Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal: Misfiring cannons bailed out by magnificent Catalan

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

Make no mistake, this could have gone either way...
I don't think anyone hides from the fact that we were rudderless. And for good reason - we created very little against a side who shipped in eight against a Southampton side without Lallana, Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. Very few of Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck and Sanchez lived up to their stardom. It can't be long before the fans realize that the manager is responsible for bringing the worst of these players.

True, we were able to keep Sunderland at bay with relative ease, but that didn't stop us being equally bereft of ideas at the other end of the pitch. The number of chances we created could be counted on a hand, much like the number of convincing performances this season. We got away with it in Belgium, and we got away with it yesterday. Inevitably, however, we can only be so lucky.

Are we a one-man team?
The last time we were touted a one-man side was in 2011/12, when Robin van Persie's incredulous form carried us to third. Looking back at the season and its statistics, one feels this claim could be justified. But could we apply the same logic to Alexis?

I believe the reason people are refraining from such a statement yet is because of the quality available at our disposal. Despite them underwhelming, it's difficult to call a team "one-man" when they have Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla and Welbeck in their ranks. But such is the fact of the matter that none of them are close to playing at the level they can, at least consistently. A compilation of pressure of expectation, being positionally misplaced and confidence crises are affecting most of the players.

There's no denying that Sanchez is carrying the team at the moment. His winning mentality and desire to press the ball is what's turning one point into three. People may say that both the goals he scored were a bit of a fluke, but the undeniable fact remains that without him harrying the opposition, those mistakes would not have happened.

My worry remains with what happens further down the line. Players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were bought to push the club to the next level. However, instead of the team stepping it up a notch to augment these players, it's them having to carry the team. Ozil sunk into the mediocre vibe around the dressing room, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that Sanchez might follow.

The way Alexis is playing it's apparent he wants more from his teammates. And he's right, too. The manager is getting too diminished an output from a talented crop of players. If this continues, Sanchez could either injure himself by pushing himself to the limit, or he could sink into the dreaded 4th-place mentality infesting the club.

Per Mertesacker must be beyond bemused...
He's barely holding the fort together. Well, not much of a fort as a creaky old cottage filled with piranha-sized termites who are going to be blown to smithereens soon because the U.S. Government are aiming drone missiles at it because they believe this is where Osama bin Laden used to take a piss and they want to destroy all the evidence.

One substitution and the left back, centre back and right back changed personnel. Imagine Mertesacker's plight - he has to make-do with a conglomeration every week. He's left open by inept defensive midfielders and left exposed whenever that dastardly 4-1-4-1 is adopted. To top it all, he knows he can't afford to be injured and is trying to balance form with fitness. If anyone needs a break, it's him. Lay off him, for Santi's sake.

Theo Walcott is being overrated...
Yes, he's our fastest player. Yes, he amounts a decent statistical return. Yes, his pace was missed last season. But the overblown reaction to his return is worrying. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand sentiment. But calling him the saviour of the season or the best winger in the league is completely uncalled for.

People have completely eroded his negative qualities and overestimated his value to the team. They've conveniently strained out his numerous flaws and painted a picture of him to suit their liking. Yes, Walcott has noticeably improved over his last 18 months of regular first-team action, but that doesn't make him Thierry Henry. And knowing Wenger, he'd probably hurry him to the pitch and injure him again, like with Jack Wilshere.

I welcome his return and I hope he comes flying out of the blocks, but I'm not going to get my hopes high for him this season, for good reason. Neither should you.

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Thankfully, there's a week of rest for the Mertesackers, Monreals and Sanchez's to rest their tired legs, and an easy Burnley tie awaits at the end of it. Till then.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]