Arsenal lost to Liverpool in the opening fixture of their season to mount even more pressure on coach Arsene Wenger. The final scoreline read 3-4 in favour of the visitors but at one time it was 1-4 which prompted an exodus of the Emirates crowd. The team to their credit fought back to score two but wasn’t able to get the equaliser. Let’s take a look at the three talking points from the game
Wenger’s Mistake In Team Selection
Arsenal’s starting lineup actually served a bigger surprise than the scoreline against Liverpool. £32m signing Granit Xhaka started on the bench as Elneny and Coquelin made the base of the midfield with Aaron Ramsey being favoured as the number 10 instead of Cazorla with two young players forming the central defensive partnership in Chambers and Holding. There were too many chances taken to be fair with the starting XI and it cost the team heavily.
First of all the pairing, Holding with Chambers was nothing short of suicide. Nacho Monreal excelled as a center back last season and he should have been preferred as one of the central defenders alongside either Holding or Chambers. Wenger admitted after the game that inexperience at the back cost his team, well he chose for it to happen with his selections and expectedly it backfired.
Secondly, not playing Cazorla from the start was a huge surprise and even a bigger blunder by the manager. Cazorla didn’t play in the Euro 2016, had a big resting period and played 90 minutes in the last pre-season friendly against Manchester City, where he looked like his old self. Aaron Ramsey on the other hand, had his Euro commitments and even though he got a little period of rest before the season started, he is still not prepared to play for more than 45 minutes. Wenger could easily have gotten a solid 30 minutes out of the Welshman if he chose to in the second half but according to his own admission, the manager pushed the player and he got injured.
Elneny Is Not A Tackler and Shouldn’t Be Counted Upon As One
Wenger preferred Elneny and Coquelin as his midfield base against Liverpool. While Coquelin is adept in tackling and breaking down the play, Elneny is somebody who is very good at covering with his work rate. The Egyptian is very intelligent and positions himself well in the defensive midfield but he is not the kind of player who would consistently break down attacks with his tackles, unlike Coquelin. Elneny’s style as a covering defensive midfielder is someone who keeps things ticking with his short accurate passes thus allowing him to recover possession more often when paired with someone like Coquelin as a tackler.
After a decent first 45 minutes, when the opposition drew Coquelin out of his position in the second half, Elneny struggled to have any sort of impact on the game and looked totally lost, as someone who only did all the running without any effect. Granit Xhaka, could have done better in that position paired with Coquelin as with the inexperienced center backs, the team needed two strong tacklers in front to form a shield, Elneny was never going to provide that and in the second half it was clear and he was finally subbed in the 67th minute when the damage was already done and Liverpool were 4-1 up.
Alexis Sanchez Needs To Step Up And Not Take His Place For Granted
Alexis Sanchez was the most disappointing Arsenal Player on the pitch on Sunday partly because with his talent and ability he needs to do a lot more even if he was played out of position. Certain sections of the fans and media continue to pamper the Chilean which does more damage than good. There seems to be an unwritten law that we can’t criticize Alexis for the stupid reason that he can run nonstop and closes down opponents. Even in previous games, criticisms were pounded on Mesut Ozil but not on Alexis simply because of the work rate, when the Chilean was, in fact, the poorer performer of the two.
Last season, Sanchez was very disappointing and performed really poorly in quite a few games but was surprisingly the least criticized of all the players at Arsenal. This simply needs to stop. Arsene Wenger should not be afraid to take the Chilean off when needed, yesterday was one such game and make a statement. Although, the manager’s hands were forced as he had to make two forced substitutions due to injury, replacing Alexis with Chuba Akpom would have been the right move against Liverpool as the Chilean did nothing all game and Akpom scored in his last four appearances coming off the bench.