With the league season winding down and the FA Cup final on the horizon, Arsene Wenger’s squad has looked tired and had a couple games where they’ve been firing blanks. As a result, the Frenchman rotated his squad. The rotation paid dividends with a 4-1 win.
Two players that were rotated in for this one were English internationals Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Walcott bagged himself a hat trick, while Wilshere scored what was later voted as the BBC goal of the season. Both players have dealt with injuries over the course of the season and have seen very little first team football. But, with their recent performances, they have given Arsene Wenger a serious selection headache for the FA Cup final.
Jack Wilshere has had another season where he has struggled with injuries. His start midweek against Sunderland was his first in over six months. This hasn’t been the season the young Englishman had been hoping for, but, since coming back from this most recent injury, he has looked very good. He has been mostly deployed on the right wing and playing in that position seems to be doing him a world of good. He has provided drive and attacking impetus every time he has come off the bench, and he did the same against West Brom. His goal was spectacular, but his overall performance was even better. Starting out on the right wing, we saw the best of Jack Wilshere. He was constantly drifting past defenders, playing quick one twos, and creating chances for teammates.
Theo Walcott played in his favored position as a central striker, and it worked out quite well. The 26 year old bagged himself a hat trick by the 36th minute. He was unplayable in the first 45, and, like Wilshere, built on impressive recent substitute appearances. Theo’s had a very tough last 15 months. He missed 12 months through injury, and he has been used sparingly by Arsene Wenger since coming back from injury. These are the types of performances that Theo Walcott can put in. When he is on form he is nearly impossible to handle and can win games by himself.
The pair of players breathed some life into what has recently been a flat Arsenal team. So now Arsene Wenger has to make the decision whether to start them in the cup final. Neither of them are in the “first choice XI” at the moment, but that first choice XI has struggled recently. They’ve been playing Aaron Ramsey on the right with Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in a midfield two, Mesut Ozil as the number 10, Alexis on the left, and Olivier Giroud up top. The Frenchman has been trying to fit all of his best players in the same XI and has got mixed results from it. The first game with this XI was one of their best performances of the season with their 4-1 win vs Liverpool. Since then though, they’ve been shutout multiple times, and the only time they’ve scored more than one goal was against the back three of Hull City.
The numbers look pretty poor for this XI, but the question is who do you drop? Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are both better right wingers than Aaron Ramsey, but you can’t drop the Welshman in a game like this. He’s a big game player and he brings goals to the team. Really, there seem to be two players that could be dropped for this game; Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. I doubt both will be dropped, which makes it look like Jack Wilshere will start on the bench. Theo Walcott’s hat trick and goals give him a chance to start. Giroud, as good as he is, has been out of form recently. He’s gone eight appearances without a goal and has looked very tired over recent games. The Englishman brings something totally different to his French compatriot. His movement and willingness to get in behind is something different that could be threatening to Villa. The other option would be to drop Santi Cazorla, move Aaron Ramsey to the middle and start Walcott wide right. The Englishmen’s lack of defensive work in front of the young Hector Bellerin would be a worry if he was to start, but his goal and ability to stretch the defence could be very helpful.
This will be a much discussed subject in the build up to the final. Thinking about it, I don’t know who to start. Arsene Wenger gets paid the big money to make tough decisions like this. There’s no room for sentiment when it comes to a cup final and you have to take form into account, so it’ll be interesting what decisions Arsene Wenger makes with these two English internationals.