Unless we have a team of goldfish, I wonder what the players feel about being caught out twice in the same manner in a matter of days. At a goal up I'd imagine that keeping our shape, making us hard to break down and then using the pace we had in Alexis, Chamberlain and Welbeck. That's even before Theo Walcott comes onto the pitch. Why are we risking being caught after we have fought so hard to get ahead in the first place? Arsène Wenger said in his recent interview that he would have been slaughtered for sitting off at 3-0 and getting punished and yes he has a point but surely it is more difficult to concede when you attempt to protect a lead rather than invite the opposition who are desperately looking for a goal, to exploit huge spaces that you have charitably left behind.
Alexis Sanchez has scored 4 goals in his last two games playing in a free role behind Danny Welbeck, judging by Arsène Wenger's comments post match it doesn't seem as if he is willing to change that anytime soon. It was from those central positions where our summer signing scored his goals. On 70 Alexis timed his run to perfection to meet the flight of a Calum Chambers cross. His determination and
Arsène Wenger threw us all a curveball. Not only did he revert back to 4-2-3-1 but instead of using Santi Cazorla behind Danny Welbeck he gave that role to our big summer signing. Alexis Sanchez had played a large part of his career at Udinese behind Antonio Di Natale and he proved to be a star in that role. Alexis had started the season like a fireball without much direction. His passing was erratic and he wasn't on the same wavelength as the rest of his colleagues. Since then Alexis Sanchez has been the undisputed technical leader of this team. We have the Chilean to thank for bailing us out against Hull City, Anderlecht and now Sunderland. I don't think I can remember a player at Arsenal so forceful at stamping his personality on games
That goal hit us like a huge uppercut to the chin, we were all over the place and could not stand straight for ten minutes, in which time the home side should have put us to bed. They had the chances but failed to make it count. They actually reminded me of a young Arsenal team during the periods 2009-2011. Going ahead, missing chances and then showboating. As time was ticking down the Anderlecht players started flicking the ball to each other and over elaborating when seeing the game out should have been the goal.
Alexis rather majestically body swerved past his man and drilled low into the far corner I thought we had done the hard part, the rest of the game should open up because we had broken through the two banks of four nice and early and ruined the oppositions game plan. Except the referee and his assistant had other ideas. This is the point where I am supposed to add the footballing disclaimer. Telling you that it is not to excuse our performance and that all of the blame must lie with ourselves.
Many of the plaudits will deservedly go to hat-trick hero Daniel Nii Tackie Welbeck and I'll come onto him in a moment but for me that first half was all about Santi Cazorla. When reading the line up before kick off I imagined that Oxlade-Chamberlain would be the one to come inside and replace Aaron Ramsey with Santi playing his usual role on the left, but instead Arsene went with the Spaniard as our number 8. Perhaps Arsene wanted to give the distribution duties to somebody more capable than Mathieu Flamini. Maybe Arsene wanted to get the ball to Özil early and accurately. That was certainly the case in that first half. The speed of which Cazorla shifts the ball between his feet and then finding his team mate floating into small pockets of space was a joy to watch
Arsène had reverted back to the 4-1-4-1 system that I imagine will be used for a little while yet. Given the Özil and Welbeck chemistry shown at Villa Park last weekend, I am surprised that the same system was not deployed. Alexis Sanchez started on the bench for the second league game in a row. I am guessing here but I reckon that Arsène believes that Alexis is disrupting the fluidity of the attack with
- Aston Villa (a) Floodgates opened and closed in four minutes spell
- Borussia Dortmund (a) - Arsenal suffocated & destroyed by Dortmund's pressing machine
- Manchester City (h) - Encouraging attacking, disheartening defending & Thoughts on Özil & 4-1-4-1
- Besiktas (h) - Alexis leads Arsenal to new route but same destination
- Everton (a) - Giroud provides missing link as Arsenal fully deserve draw
- Besiktas (a) - Ramsey & Wilshere pairing does not work & Chambers shines
- Crystal Palace (h) - Rambo rescues pre season Arsenal