There is a wise old adage that says you should never change a winning team, and it’s difficult to disagree.
When a team is on a roll, playing some of its best football in years, it would seem foolish to then switch things around and risk bringing all the hard-earned momentum to a juddering halt.
But what if that team has played a lot of football over the last few weeks? And what if that football has been impressively high-intensity, requiring players to go above and beyond in pursuit of victory?
And factor in the history of the team, a history that is littered with long-term, season-ruining injuries that have, on occasion, seen title-challenging outfits melt away into quivering ruins.
When taken in that context, you start to wonder if it’s worth bending the rules of that wise old adage – just a little – in pursuit of the greater good.
When Arsene looks at this weekend’s Burnley game, he should really do so with three points in mind. It’s not a game that we should be losing, not if we harbour series ambitions to challenge for the league title.
Burnley are an incredibly hard-working, industrious side and worthy of respect, but they’re certainly not Barcelona and it is a game we should be well capable of winning.
With plenty of football ahead, and bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks, is it worth Arsene shuffling the pack for the Burnley game, if only a little?
Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, and Alexis Sanchez have been in unbelievable form of late – Theo Walcott, too. Injuries to any one of them could prove a real set back for a team in the early stages of a title bid.
We have players on the bench who are raring to get on the pitch and put themselves in contention for a starting berth. I think of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Lucas Perez, Olivier Giroud, and Mohamed Elneny.
In seasons past I have sometimes looked to the bench and dreaded some of the players who sat there, and the damage they could cause if given the chance (Mikael Silvestre please stand up). I don’t get that feeling with a bench featuring those players, they are all very capable and experienced.
They will all have trained and worked hard on the new system of play that Arsene has introduced, and should all be ready to slot into the side and carry out the requirements of their position accordingly.
It shouldn’t be a big gamble to start two or three of them this weekend. It shouldn’t be a gamble to keep our leading lights in reserve, only to be called upon in the direst of circumstances.
A lot of fans and pundits argue that you should always field your best side, let them get the job done and then look to make substitutions in the second half. There is, of course, a great deal of merit in that. It’s an entirely sensible outlook.
But this is Arsenal and, if we do one thing better than most sides, it’s multiple injuries to key players.
I want to win the game. I want Arsenal to spank Burnley for eight and then parade around Turf Moor to the tune of Rocking All Over the World. But what I really, really don’t want to see is Sanchez or Ozil laid low because they are knackered after five or six sets of 90 minutes in the last fortnight.
We talk a great deal about game management as a team, holding onto and protecting a lead when we have it. I think we should also give some thought to player management, too.
These guys are finely tuned athletes, of course, but they are human as well. They are susceptible to tweaks, tears and strains. We have seen with Aaron Ramsey the danger of pushing players into action when caution might have been a better choice.
So, before it’s too late, let’s save some of the players some miles on the clock so they can better be used in the bigger games.
If all goes to plan, this could be a long season, one in which the games really start to stack up the deeper into it we go. We’re going to need all of our leading lights to be at their best throughout, so we must make sure we manage them into the finishing straight and through the straight.
If Arsene decides to make a few changes to the team that starts against Burnley, there are certain to be howls of derision and calls for his head. There always are. That’s football. But, if you think of the bigger picture, it may not seem so daft.