Praveen’s latest “The Arsenal Annals” column.
Having notched up five goals and two assists in eight starts playing as a centre-forward, Alexis Sanchez has justified Arsene Wenger’s decision to deploy his best winger as the number nine.
However, whether he can be Arsenal’s go-to for goals against all sorts of opposition remains a question.
It appeared as though the Chilean international was only deputizing for Olivier Giroud in light of the latter’s European Championship-induced fatigue, but Wenger’s insistence on making Alexis the first-choice centre-forward has demoted Giroud to the second string.
With Giroud spearheading the line-up, the Gunners had been playing relatively slow-paced football but with the press taking the world by the storm – Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Leicester City have all reaped the benefits of the pressing game – it was only a matter of time before the Arsenal manager himself espoused the tried and true system.
Failed attempts to bring in a solemn goal threat also played a crucial role in the veteran gaffer inventing the current system that capitalizes on his personnel’s strength.
In the past few years, despite the Arsenal roster being crammed with an array of skillset, the marriage of effective utilization of the players’ skills and cohesion somehow only seemed a luxury; however, the Arsenal manager has seemingly taken that issue by the scruff of its neck this season.
With Alexis leading the pack, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott occupy the left and right flanks whilst Mesut Ozil operates just behind the frontline.
Oftentimes, the relentless press from the wingers and impeccable movement from all four attackers render the opposition defence innocuous.
The pace of the frontline only adds to the perfect execution of Wenger’s plans as Walcott, Iwobi, and Sanchez all afford the opposition little to no comfort on the ball.
Whilst attacking, the fluidity amongst the frontline makes the men in red and white one of the most unpredictable bunches in the Premier League as Walcott superbly exploits the space Alexis leaves behind whilst drifting to the left flank.
Iwobi’s intelligent movement makes what was initially lambasted a brainchild that boasts the potential to end the London club’s title drought.
Besides proving a points magnet, the one-touch counter-attacking football has swept the Ashburton Grove faithful off their feet through its aesthetic appeal.
However, as evidenced by the recent hard-fought away victory over Burnley, the new setup cannot always guarantee three points even in the event of the lads performing at their absolute best.
With the Clarets sitting deep with nine outfield players behind the ball, Arsenal struggled to break down their organized defence as it took a clumsy last minute goal to seal the win.
Against teams that play the so-called anti-football, Alexis dropping down with Walcott having no space to run into hardly dims Arsenal’s chances of nicking a goal.
However, with a physical specimen in Giroud – who has perfected the art of doing layoffs – upfront, undoing the tight-knit defences becomes more likely as he draws defenders onto him like only a few in the game today.
Neither Alexis nor Giroud can be an automatic starter at the club, given the diversity of oppositions Arsenal will be going up against this season.
Giroud warrants a start against West Bromwich Albion whilst the three-winger frontline should start against any team that plays an open game or is likely to offer room for counters.
With almost half a century games left before the end of the season, rotating the strikers depending upon the opposition and their gameplay will ensure players’ satisfaction as well as three sweet points on almost every matchday.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
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