Join the conversation:

A solitary Sanchez gives victory to Arsenal

A solitary Sanchez gives victory to Arsenal

Posted by José Peralta on August 28, 2014

The reward was scrappy, the delight obvious and the relief palpable. Alexis Sánchez had flitted in and out of this contest, lonely on the periphery when Arsenal had desperately needed him to be integral, then Besiktas heaved and failed to clear Mathieu Debuchy’s cross in first-half stoppage time. In the mess that ensued there were touches from Jack Wilshere and Mesut Özil before the German’s pass was slid between opponents and the Chilean sensed his moment.

The finish was crisp and low, screwed beneath Tolga Zengin’s right hand from the edge of the six-yard box. Once Sánchez had wrestled free of Wilshere’s celebratory headlock there was a look to the heavens in thanks as those in the gallery bellowed appreciation. Everyone at Arsenal is aware of the talent they recruited when signing the 25-year-old from Barcelona.

The world witnessed it in Brazil over the summer, and Wembley had cooed at his extravagant ability when he inspired Chile to a thumping friendly win against England last November. But there had been only flashes of that form since his arrival, and Arsenal’s predicament up front had denied him the luxury of time to adapt.

Arsène Wenger had considered Sánchez a No9 in waiting when buying him in July. The ankle injury sustained by Olivier Giroud, the club’s only out-and-out senior striker given how marginalised Lukas Podolski has become, had duly fast-tracked the £30m arrival into the role in which he had revelled at the national stadium 10 months ago.

He had spluttered at Everton on Saturday, labouring out of picture as the home side dominated to lead comfortably by the interval, and had been replaced by Giroud at the break. “But you do not convict a player on one half,” Wenger had said. “It was not all bad what he did. I just felt we needed some more physical presence. Once you are 2-0 down you do not play on the counter.”

That scenario will inevitably be revisited, so Sánchez must learn quickly. This tie, goalless after the first leg, had demanded a proactive approach, with the onus on Arsenal to take the initiative. Without Giroud as a physical presence – it should be acknowledged the Frenchman had been desperately disappointing in Istanbul – Arsenal were reliant on neat, incisive link-up play to unsettle. Theirs was a diminutive front-line and too often Debuchy had prospered down the right only to fling over crosses that stood little chance of finding a team-mate for all the energy of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere’s urgency to dart through the centre. It might have been different had Aaron Ramsey, whose arrival in the six-yard box is invariably timed to perfection, not been suspended. Without the Welshman, this demanded a different approach.

Sánchez had initially appeared diminished, uneasy and isolated between Ersum Gulum and Pedro Franco, and flattened by Zengin’s spring five minutes in. The contrast was marked with Demba Ba, the brawn leading Besiktas’s formation and a player Wenger had sought to bring to the Emirates on loan from Chelsea a year ago, even if the Senegalese, like his team-mates, was culpable of glaring misses here.

Yet the key to success in employing Sánchez at the tip of this team will be in the accuracy of the approach play conjured by those around him, just as it is with Chile and had been at Barcelona. Wilshere is erratic, but this was a hearteningly forceful display. Yet the approach requires accuracy and composure. There were moments when theirs was a neat partnership, and other occasions when Özil and Santi Cazorla joined in. If each can learn to anticipate the other’s movement, they can surely thrive, but the suspicion remains they must all prosper together or the system seems fragile.

In truth, there is no alternative. The grim news that Giroud will be absent until the new year – he fractured the base of his left tibia in the final minute at Goodison Park as he tried to collect possession and had surgery on Wednesday – had prompted Wenger to reassess his transfer policy, but he does not appear inclined to enter the market for a replacement. Danny Welbeck was rejected. Radamel Falcao, too.

Link To Full Article: 

Facebook comments

Monthly newsletter featuring articles hand picked by our country managers from the best content across PanamericanWorld.

Monthly newsletter featuring articles hand picked by our country managers from the best content across the Caribbean Region on PanamericanWorld.