Post-PSG wish list: A few areas Arsene must address ahead of trip to Hull

There was more than a touch of good fortune about it, but a point in Paris really was a prize worth having as Arsenal kicked off their Champions League campaign on Tuesday night.

When the relief of having completed his toughest group fixture finally subsides, there will be plenty for Arsene to think about and have a really good chew on as he prepares his team for the weekend’s trip to Hull City.

Here are a few of the things I think should be at the top of his list:

Alexis Sanchez:

The experiment where he plays up top on his own doesn’t work. Time and again Arsene has given it a go but it’s high time now that we consign this one to the dustbin. It hasn’t had the desired effect and it nullifies the Chilean as a threat.

I’m sure he wouldn’t readily admit it, but it seems clear that Alexis does not like the role either. He can’t seem to stand the isolation for any great length of time and is, invariably, drawn deeper like the proverbial moth to the flame.

Olivier Giroud, on the other hand, is very much suited to the role and the difference it made when he was moved up top and Alexis moved back out onto the wing was instant and marked.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain:

Aside from a few fleeting moments, things once again didn’t click for Alex.

He is trying, there is no doubting that, but I wonder if he is now trying too hard. He is dashing around the pitch in an attempt to be all things to all men and, frankly, he seems to just be exhausting himself.

The incisiveness and penetration we saw glimpses of in pre-season are gone. He just hasn’t been able to pick up the ball and charge at his full back. I don’t know whether the team tactics are preventing him from doing that or not, but he isn’t nearly as effective as he should be.

In all honesty, I don’t know what the solution is here. I was surprised that he made the starting line-up given his recent struggles and he was again sacrificed last night. Perhaps a few run outs from the bench might work, when there is a little less pressure.

The case for the defence:

On multiple occasions last night we worn torn to ribbons by the hosts, with huge gaps allowing runners to really get in on David Ospina’s goal.

I realise that the tactics in the second half very much propagated this but it was still difficult to watch. We were made to look a little amateur at times.

To their credit, the back four coped as well as they could but they were really shorn of any meaningful support from midfield.

It was only when Mohammed Elneny and Granit Xhaka were thrown into the fray, with the score at 1-1, that we were finally able to restore some order.

I understand that we had to push up in the second half, in order to nullify the high press of PSG, and to some extent it worked.

The gamble was always going to be the space that was left in behind our defence and, on this occasion, the superb work of David Ospina meant that the gamble paid off. It won’t always be this way. In fact, it very rarely ever works out quite so well, so a much better balance must be sought.

We cannot afford to go into games without a better balance between attack and defence.

Granit Xhaka

When he plays, he is really very good. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to be starting much at the moment.

It has been suggested that he has struggled to recover quickly enough from the fitness-focused training sessions at Arsenal. If that is the case then fair enough. In time, his fitness will improve and he will take his place in the team.

I just hope there is nothing more to this. I hope that his well-documented struggles with discipline are not counting against him. Does Arsene believe that teams will try and wind the Swiss up in key games, in a bid to get him sent off? It’s possible. But it’s not something he can protect against at the expense of the team.

If true, he needs to make it abundantly clear to Granit that he must keep his head in such games as these. Just like he has done with Giroud……!

Whatever the situation, I hope to see Granit in the starting line up for Hull. If nothing else, he makes us much more stable as a side.

David Ospina

Not much to add here that hasn’t been noted already. Arsene has retained tremendous faith in the Colombian, even while countless onlookers have howled in derision at his inclusion. That faith was rewarded last night with an excellent display. I hope that, from now on, people will give the guy the credit and respect he deserves.

 

 

 

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