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Should Reyes be put to one side for now?
25 February  2004

Last nights result was fantastic. Maybe the game shouldn't have ended up as close as it did, but three away goals is an excellent advantage to take back home with us.
Celta are not exactly having the best of season's but last night was never going to be easy. But what game is at this stage of the season. We gifted them their two goals. Their second came at a time in the game when we were just about to take over, but they scored and it put a hault to that moment. We were never in trouble against them, and this new improved self belief the team have this season was on show for all to see.
We no longer panic, we take our time, we believe we will score and we look like we have learnt every lesson last season offered us.
We are now doing it in Europe as well as domestically, how far this takes us in the Champions League this season is really in the hands of the players. They can go all the way if they believe it. And this season they look like they do. But I will stop short of saying anything stupid like "we will win it"... too many years of thinking that and ending up kicking next doors cat have taught me to just see what happens.

But there was something about last nights game that worried me just a little.
I don't know how alone I am in thinking this, but after seeing Reyes and Henry play together, I got the feeling it might be better to leave the squad well alone until the end of the season. By this I mean, leave Reyes to one side unless he is needed. Of course you can not pay that much for a player and then just not use him totally, but the team didn't look 100% comfy with him playing up front with Henry last night.

First off I would like to say that I think Reyes will be one hell of a player for us. When we first signed him I did raise an eyebrow but I think we have all seen enough to know we have a special player here. But he is still settling in. He will one day very soon be a great Arsenal player. We have seen from his movement and skill that he will add something to our game. The trouble is, at the moment he is learning how to play in the team. Like Henry, he does like to drift to the left hand side of the pitch during games. What I noticed last night was Henry staying more to the right to allow Reyes this space. We have noticed before that Henry will try and change his game slightly to allow others in the team to feel comfy.  When ever Jeffers played, Henry would go out of his way to set him up rather than go on a run that would give himself a goalscoring chance. Credit to Henry for that, but last night I felt this effected his game a bit. As usual he was crowded out whenever he got the ball, but Henry is able to fly past defenders no trouble at all. Last night his mind seemed elsewhere, like he was more aware of where he was rather than what he was going to do next. Was this because Reyes was on the pitch? Was he aware that too many players floating off to the left would over crowd? Or was he just having an off game? Was he simply man marked by a better standard of defender than he is used to in The Premiership?

My gut feeling was that he was too aware of Reyes and trying to make that partnership work. As a one of statement that does sound stupid I admit. But I felt that just took the edge of our play a little. It also of course, I think, effected the link up play between Pires and Henry. That side of our game was far to quiet, but as soon as Reyes came off, Pires and Henry linked up and we scored the winner. Almost straight away. Henry and Pires were back.
As I say, Reyes will one day (and very soon) be a huge Arsenal player. But would it make sense to maybe leave him to one side for the remainder of the season, or indeed give him more time to adapt maybe in training before using him again? This season we are on the verge of something very special. Records are being broken again and the big prizes are there for us to win. Does it make sense to disrupt the flow right now? At the moment Reyes doesn't fit in quite like Kanu, Wiltord or Dennis. I know last night the options were more limited with Dennis missing, but I would have started with Kanu. The team looked more balanced when he came on.

I could of course be thinking too cautious. The thought of missing out might be making me think like this.
Are the team simply not good enough to allow Reyes to come in now and get used to playing for Arsenal?
I have no logical reason to think they aren't, but who ever we come up against next in the Champions League from now on (should we get through of course)  are going to be twice as strong defensively. What if we need a goal and the free flowing forward play isn't quite up too speed for the same reasons I felt last night?

As I say, I could be very much alone in this thinking. And would Wenger have even used Reyes if Dennis was at the game? Maybe not.
But remember the tale of Rodney Marsh signing for Man City in 1972 (I think it was) and his introduction cost then an almost certain League title. It just disrupted the team just that little bit. Rodney of course went on to be a sensation at City, but they should have just left alone and put him to one side until they had sown everything up.

I could be madly wrong, and would love nothing better than for Reyes to suddenly find his feet and see us home in this final sprint. But something is nagging me in the back of my head that disruption now could cost us something.

The Ginge

andyw@theginge.com
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