Our game against Man City left us with many thoughts about the team and players, as well as our tactics and other choices the manager made. During a game like this we need the big players to stand up and lead the rest. There is no doubt that Alexis tried his best to do this, but his passes were well below par time and again, and the longer the game went on the less involved he became.
Alexis’ stats for last season were great, and if you mainly watch him perform for us on Match of the Day you will simply love him. I believe it was a big mistake to play the out of form Iwobi in Alexis’ position last Sunday and to leave the unknown to MC, but already deadly for us this season, Lacazette, on the bench. Wenger made another change by moving Alexis into the CF position, and it just did not pay off. The Chilean firecracker worked hard to get involved and hold onto the ball so others could find space around and behind the MC defence to spring an (counter) attack; but Iwobi and Ozil are not lethal attackers and Alexis was not able to pass to them accurately anyway. Alexis is a naturally predatory, selfish player with limited passing qualities (even though ever so often he produces a world class one), and this showed once again against the league-leaders.
And it is this lack of passing accuracy that makes me believe that Alexis will not get a new contract and will be either sold in two months time or allowed to run out his contract. Lacazette is the one who can score the goals Alexis scored for us last season, so Wenger will now move for a better, all-round, wing player, if you ask me. He could do this in January, and the rumours re Wilfred Zaha are interesting, but he could easily wait till the summer, as to find a quality/long-term addition to the team.
It looks like Iwobi will be the player to replace the Chilean in the mid to long term. Alex is not having the best of seasons but that was to be expected. Young players go through dips, but Iwobi has so much quality that he will get out of these relatively quickly again. His passing is great and his football intelligence is extraordinary for such a young player. The only thing missing is a constant goal-threat, as too many opportunities go begging. It will come.
The player ready to replace Alexis on a permanent basis is of course Danny Welbeck. For this we have to hope he will stay fit for longer periods now he is reaching the most important years of his football career. I have no doubt that if Welbeck can stay fit Wenger will not look anywhere else for an Alexis replacement. He also knows he can play Iwobi as a replacement if need be. However, Welbeck’s fitness issues will need to be closely monitored, and if he does not stay fit for most of the remainder of the season, Wenger will (have to) go for a quality replacement in the summer.
A front-line of Welbeck/Iwobi and Lacazette, supported by Ozil, looks like the future to me. There would be plenty of movement, running, passing and energy between them and they could develop into a deadline threesome within no time. For this we would need to sign up Mesut but that is for another post.
Alternatively, I reckon Lacazette could play from the left as a Winger/supporting CF, with either Giroud or Welbeck, or even Theo, as his partner. So there are plenty of post-Alexis options even without buying this January (which always seems to be hard). Maybe it is time to start gradually weaning ourselves of Alexis and start building towards a front-line of Welbeck/Iwobi – Lacazette. Both Giroud and (to a lesser extent) Walcott can play an important role too this season. And there are a few young players who could break into the first team, given a chance.
I reckon Alexis will still play an important role this season (to get us back into the top four), but I must admit I feel he is holding ‘our game’ back and look forward to playing without him going forward.