After their comfortable win against West Bromwich Albion on Thursday night, Arsenal were expected to ease past Sunderland, but against a resolute Sam Allardyce side, they could only secure a point at Stadium of Light. The draw marks their seventh game without a defeat and moves them level on points with third-placed Manchester City.
As Manchester United sit just one place and five points below them with a game in hand, fourth place is also far from certain. They will hope to defeat Norwich City and Aston Villa at home and produce a result in the away fixture against the Citizens that is sandwiched between the home fixtures.
As always, O-Posts discusses the five burning questions from the Arsenal game.
Should the Arsenal fullbacks swing in more crosses?
With Sunderland crowding the penalty area, crosses seemed the easiest and most effective outlet for goals for the visitors; however, crosses proved to be their Achilles’ heel yet again. Arsenal players combined to swing in 24 crosses, but only 16% of those were accurate.
Nacho Monreal, who usually swings in flawless crosses, failed to find a target inside the 18-yard box except for once. Hector Bellerin had a nightmarish display as Patrick van Aanholt nullified his offensive threat whilst Wahbi Khazri exposed his defensive frailties; he registered zero crosses throughout the game.
With Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi, and Mesut Ozil failing to feed Olivier Giroud the perfect pass for him to tap in, the fullbacks should have made the most out of his aerial ability.
Will Alex Neil shut out the Gunners?
Any team that espouses a physical approach against Arsenal picks up the result they look for. History repeated itself as the Arsenal players looked exhausted because of Sunderland’s relentless pressing.
Odds are that Alex Neil, who is known for tweaking his tactics according to the opposition, will deploy a system similar in tune to what Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce had deployed, to get something out of the Saturday’s game. Furthermore, teams embroiled in relegation dogfight usually are harder to overcome — Norwich City sit 18th and need a miracle to beat the drop.
Arsenal should equip themselves rightly in order to avoid what has been recurrent for a while now.
Will Mesut Ozil fail to break the assist record?
Creating five chances against Sunderland, Mesut Ozil broke Frank Lampard’s record for the most number of chances created in a Premier League season. However, his assists have dried up.
Touted to break Thierry Henry’s assist record with many games left, he now has only three more games to win the consolation trophy for the Arsenal faithful, especially with Saint Totteringham’s Day becoming more and more improbable every day.
With his assists tally stagnating at 18, he will likely not a send a celebratory tweet at the end of this season thanking his teammates for helping him break yet another record.
Should Alex Iwobi make way for Joel Campbell?
Alex Iwobi has lately not been producing the kind of performances that made him a first-teamer. With the rest of the team showing no fight to dismember the Sunderland defence, he showed no grit either. Furthermore, he squandered Arsenal’s best chance of the afternoon after Olivier Giroud had teed him up.
The Nigerian owned up to his mistakes shortly after the whistle on Twitter and should bounce back with a display, which would embody his ascension.
If the manager opts to hand him a rest, however, the best decision will be replacing him with Joel Campbell and not the English lad whom the fans begged to sign a contract extension not so long ago.
Is this the last season of Theo Walcott?
The Arsenal manager recently voiced his doubts over the long-term future of his protégé Theo Walcott; his decision to offer him more minutes than Joel Campbell speaks volumes about the trust he still has in him.
However, with injuries, directly and indirectly, derailing his progress — he is as old as Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil — he should opt to start from the scratch like his compatriot Joe Cole rather than doing an Abou Diaby with the Ashburton Grove club.
With Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Alex Iwobi, and the likes coming through the youth setup, Arsenal will likely accept the first bid they receive for one of their longest serving employees.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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