Last night’s win against Cologne wasn’t perfect but it was encouraging in many ways, especially in helping see the much criticized Arsenal transfer window in a more positive light.
And by this, I’m referring to the excellent performance of our very own Incredible Hulk, Sead Kolasinac, and the very exciting academy graduate, Reiss Nelson.
First of all, let’s look at the impact of Kolasinac since making his debut for Arsenal, then also examine other talking points like the return of Jack Wilshere, Wenger’s tactical master-stroke, and Sanchez’ return to form.
Could Kolasinac be the EPL signing of the season?
I know it’s too early in the season to make any conclusions, but it’s certainly not too early to ask this question, especially considering how the excitable British media likes to hype the ‘glamorous’ big-money signings and hastily conclude that those who spend less or more wisely have had a bad transfer window and would likely have a bad season.
Ordinarily, the position of the media on a club’s issue should not matter much, but problem is it causes discontent and disaffection among the fan who, instead of being filled with optimism and hope for the season, start to criticize the club and the manager for poor planning and, as a result, lose sight of supporting and encouraging the team.
Kolasinac hasn’t attracted as much hype as Lacazette for example, never mind other mega-money signings like Lukaku or Morata. Of course, strikers would usually generate more hype and excitement. Nonetheless, Kolasinac’s recent history and pedigree in the Bundesliga, his current performances for us, and his free-agent status make him a major candidate for signing-of-the-season.
He was in the Bundesliga team-of-the-season; so far this season, he has played four games for us and provided 2 assists and scored 2 goals – stats any playmaker would be proud of – and, most crucially, he cost nothing.
Putting all these into consideration, the club’s courage to keep Alexis, the purchase of Lacazette, and the continued emergence of Reiss Nelson (yes, it was part of the overall transfer strategy), it’s fair to say the Arsenal transfer window was far better than the media and the ever-cynical Arsenal ‘fan’, Piers Morgan, would have you believe.
The Ox was of no real value to our team – he certainly wasn’t better than Kolasinac or Bellerin on either wing-back positions and the evidence is that Nelson will be better, soon, than him in the attacking positions.
Fellow academy youngster Maitland-Niles had this to say about Kolasinac.
Wenger is a brilliant tactician – when he wants to be
I hear some fans and pundits say that our manager’s not as tactically-briliant as fellow world-class managers like Pep, Benitez, or Mourinho, but, in my opinion and based on broad facts, this view is too simplistic and not so accurate.
I know those who criticize him in this regard will point to repeated failures to go beyond the last-16 of the CL and some heavy losses to major rivals in the EPL and CL, like Bayern-Munich, Liverpool, and Chelsea; and they would have some valid points .
However, looking through Arsene’s Arsenal career – the double FA cup and EPL doubles, the unbeaten season – and more recently – the three FA Cup and three Community Shield wins in the last four years – there are far more and stronger evidences that Wenger is as tactically astute as anyone in winning football matches and competitions.
To win the FA cup and EPL in the same season, you would face different opponents, from different tiers of the league, with very different and sometimes unorthodox tactics, playing on some terrible pitches; therefore, you have to be extremely tactically flexible and adaptable to steer your team past all those hurdles – Wenger has won the double twice (Only SAF has won it three times).
He also out-strategized both Pep and Conte with consecutive FA Cup matches win in the semi-finals and finals last season.
More recently, we saw a number of games last season, notably against Mourinho’s UTD where The Ox and Giroud were brought on and they combined to snatch a draw for us with a last-gasp Giroud header. The 3-3 draw with Bournemouth was another one.
This season, against Leceister, Wenger introduced Giroud and Ramsey and within minutes they had both helped us turn probable defeat into a win.
Last night was the latest and another brilliant example of our manager’s tactical flexibility. When you are chasing goals, bringing in a striker of attacking midfielder is obvious to most eyes, not introducing a wingback. Within minutes of Kolasinac’s second-half introduction, he scored a sublime goal. He also had a major hand in our third goal, making a trademark incisive run into the box-18 with a precise cut-back.
The problem with Wenger tactically is not lack of knowledge; it is, at times, trying to be too clever or arrogant.
Mourinho focuses sharply on the match at hand and deploys every resource at his disposal to win it, but Wenger on the other hand thinks too far ahead, allowing, for example, thoughts about Arsenal transfer window dictate tactics for a particular match.
Bottomline, our manager tries to do too much – being the chief-scout, transfer director, and trainer, all at the same time, can sometimes take the edge off your tactical-concentration.
Nice to have Wilshere back
We all like Jack Wilshere and would like him to succeed in an Arsenal shirt and also help the team succeed in the process.
Wilshere is Arsenal through-and-through, he’s passionate about the club and he’s very talented. However, he just can’t stay fit. Hence, before getting too excited about what impact he can have on our season, we should just be happy that he has made it through pre-season and last night’s game.
I have no doubt in mind that if fit through out the season, with our involvement in Europa and other cup competitions, he will contribute immensely enough to help us succeed and also earn a new contract.
In the time being, it was nice to seem him back and relatively sharp last night.
Sanchez is back!
In football, everything is forgiven once you start scoring goals – beautiful goals – and helping your team win football matches again.
That was exactly what Sanchez did last night with his match-winning screamer. Not only was the goal so beautiful, it had all the qualities – tenacity, determination, skills, technique – that made him a fan-favorite and our best player in the last three years.
Apart from Kolasinac’s match-swinging performance, Sanchez’ return to form was the biggest positive from last night’s match. With Welbeck, Lacazette, and Ramsey all in form, an in-form Alexis can well and truly launch our season.
In the time being, the manager has a dilemma on his hands for the match against Chelsea:
Should he start Sanchez ahead of Welbeck? Or has the game come too soon for him despite his goal?
Alternatively, are Welbeck and Sanchez’ pace, strength, tenacity and game-stretching abilities what we need against Chelsea? If so, who should be benched?
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