Arsecast Extra 39: In praise of Alexis

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Here’s the latest episode of the Arsecast Extra, stuffed full of Alexis-flavoured goodness. We also deal with a horrible hypothetical: would you accept Chelsea emulating the Invincibles if it meant Arsenal winning the Champions League in exchange?

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Alternatively, you can dodge the delays and subscribe directly to the feed URL. Enjoy.

 

Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal: Alexis makes his own luck

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Alexis Sanchez continues to amaze…

It’s only October and I’m already running out of superlatives for this magnificent man. To be honest, saying you’re running out of superlatives is in itself a cliche. I’m running out of ways to say I’m running out of superlatives.

I was one of those banging a particularly loud drum about the potential signing of Alexis as early as March, but even I could not have expected him to have such an immediate impact in English football.

The key to his success is that he shares Luis Suarez’s capacity to combin technique, imagination and relentless running. His quality is underpinned by huge desire. He was the beneficiary of big mistakes against Sunderland, but he also generated his own luck through sheer hard work. He’s an example to the rest of the players.

Alexis played in the No. 10 role…

I don’t think there’s any great need to pin Alexis down to one position. Wherever he plays, he is capable of creating problems for the opposition. In a recent interview with SkySports, he expressed a slight preference for starting on the left as it enables him to cut in on to his right foot. However, with Ozil out, he might be most useful to us through the middle.

The way we’ve exploited Alexis’ versatility is somewhat telling, though. Already this season he’s played in four different positions. It suggests a lack of clarity in our team-building, especially in contrast to someone like Chelsea. They brought in Fabregas and Costa as missing parts in a nigh-complete puzzle. They were components with a clear function in a grander plan. We seem to be making it up on the fly. If you asked Arsene to name his best XI now, I don’t think he could tell you.

The return of Mikel Arteta was important…

Although he can be steamrollered by more physical opposition, he remains the team’s primary playmaker at the base of the midfield. When he is absent, Mathieu Flamini struggles to replicate the captain’s range of passing. With Arteta back in the fold, we were able to control possession far better. His ability to dictate the game from the middle is partly what enabled us to keep a rare clean sheet.

Santi Cazorla’s misses caught the eye…

…largely because we’re not as used to seeing chances missed this season. In the past, it has been the hallmark of Arsenal teams to dominate the game but be profligate in front of goal. This season, we’ve created so little that we’ve been forced to be quite efficient with the few chances we forge. It’s rare to see such presentable opportunities passed up.

The positive reading of Santi’s shockers? At least we’re creating the opportunities.

The ‘Podolski Problem’ was illustrated perfectly…

Lukas Podolski was the hero in midweek, coming off the substitutes bench to score a late winner. The following weekend, he didn’t even get off the bench. For all his quality, it’s very hard to see him remaining at the club beyond January.

Arsecast Extra 38: Hull & Hula Hoops

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The latest edition of the Arsecast Extra is here. There’s a dissection of the draw with Hull, some attempted analysis of our defensive woes, and a heated debate about crisps.

If for some inexplicable reason you’re yet to do so, you can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Alternatively, you can dodge the delays and subscribe directly to the feed URL. Enjoy.

 

Arsenal 2-2 Hull City: Fragile Arsenal Falter Again

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This was one of those draws that seemed like a defeat…
There were only a few minutes between Arsenal’s equaliser and the final whistle, but it was enough time for the air of relief to sublimate in to regret. This match fell somewhere between a ‘should-win’ and a ‘must-win’. By the time the fans trudged out of the Emirates Stadium, Danny Welbeck’s goal felt like a mere consolation.

We lacked a little bit mental strength…
In fact, we lacked a lot mental strength. Arsenal started the match well, but seemed completely thrown by Hull’s controversial equaliser. The referee should have blown, but that doesn’t excuse the way in which we allowed it to affect us. That kind of adversity used to galvanise Wenger’s teams. Against Hull, it saw the handbrake yanked and the performance ground to a horrible halt.

After the game, Arsene Wenger was fulsome in his praise of his players’ effort. However, in the same breath he admitted that Hull’s second goal was down to a lack of focus. If they can’t concentrate, praising their commitment seems perverse. I’m loathe to celebrate a fight-back necessitated by sloppiness.

Being a superhero is hard…
The comic books and films tell us as much. Spiderman is always stressing, Batman is invariably grumpy — the less said about the Hulk the better. With all that power comes a good deal of responsibility. It’s surely not long before Arsenal’s own superhero, Alexis Sanchez, starts feeling the strain.

Without Alexis, Arsenal probably don’t get anything out of this game. He created both goals out of nothing, and his effort levels were nothing short of supernatural. At times, he seems confused that his team-mates can’t match his relentless running. He’s like a young Superman on school sports day, wondering why everyone else is so far behind in the sack race.

Things could get nasty…
Remember winning the FA Cup? Gauging the atmosphere out there in the wild web, it seems that not many do. It’s amazing how quickly that fuzzy, fluffy feeling comfort of a trophy win can evaporate.

I understand the frustration. We’re visibly regressing at a time when we should be kicking on. For the manager, excuses are running thin. We’re spending big money again. Expectation is higher than ever. Last season has not sated the fans’ appetite for success.

Rather than buying Arsene time, winning a trophy has simply removed another potential defence: the hurdle should be cleared, the dam should be bursting. Instead, we’re backsliding. The same old barriers and blocks appear to be in place.

The next few weeks are vital. Arsenal need to pick up points to stop this season’s uphill struggle from becoming too steep.