selections weren’t necessarily anything tactical. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini were the obvious midfield options anyway, though they did suit the occasion. But the use of squad rotation and trust from Wenger could prove pivotal to their season. Just like he has done in transfer windows, he has faith in the players on the fringes of the first team and gives them chances to succeed.
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