Arsenal kicked off the final surge of the season where they left off, from a fine win away to Everton over a week ago. All the major players are finding their form and with the emergence of Iwobi there’s a fresh feel about the team, a real dynamism in the attack.
It’s also refreshing to be able to pick two or three players for the Player of the Week. It could be Iwobi due to his rapid rise, or Elneny for his continued impact in the middle of the park, or even Gabriel who’s looked much better in recent games, still a nut case, but a better one all the same. However, I’m going to back Alexis Sanchez this week, who appears to have dusted himself off and left his wretched form in the past.
I thought the Chilean looked close to his old, electric self a week or so ago where he helped Arsenal dismantle Everton a little too easily. It was an excellent display from all involved and can only bring to light why Arsenal haven’t played that well more often, and that doesn’t necessarily mean from a footballing perspective, but the energy and desire in the Everton game has been far and few between throughout the season and there has to be questions as to why this is still the case. But I suspect most know the answer, whether Arsenal pull of the miraculous title win or not. Nevertheless, Alexis was instrumental in the win, helping himself to a very fine collective assist. I don’t remember too much about the game other than a smart Iwobi finish, but Alexis did look fresher than he has been in months.
Arsenal’s resurgence as a team was emphatically brought to attention on Saturday where a flurry of goals tore Watford apart. The away team were never in the game. As soon as Alexis Sanchez scored within the opening minutes you felt the game was already done. Arsenal were in the mood, and when they’re in the mood not many can cope. It’s maintaining the mood that has always been the problem. But for now, at least, the switch is on. Arsenal’s fiery star looked absolutely back to his best, twisting and turning out of multiple players, carrying the ball, shrugging off all challenges, all in the dazzling manner we’ve come to expect. In typical fashion the Chilean was relentless down the flank, causing all sorts of menace. He was helped further by Bellerin’s storming runs, and the Spaniard is another who’s enjoyed a burst of form. (Could be coincidence, but Iwobi’s presence seems to have raised everybody’s game.) The second goal, fittingly snapped up by young Iwobi, came from a brilliantly worked team move, again down the right-hand side where Arsenal dominated the game. Coquelin, also enjoying his partnership with Elneny, disguised an Ozil-esque pass into the box, and Sanchez squared smartly to Iwobi who has a calmness in front of goal that has been severely lacking. He could have had three on another day, his effort in the top corner thwarted by Gomes, and his other effort rattling off the crossbar. Iwobi is in no danger of losing his place for the reminder of the season.
It’s great to see Alexis happy and firing again, because he’s been in the dumps for too long, and it’s no doubt had an impact on Arsenal’s season. Yes, he’s not the only one, but when he’s off form, his buzzing nature is often detrimental to the overall effectiveness of Arsenal’s attack, and it’s something the team has suffered from in recent months – there was a major imbalance in the team during the lacklustre stages of this season, and where the title grip had been lost. And with that, Wenger deserves some credit for introducing Iwobi into the fold, because it’s fairly evident that he has restored the balance in attack, particularly with his blossoming partnership with Welbeck. It’s forced Alexis back onto the right wing, where he’s often more effective. Iwobi’s creativity and dribbling also takes the strain away from Alexis, who is given too much to do when the likes of Walcott or Campbell play on the opposite flank.
At the start of the season it was always said that if Alexis can stay fit and in form, together with Ozil, then the team has a chance. It’s infuriating that the chance is so small now, but it is still there. Winning the title at this stage relies on too many factors, but if Alexis and the rest can keep up the energy then who knows? I doubt it, but with season petering out there needs be something to get excited about.