Recent games have dealt with the notion of ‘Arry as a tactical buffoon in no uncertain manner. In days gone by the signing of VDV, the plan to loan Bale to Nottingham Forest and the instruction to Pav to “go out there and f***ing run about” did little for our glorious leader’s reputation as tactical genius, and was grist to the mill of a whole army or interweb critics (mea culpa) who lambasted him for doing little more than closing his eyes, pinning a tail on a donkey and accepting the plaudits as his blind gamble paid off.
Lambast him no more, all ye armchair genii. ‘Arry’s switch to 3-5-2 and wing-backs against Stoke was a laudable moment of lateral thinking, which rather got swallowed up in the whole furore over referee Chris Foy, his trips to Specsavers and his Olympic cycling performances.
Then last week against Norwich, when faced with the non-Lennon problem again, he hit upon the startlingly effective idea of letting Walker and BAE take care of the flanks, and giving VDV and Bale free roles.
Whether this would work against Top Four types is still up for debate, but freeing Bale from the shackles of the left wing proved one of the best ideas since that chap in the bakery stopped juggling knives for lunchtime entertainment of his colleagues, and decided instead to plunge the things into the midst of the loaves and see what transpired.
The free role for Bale makes it dashed difficult for opposing Neanderthals to double- or triple-mark him, and also carries the potential for further ripping gallops straight down the centre, a la his second goal against Norwich. All those who can think of the foggiest reason why why this same strategy might not work again today, comment now or forever hold your breath in awe as Bale cuts swathes through the Swansea back-four.
Given that our fixture list tends to burst at the seams at this time of year, there may be a reason for a spot of starting XI rotation – but frankly that has rarely been ‘Arry’s modus operandi, so we can all probably close our eyes and reel off the starting XI right this minute. Play our usual game and it will be three more points to end the year.
All the best for 2012, ye lovely lovely people.