Isn’t it strange that after a convincing win (did I just say convincing! well… the score-line), we are still none the wiser about the chances of our darling Arsenal team this season. We are unbeaten in five in all competitions, won our third straight Premier League game, yet there remains that lingering feeling that we are yet to find a trusted winning formula.
Our next two fixtures at home should tell us more. Both fixtures, against Chelsea in the league and Basel in the CL, are at the Emirates where our performances have been most suspect.
In the first match of the season against Liverpool at home, you could argue that our weakness – defensive crisis – going into the match was what eventually cost us. We had to play two inexperienced players in Chambers and Holding in central defence against a very dynamic and experienced Liverpool attack.
While Holding has actually done remarkably well for a 20-year-old and could consider himself unlucky to make way for our more established new recruit – Mustafi, Chambers doesn’t look like he will ever be good enough for Arsenal.
The match against Southampton was a different story all together, as we had to rely on a last-minute penalty to claim all three points. There was nothing to convince you that we would win our next home match against any opposition. We were not potent in attack neither were we secure at the back.
However, since conceding four goals to Liverpool in the season opener, we have not let in more than one goal in all five matches played after. Although, any one who saw all those matches, especially the PSG game, would tell you that we still look like a team that can’t keep clean sheets.
This again was clear against Hull on Saturday.
Hull vs Arsenal
At the risk of sounding over-critical of a team that has just defeated a Hull team, which has already beaten champions Leicester, by a three goal margin, one – for the love of Arsenal and the sake of the future – still has to point out that the win was far from straight-forward and needlessly complicated.
In typical fashion, we ended the first half only a goal up despite having 14 shots in total and four on target. With Arsenal, over recent seasons and especially this season (Liverpool, Watford and Southampton), you are never comfortable with a two goal lead never mind one, because we have struggled to keep clean sheets even against opposition that only tests our defence occasionally.
This profligacy in attack and a lack of ruthlessness was underlined when Cazorla bizarrely (irresponsibly, if you like) left the penalty-taking decisions to Sanchez (whom I will come to in a bit) despite being our number one designated taker. It becomes even more worrying considering that we were only a goal up at the time and Cazorla scored the last penalty he took convincingly.
To make matters worse, Sanchez missed the penalty. A team that has serious designs on winning the league cannot keep operating so casually. Wenger needs to sort this out and generally remind the players that the team comes before any individual egos or interest.
The second half kicked off and despite eventually doubling our lead through a brilliant interchange of passes between Iwobi (Boy, that kid is some player!) and Theo, and our one-man advantage, certain questions still raced through my mind. And I’m sure that was the case with most Arsenal fans:
- Would Cazorla who seemed intent on losing us that match manage to not get a second yellow and even out our one-man advantage? Typical Arsenal, right!
- Would Hull find a way back into the match through a set-piece or long ball over the top?
- Would we be more ruthless in attack and get more goals while staying solid at the back?
Guess what? We failed the last two questions and were only saved the first by an unusually magnanimous ref and eventual Wenger substitution. If Mike Dean was the ref, we all know Cazorla would not even have ended the first half.
To sum it all up, there was no time in the match – until we scored a third – that you could say Arsenal were home and dry. But when Sanchez scored the third goal, even the most paranoid of Arsenal fans knew it was over. Asking a depleted, not-so-talented and tired Hull team to make another comeback after the 83rd minute would be asking for too much.
Hull vs Arsenal, as history and class suggests, should be simple; but do we ever do ‘simples’! Aaarrgh… I love this team.
To have one more star in your team is always a delight, knowing that he was developed in-house and cost ‘nothing’ is just pure heavens.
I digress a bit – Wenger deserves a lot more respect and appreciation than he gets from some of us fans (especially the younger generation and the excitable Piers Morgan followers). You look at the present team and it is half made-up of payers who were virtual unknowns or academy players:
- Bellerin, Coquelin, Iwobi (Fully homegrown/Academy}
- ‘Bosscielny’, Monreal (Unknown and cheap)
Contrast that with the mess Mourinho is making of young players by not having the confidence to regularly start Rashford, who since January has been clearly Utd’s best attacking weapon. Remember Lukaku and especially De Bruyne too?! Honestly, discarding such a player as De Bruyne deserves a sack and should damage his CV irredeemably.
Back to Iwobi, I wrote last time out about how he is already better than Theo and The Ox, and he put in another man-of-the-match performance on Saturday (I believe he was our best player against PSG too).
The manager, in his Hull vs Arsenal post-match interview, seemed to agree with Arsenal Imbued’s description of him as ‘having composure, through-ball precision, dribble, and a shot when needed:
Iwobi has quality of vision, quality of give and go, of movement. He can break the lines with a pass and individually as well
In Sanchez, do we have another RVP situation on our hands?
When I read in The Sun a few weeks back, during the last international break precisely (Damn, I hate ’em) that Sanchez considered himself as capable as Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, three thoughts occupied my mind:
- Will he finally deliver on his world-class ability consistently enough to win us the Premiership or get us into the last four of the CL now that he is at his peak years – 27-28?
- Will he decide that to win the Balon D’or, which would go a long way in catapulting him into that esteemed bracket, he needs to move to a Bayern, Real or back to Barca?
- I hope this is not a sign that he is starting to feel superior to his Arsenal team-mates?
I love Sanchez as a player and a man. Who wouldn’t with his mad soccer ability, commitment, charming smile and affectionate pictures of him paying the piano and walking his two dogs on the beach.
However, his decision to suddenly assume penalty-taking duties with Cazorla on the pitch when we were only a goal up looks to me the kind of egocentric attitude CR7 shows regularly and the way RVP generally looked down on his team-mates in his last year-and-a-half with us.
I doubt that Cazorla of his own volition invited Alexis to take the penalty. You can show such magnanimity when you are three goals up and with five minutes to go, especially if someone is on a hattrick or is playing their last match for the club. Alexis might have made the request but the blame lies with Cazorla. In certain situations, a player (employee) should follow laid-down instructions and put his employer’s interest and the team first.
We got away with it only because it was Hull vs Arsenal.
Finally, media reports that Sanchez wants a considerable pay-rise as well as a get-out clause included in any new contract adds to the feeling of inevitability about his future with us, and most crucially, his team ethic while with us.
Gunners, should we be worried about Sanchez?
Or it’s all coincidence and I’m just being paranoid.
Share your thoughts in the comments.