When did we stop playing Alexis up front?
Why did we?
I was asking these questions to myself and couldn’t really find any answer to that, I hope you can help me.
My weekly column is all about this: my attempt to deviate your attention from the toxicity surrounding our Club, these days.
I was having a look at our performances at the beginning of the season, when Alexis was playing upfront and Olivier Giroud was used as an impact sub, and we looked absolutely threatening and very entertaining: our Chilean maverick was the catalyst of everything good happening on the pitch, Theo Walcott was scoring goals for fun and Mesut Özil seemed the perfect man to run into the spaces left by Alexis’ runs – adding goals to his game.
After the surprising loss to Liverpool in the opening game and the goalless draw against Leicester City, we put together an impressive run of ten wins and three draws in thirteen games – before falling to Everton and Manchester City, eventually.
During that time, Alexis scored eleven goals, provided four assists and picked the man of the match award six times, which resulted in the team climbing the league table to reach the top spot after a professional 3-1 home win against Stoke City.
Things seem to work rather well, then we lost two consecutive games at Goodison Park and at the Etihad Stadium and Arsène Wenger decided to change our setup.
It is true that Olivier Giroud proved to be a valuable asset when he came off the bench and scored twice against Sunderland, as well as rescuing a point at Old Trafford, so when he was thrown into the starting line-up against West Brom and Crystal Palace, no-one could really complain; the fact the he scored the winner against the Baggies and was also on target against Alan Pardew’s men helped cementing his place, and was even man of the match against Bournemouth in our farcical 3-3 draw, however the team was undoubtedly going backwards football-wise and we blatantly lacked creativity and unpredictability in our game.
Of course it would have been unfair to drop the in-form Olivier Giroud at that stage but the team’s struggles looked so evident that Arsène Wenger should have been resolute enough to revert back to our most productive formation.
Although the loss of Santi Cazorla through injury played a big role in the way the team suddenly looked unbalanced and febrile with the ball, Olivier Giroud’s one-dimensional style made us very predictable and easy to defend against.
It cannot be a coincidence that Alex Iwobi, Mesut Özil and Alexis performances have dropped in a more rigid setup and we are constantly struggling to create clear-cut chances from open play, hoping for a moment of brilliance here and there to score a goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Olivier Giroud as he’s always giving his best and playing to his strengths but the team had acquired a way of playing, a football identity that has been sacrificed after a couple of bad results.
Our two best players were playing close to each other and that system seemed to suit them perfectly well, therefore reverting back to that kind of football could really help us building the run of results we need to keep our hopes alive.
Very much of our success this season depends on Alexis and Mesut Özil’s performances, it is Arsène Wenger’s responsibility to find the best way to make them shine – even if it requires some very ruthless decisions.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.