In the last two seasons, the foundations of Arsenal’s defence has been built around the Laurent Koscienly-Per Mertesacker axis. However, Koscielny has endured quite a few niggling injuries this season and this has had a negative effect on Mertesacker’s form. He hasn’t been the same imposing figure he was last season and has been particularly vulnerable in the air often reacting very slowly. He was at fault for Abel Hernandez’s goal where he was out of position, and more recently he allowed Aleksandar Mitrovic to edge in front of him to cost his side another goal. Mertesacker’s form is a worry, but he cannot be blamed for Arsene Wenger not bringing in defensive reinforcements during the summer. It has seen young players such as Hector Bellerin and Calum Chambers thrown in at the deep end and the chemistry of the defence has suffered as a result. It was evident today against Swansea where Nacho Monreal played at centre-half. He hasn’t been particularly convincing in his regular position at full-back but is even more unpredictable playing at the heart of the defence. Swansea exploited this towards the end of the game and it culminated in two late goals. The second goal in particular could have been avoided but both Mertesacker and Monreal were caught out of position as Bafetimbi Gomis headed the winning goal.
Alexis Sanchez arrived from Barcelona in the summer with a hefty price-tag costing £35m. It was only natural that it would take a few games for Sanchez to settle but he has done it quicker than even Wenger had expected. He often played in the shadow of global superstars like Neymar and Lionel Messi but at Arsenal he is the man that everyone expects something special from. It has brought the best out of him and he has scored seven goals in his last five games. He also scores a variety of different goals. Some of those come as a result of his pressing demonstrated through the double he scored against Sunderland. But he also has the ability to conjure magic and his strike against Anderlecht during the week was as instinctive as it was brilliant. He carried this form into the game today as he scored another goal. He seems to be playing on a different wavelength to many of his Arsenal colleagues. He often pressurises high up the pitch and dribbles with such positivity. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain supported him as the Gunners lacked potency going forward.
Many people believe that old fashioned wing play has no place in the modern game. Jefferson Montero did a lot to dispel that myth as he gave Chambers a torrid time. Like a classical winger, he hugged the touchline and rather than cutting inside and passing sideways, he went for the more destructive route. Oxlade-Chamberlain offered no defensive support to Chambers, so Montero was relentless as he isolated the full-back on numerous occasions. It seemed like it wasn’t going to be his day as Wilfred Bony had a very ineffectual game, but he was finally rewarded when Gomis came on. Montero beat Chambers with ease and his delicately chipped cross was headed into the far corner for the winning goal.
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