Maybe Lucas Perez should have thought twice before accepting the poisoned chalice, which is Arsenal’s number nine shirt.
The question is: how many Gunners have worn that number with distinction? Come on, let’s name some names. Off the top of my head, successes would include: John Radford (70s), Malcolm MacDonald (70s), Alan Smith (90s) and Nicolas Anelka (90s). Let me know if I’ve missed any out, of those we want to remember!
Failures appear more numerous with Chu-Young Park, arguably, leading the way. Whether the South Korean’s failure was down to lack of opportunities or something else remains a moot point, but there’s no mistaking his inability to make an impact. Even Lukas Podolski flattered to deceive a lot of the time, but I wouldn’t count him as a failure exactly. However, he didn’t light up the Emirates as frequently as many expected. That seemed to be the result of being played out of position and being a little unfit or unwilling to run as much as his team-mates. One thing we all knew, though, was the German knew where the back of the net was.
Will we be saying the same about Arsenal’s new number nine, Perez? Based on this showing, I’d have to say ‘no’. As Ian Wright said on ‘Match of the Day’, Perez needs to get in the box more. I agree with the Arsenal legend in that Perez appears to be more of a winger than a striker. However, we can’t judge him too harshly after just one game.
Meanwhile, I was impressed with the other debutante, Shkodran Mustafi. It was an assured performance from the German centre back, who had teething problems early on but looked a force to be reckoned with. I liked the way he drove forward with the ball with confidence and I thought the timing of his tackling showed how that he will be asset for Arsenal.
Other impressive performances were put in by Santi Cazorla (the match winner from the spot), Laurent Koscielny (who took a kick to his face for his troubles) and Petr Cech (who was unlucky not to keep a clean sheet).
Aside from that, it was mediocre mostly. Arsenal can consider themselves fortunate to earn a last-minute soft penalty, and although Giroud’s shirt was certainly held, it was difficult to spot.
The Gunners will have to improve their performances immeasurably if they want to be serious title contenders. Arsenal simply cannot leave the likes of Xhaka, Sanchez and even Giroud on the bench if they want to be giving the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea a run for their money. On this performance, Arsenal are fourth at best, but at least it appears the best is yet to come (unless it follows international dates in the footballing calendar).
Please feel free to add your player ratings in the relevant column.