Tongues have been wagging ever since Sunday afternoon when an Arsenal side shorn of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez comfortably neutralised the champions, Chelsea.
According to experts, the pair of them should be left out of the Gunners’ toughest road trips moving forwards. Our man Adrian Clarke, himself a former Arsenal winger and football betting extraordinaire, has other ideas…
There’s no way this should signal the end of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez starting Arsenal’s most challenging away fixtures.
You don’t pay hundreds of thousands of pounds per week to players that can only be used in certain situations.
It’s a step too far to only utilise their talents in matches where the Gunners will surely dominate.
Instead, this performance should spark the beginning of a new era of tactical expectation, as far as the pair of them are concerned.
The bar has been set on what Arsenal’s forwards must do off the ball (which Ozil and Alexis did in the 2017 FA Cup Final) and it’s now down to the stars in question to ensure they don’t shirk those responsibilities.
If they don’t deliver on the required defensive work rate, then it must be made clear their positions are no longer guaranteed. Those are the new ground rules.
What impressed the boss in #CFCvAFC?
“The response of the players, the togetherness and fighting spirit” 👊https://t.co/6IKkXO2bsC
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 18, 2017
For me, as an ex-footballer, that’s a completely normal approach to take.
To be selected, a player knows they must follow the gaffer’s instructions and commit to 100 per cent effort, with and without the ball.
It’s probably high time the Arsenal boss took a stricter approach.
I’m sure it hasn’t been a conscious happening, but Ozil and Sanchez have been a little over-indulged.
In Ozil’s case especially, too many ineffective performances in the big away games, have been allowed to drift by without consequence.
With a heavy focus on keeping them happy, and Arsene Wenger’s natural inclination to prioritise his own teams’ strengths in favour of nullifying the opposition’s, they have been afforded freedom other coaches wouldn’t have allowed.
To stop the best teams, every side needs all ten outfield players to contribute intelligently, in and out of possession. And away from home, the need to fulfill those duties intensifies.
While asking them to track back inside their own half is not playing to the strengths of Ozil or Sanchez, nobody can persuade me that neither is capable of replicating the thoughtful positioning of Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck at Stamford Bridge.
— Danny Welbeck (@DannyWelbeck) August 11, 2017
The German, although regarded a luxury player, regularly covers more distance than most teammates, and Chilean Sanchez is as tigerish as they come.
They know how to press, how to screen passes, and when to show a rival down the line or inside.
It’s simply a matter of drilling down the importance of it into them, so that it becomes more natural.
Football is a team sport, and the very best sides have never been willing to ‘carry’ individuals.
You need that musketeer, all-for-one, one-for-all spirit to prevail.
It isn’t beneficial for Arsenal to let two of their most gifted individuals sit out a match against tough opposition.
Extracting unselfish graft from Ozil and Sanchez should be a given, because as impressive as the Gunners were in west London on Sunday, they still didn’t win the contest.
When goal opportunities come their way in these stiff examinations, you need your best creators and finishers out there on the pitch.
But to have them on the field of play, it must now be explained in no uncertain terms that the team ethic must come first.
I believe Arsenal have the ability to become title contenders, but only if their best players are prepared to get their hands dirty, home and away.
I say it’s doable, but attitudes must change.
The team, and the game plan, should always come first.