After the victory against Spurs, very few Arsenal fans expected the team to ‘turn up’ against Burnley. True to form, Ozil literally didn’t, as he was ‘ill’. The north-west of England often seems to bring out the worst in Arsenal, who usually struggle to deal with high balls, howling winds and hostile opposition fans. Trips to Bolton and Blackburn in days of old come to mind and I had a feeling that Sean Dyche’s Burnley would be a similar experience.
Dyche’s team took the game to Arsenal, who responded in kind and actually seemed up for it. Maybe Ozil’s ‘illness’ was a blessing in disguise, as Iwobi offers considerably more in regards to work-rate than the Germany International.
However, Ozil’s penetrating passes were sadly missed and it seemed unlikely that Arsenal would score. Without him, there was no one in the team who put a ball on a sixpence for a team-mate to run onto. It was definitely going to be goal-less until the referee awarded one of the softest penalties I’ve seen recently. Sanchez despatched it beautifully low and hard, just millimetres from the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand.
I wish I could say it was what Arsenal deserved but, in truth, they were outplayed for much of the game. Nevertheless, it was a gutsy performance, reminiscent of the George Graham days, and the Gunners deserve a lot of credit for that. Although their goal threat was blunted without the mercurial talents of Ozil, defensively Arsenal have rarely looked as solid. The back three of Koscielny, Mustafi and Monreal are as good as any defence I can think of, so while they all stay fit, Arsenal should keep picking up points.
Burnley are certainly no pushovers, so the Gunners should consider themselves extremely fortunate to have picked up three points from a visit to (as they say in football circles) one of the truly ‘tough places to go’. Now Arsenal simply have to keep up the momentum at home against Huddersfield. As Gooners know from past experience, nothing is ever simple for Arsenal.
The most worrying thought following this victory is how will Arsenal replace Ozil. Without him, they seem unable to create chances. The Germany International is infuriatingly languid and goes missing in some games, but when he is sufficiently motivated he is almost unstoppable. Or perhaps it is a case of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.
Of course, Arsenal will have to get used to playing without Ozil more often as he counts down the days left on his contract. The same applies to Sanchez who, despite his goal, is not playing at the same level as he was before. The management really need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask why they have allowed this situation to occur.
Can anyone think of another club where the two best players have been allowed to run down their contracts? To replace the pair adequately will probably cost well in excess of £100m. Therefore, you’d like to think that the financial experts at Arsenal will eventually notice how by making false economies (not paying players close to what they want) they have actually asset-stripped the team. Instead of wages, highly-inflated transfer fees will be the order of the day, if Arsenal have to panic buy, which seems likely.
Arsenal are going to have to identify replacements for the outgoing two as soon as possible and actually stump up the cash to buy players who are just as good as Ozil and Sanchez, unless they want to forget finishing in the top four for a few seasons.
Given how tight the purse strings are at Arsenal, it may be best if Ozil and Sanchez are offloaded in January, as then the money can be used to bring in world-class replacements. It appears there is not much hope of that happening, as Arsenal fans have lost the faith in the club to sanction big-money moves, unless it’s paying over the odds for a player with potential, or one who flatters to deceive and so on.
The only hope is if December’s new recruit, Sven Mislintat, can not only identify the players Arsenal need, but also pressurise the club into following up their interest. It sounds like Sven has got quite a job on his hands! Roll on the transfer window!