More or less a quarter of the PL games have been played this season, and slowly but steadily we can start making some conclusions on how the mighty red and white are doing.
The big, obvious conclusion we have to make is that we started the PL season slowly, dropping five points in the first two games, but then recovered very strongly to now be joined top with Pool and Citeh after nine games. This is some achievement we can be really proud of. With Citeh winning game after game, it looked like we were in a bad position until a few games ago, but Pep’s team has lost its fizz, and the Gunners, bar a tired game against Middlesbrough, have lately been firing from all cylinders.
I will post a number of early-season-conclusions over the next week or so, starting with Wenger upgrading our approach to creating and scoring goals to a multi-facetted and disciplined attacking machine.
Conclusion nr.1: Wenger has turned Alexis into a lethal mixture of Giroud and Aguero
Last season we struggled to average two goals per PL game – in fact at the end of the season we only managed to score 1.7 goals per game – but this season we are finding the net at about 2.1 goal a game – 2.4 before last weekend’s draw. It is great to get goals from a variety of scorers: from Koz to Xhaka, from Santi (penalties) to Ozil and from Theo to Alexis, etc. There are also a great number of assist producers, and what this all does is that it makes us unpredictable and highly effective. I love this more than anything else.
The big change Wenger made here is replacing Giroud with Alexis. Regular BKers know that I am a big fan of the bombastic Frenchman, but I can also see that Alexis as our main CF is an improvement for Arsenal – especially when teams allow us space rather than park a bus full of stubborn defenders. Actually, I suggested last season on more than one occasion that if Wenger wanted to have ‘an Aguero beast of a CF’ he did not need to look further and just move the Chilean firecracker to the middle.
What I like about Wenger, who is, contrary to what many like to think, always reinventing the ultimate ballgame, is what he did with Alexis this season. He did not turn him into a ‘pure’ Aguero after all; he made Sanchez better than his fellow South-American. Arsene turned Alexis into a total, multi-disciplined and dimensional attacking machine, who also offers the work rate, constant willingness to occupy central defenders, and ability to create space and key passes for others that Giroud has to offer.
Alexis already has four goals and three assists and produces 2.1 key passes per PL game; Aguero, who to be fair played less PL minutes than Alexis, scored five but produced no assists and only manages 0.9 key passes per game. The Argentinian is a top quality predator-finisher who needs to be serviced and brought into striking range constantly, whereas our South-American wildcat takes and gives in equal amounts, thus allowing the likes of Iwobi, Ozil and Theo to not only support the goal production efforts but also be at the end of them.
Alexis revels in the dirty work of chasing defenders and never letting them rest – he is such a hyena; Alexis also has an eye for a pass that kills a whole defence in one stroke (Mesut is still licking his lips from the Chilean’s diagonal Bergkampesque ball over the top against Swansea – see above); Alexis has the composure and technical ability to finish from anywhere in and near the opposition’s box, and against any opposition; and Alexis has the engine to keep going, and with his energy and passion he motivates the entire team from game to game. He has simple added another dimension and more intensity to our attacking play, and for that I applaud both him and Wenger.
There are still some doubts whether Alexis is also our best option if and when we play stubborn and ultra-disciplined ‘park the bus’ teams like Middlesbrough last weekend; and once Giroud is fully back to fitness we will have to see who will get the CF slot for these sorts of games. But there is no doubt in my mind that Wenger’s move to play Alexis as an all round, multi-disciplined CF has made the whole team less predictable and more deadly up front. And long may it continue!