It's very difficult to write about the 3-0 victory over Burnley on Saturday afternoon and not make it all about Alexis Sanchez.
"We played 4-4-2 and we played like that against Sunderland. It works because he [Alexis] works very hard so we can afford to do it. We have to balance the midfield and defence." - Arsène Wenger
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 bravery to win that header was remarkable and it is his attitude that puts him above players with similar abilities.
While the breakthrough was left late there was a definite improvement in our game. We morphed back into an Arsenal team of 2008/09, a team who could create for fun but also missed presentable chances for fun also. Cazorla, Welbeck and Alexis were all guilty of not scoring earlier and making life easier for the home side. Instead a combination of good defending, excellent goalkeeping and bad finishing kept the struggling visitors in the game until Chambers supplied his second assist in as many games.
The versatile young defender wasn't finished there, he had been creeping into many attacking positions all game so when Welbeck fired a shot against a Burnley player, Chambers was on hand to poke in the rebound.
Chambers had assisted the first goal so it was Kieran Gibbs turn to help himself to an assist. His low cut back was collected in his stride away from a defender and poked in from close range by Alexis for his second of the game. The goal reminded me a little of a Serge Gnabry goal playing for the youngsters a couple years back.
I heard many post match complaints of why we had played Arteta and Flamini against such a poor side and what seems to be missed is that the two central midfield players gave the attacking keys to other players in the team.
Chambers and Gibbs with two assists to their names in one game played more as wingers than full backs. Both the full backs were in need of protection from counter attacks. Flamini made vital interceptions when Burnley did manage to attempt a break into our half.
More often than not our shape was similar to this
With Burnley keen to put men behind the ball and defend, Arsène chose to stretch the pitch as wide as possible to allow his creative attacking players to find more space. We also crossed the ball far more than we are used to.
Going by Arsène's comments over the years, he seems obsessed with balance. You are not going to catch Arsène starting a 4-4-2 with playmakers in the middle. Neither are you going to see a 4-4-2 with wide strikers Theo Walcott or/and Lukas Podolski as the wingers. If Arsène ever reverts to a permanent 4-4-2 you can be almost certain that Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Rosicky, Wilshere or Ramsey would be his wide options rather than perhaps a Joel Campbell.
The same way Arsène wouldn't start Dennis Bergkamp as a central playmaker with Henry and Kanu ahead of him in the 4-4-1-1.
So that poses some very interesting questions going forward. Alexis playing behind Danny Welbeck is head and shoulders our best player. He is scoring goals and winning games for us. Playing two strikers means that Arsène wants a more defensive midfield but Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are not going to be playing second fiddle to Mathieu Flamini for any length of time. Not only this quandary but also that of Theo Walcott. Theo is Arsène's wide striker and can only really use him in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1. So something has to give. Unless he is going to change now.
I suspect that Arsène is scratching his head at the moment. At least it's the proverbial good headache to have rather than the we have no options headache we know too well thanks to our lovely friend injury.
Special mentions to Oxlade-Chamberlain who put his poor Hull City display behind him with a very positive performance. His energy, crossing and directness was great to watch. Nacho Monreal has been unfairly treated this season, mainly because Arsène didn't bring in another centre back. A shaky 15 minutes aside in Belgium along with his team mates, he hasn't put a foot wrong in an unfamiliar position. Tougher tests await for sure but as they say, you can only beat what is in front of you and he was more often than not beating the Burnley strikers to the ball.
Our two wide strikers came on as Arsène predictably went back to a 4-2-3-1 removing Welbeck and pushing Alexis into the number 9 position, but both substitutes had a positive impact on the game. It was quite the surprise to see Arsène make such offensive changes when we were winning. Not something he usually does.
I thought Theo looked pleasingly sharp considering the time out. His early run past a few defenders was nice to see, as was his dink to Podolski to absolutely leather it against the post in true Poldi fashion. Lukas could have scored a hat trick on another day but for fine goalkeeping and a post with a tad too much paint on it.
All in all, it was a pleasing win. Only our second league win at home this season. Nice to see us creating chances again. The hope is we'll be more clinical as the game go on.
What will be truly facinating will be how Arsene reconfigures this team once again. Anderlecht on Tuesday should be interesting.