Arsenal fans are blasting Arsene Wenger after leaving Alexis Sanchez out of the squad that faced Bournemouth, but what if the Chilean didn’t want to play? It seems unlikely, I know, given Sanchez’s appetite for the game, so I’m leaning towards the idea that Arsenal didn’t want to risk him before a lucrative transfer to Manchester United or City.
If Arsenal were a normal club, you’d expect the deal to be done before the next game against Chelsea. However, it could be that Sanchez was rested for the semi-final and will therefore play against the Blues. Stranger things have happened.
Whatever the reason, without Sanchez and Ozil Arsenal lack a cutting edge. Ozil, for all his faults, can deliver well-measured short and long passes and there isn’t anyone else at Arsenal who can consistently do that. Meanwhile, Sanchez has the X-Factor that can hurt teams, but the only team he’s hurting at the moment is Arsenal.
Despite taking the lead against Bournemouth, thanks to a rare Bellerin goal from an Iwobi assist, Arsenal never looked convincing. Lacazette was starved of service as usual, as the current midfield don’t generally play the sort of throughballs that he can run onto. Arsenal prefer to play a lot of short passes in the middle, before someone like Xhaka over-hits a pass forward. That seems to be the preferred style of play nowadays and no striker in the world will be able to score many goals with that kind of service.
At the back, meanwhile, the defensive triumvirate of Chambers, Mustafi and Holding is not the worst line-up in the world. However, Petr Cech seems to have gone to pieces of late, and did so again, letting in two soft goals. Nevertheless, you can’t say that the defence ahead of him is receiving the best protection nowadays with all the players in front of the back three being attack-minded.
Maitland-Niles looked a class act going forward, but was nothing to write home about defensively. The first Bournemouth goal was conceded after a cross from his flank, so he must be at least slightly culpable, along with the three other Arsenal players dragged to the ball.
Overall, it was another dismal performance from Arsenal. If this 2-1 defeat against Bournemouth is life after Sanchez, then the Gunners are going to have their work cut out to even stay in 6th.