After their superb win against city rivals Chelsea last weekend, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger now faces a headache of a different kind. Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez, who has been played as a striker by Wenger since the start of the season in the Premier League and also in their Champions League games, has already scored 4 goals in the 6 Premier League games. However, despite the goals, in terms of performing as a centre forward, the former Barcelona man was not convincing at all.
In the Chelsea game, Sanchez enjoyed a far better outing as the visitors played with a high defensive line, finding spaces in behind to run into. Alexis scored the opener and assisted Ozil for the third goal but despite the performance, it must be remembered that not every team will play with a high backline against the Gunners, meaning they will need a specialist player for that position.
New signing Lucas Perez is potentially the man for those kind of matches as he has pace more or less the qualities of Olivier Giroud with much more pace. Wenger has so far not used him much giving him the time to settle down nicely first slowly getting a feel of the oppositions and the kind of games that happens in England. Olivier Giroud, who is the preferred choice for his goal scoring ability and excellent hold up play, was also not fully available as by the time he shook off his Euro exertions, he suffered a toe injury. All these factors contributed to Sanchez being played as the striker rather than in his customary left wing position.
There is also another situation which has developed since the final months of last season with the rapid rise of Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian attacking midfielder has done wonderfully well with his chances in the first team by scoring goals and providing assists.
Iwobi has been deployed mainly in the position of Alexis so far with the Chilean upfront centrally. The ploy worked wonderfully well against Chelsea but proved rather unsuccessful in the other games. Nevertheless, in terms of individual performances, the 20-year old Iwobi has impressed immensely with his forward play and progress.
The only blot in his report card being his lack of defensive discipline which is somewhat expected considering his age. Iwobi is a real option at the moment for the Gunners. Arsene Wenger has always been a manager renowned for promoting young talent. The performances of the 20-year old Nigerian would have given him great satisfaction and has made it a lot harder to axe him from the starting XI.
Wenger is now facing a Dilemma, which he should welcome more for it gives him a lot of options, keeping his squad in a good shape. Arsene would have to make a choice, the right choice when he will face oppositions playing with a deep defensive line and include either Perez or Giroud in the starting line-up demoting Iwobi to the bench.
Just as we saw in the previous matches, Alexis won’t give us much playing up on his own, apart from his pressing, he is much more dangerous when he gets the support which facilitates his direct running from the channels into the penalty box diagonally. The presence of a Giroud or a Perez will be essential to create that space for him so that the team gets benefitted the most.
There were several reasons for which Wenger decided to stick with Sanchez up front so far but with Giroud returning to full fitness and Lucas Perez raring to go at full throttle, it would be interesting to see how the manager decides to line up his team, especially against those who will be employing a defensive strategy against the Gunners.