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Arsenal extended their unbeaten run to nine games with a hard-fought draw against Manchester City. Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne put the hosts ahead on two occasions in the final home game of Manuel Pellegrini’s reign only for Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez to nullify the lead and keep the hopes of Saint Totteringham’s Day alive.
The game exemplified everything wrong with either team whilst also giving fans from both ends glimpses of what their personnel are capable of; here are the five burning questions from the Gunners’ penultimate game of the 2015/16 campaign that could have gone either way.
What went wrong for Arsenal?
With Arsene Wenger forced to take Mesut Ozil off from the starting lineup because of a minor hip injury, the visitors started with six offensive players, who have hardly played together as a unit.
Unsurprisingly, the team played without a defensive as well as an attacking shape and appeared to kick the ball about with merely the hope of somehow beating Joe Hart.
The midfield was messy with no one taking the responsibility to conduct the orchestra, and the first half featured numerous bad touches though the Citizens seemed to mimic them. By the looks of things, the manager would have appreciated the presence of peak Mikel Arteta as the team lacked stability big-time.
Should Arsenal replace Petr Cech?
John Terry asserted that his long-time pal Petr Cech would save at least 15 points for his new club Arsenal. Although the Czech Republic shot-stopper has pulled off incredible saves such as his double save against Liverpool, he is often beaten at the near post.
Aguero and De Bruyne both scored past from long ranges; ‘keepers of his repute and calibre should at least get a hand to the ball.
Gabriel Paulista and Hector Bellerin should have averted the Aguero effort, and De Bruyne was gifted ample time and space to have a crack at the goal by the Arsenal defence; however, the former Chelsea custodian should have dealt with the two somewhat loose efforts better.
Will the Olivier Giroud dilemma ever end?
Giroud had a sloppy start to the game but somehow managed to score Arsenal’s first equaliser from a Mohamed Elneny corner kick. His first half performance was subpar and was reminiscent of the 15 games he had gone without finding the back of the net as his hold up play was particularly abysmal; robust City defensive played mugged him off the ball whenever or even before he had it.
However, in the second half, he upped his game and reiterated why a small Gooner demographic relish heaping praise on his for his contribution; he essentially brought Sanchez, who also produced no magic in the first half, into the game with his impeccable target man play.
Fittingly, he assisted the fourth and final game of the night with a Giroud-esque flick.
Did the Arsenal back four miss Per Mertesacker?
Paulista had a decent performance with three interceptions and five clearances; his positioning was surprisingly good. However, the transition from defence to attack did not come off well for Wenger’s men.
Even though City’s approach and Arsenal midfielders having a nightmare can be attributed to Arsenal being dreadful in transitions, with Per Mertesacker in the lineup, the transition has always been less a problem than it was on Sunday night.
The German defender often lays the foundation for a good buildup by picking out a man who is positioned the best to launch an attack. On the contrary, Gabriel’s passes often put Aaron Ramsey and Elneny in tough situations.
Notwithstanding the amount of criticism Mertesacker endures, Arsenal desperately need a calming influence at the back to be composed up front.
Should Theo Walcott be flogged?
As always, Theo Walcott was offered only a little time to change the trajectory of the game, but he ensured that he squandered his opportunity to change the notion of his detractors. He looked devoid of confidence and looked technically impotent.
Eight minutes into his appearance, he executed a terrible chip that beat an onrushing Hart only to go wide off the mark.
Averaging one successful pass every 10 minutes, the England international had yet another night to forget. However, with Ozil and Welbeck sidelined, he should impress the club top shelves at all costs against Aston Villa next Sunday.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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