It took another last gasp goal on
Saturday evening to save Arsenal’s blushes once more as the Gunners came back
from two goals down against Everton to secure an unlikely draw in the closing
seven minutes of the game.
Arsenal flew back to North London
last night, having secured a 0-0 draw away to Besiktas, not really knowing what
they should feel about the end result.
It was a game they could have won
had they been sharper in the final third to exploit little gaps that appeared
and in the last few minutes the Gunners saw Oxlade-Chamberlain’s excellent
effort unfortunately come back off the post. Yet it was also a match Wenger’s
men could easily have lost as Besiktas created a number of gilt edged
opportunities to take the lead.
Saturday saw the return of Premier League football
at the Emirates after a summer in which Arsenal fans’ expectations have
increased significantly. The manager has made relatively early moves in the
transfer window, strengthening a squad which was only seven points away from
title glory last season. The signing of Alexis Sanchez in particular was a real
statement from the club, following on from last summer’s capture of Mesut Ozil,
indicating that the Gunners have well and truly entered into a new and exciting
era, while the 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield also
hinted at an exciting season ahead.
This time last year Arsenal were being heavily linked with Gonzalo Higuain, with several media outlets as well as numerous Higuain family members confirming a deal was imminent. Yet despite these assertions, ultimately the transfer never materialised resulting in great disappointment. The Gunners of course did go on to sign a world class player in Mesut Ozil but no one could have blamed the Arsenal faithful for feeling slightly sceptical when rumours linking Alexis Sanchez to the Emirates recently surfaced.
Last night, however, just before the launch of the new Puma kits, Arsenal confirmed the signing of the Chilean international in a clear statement of intent. This is now a club that is moving forward, is focused and has the ability to attract the World’s best players. Ozil’s move was the first building block, a sign the years of austerity were over and that club was ready to mount a serious challenge for the game’s biggest honours. Arsenal were no longer a selling club and having now ended their long trophy draught with the FA Cup win in May, the Gunners have also restored a winning mentality at the Emirates. The arrival of Sanchez is the latest piece of the puzzle.
The former Barcelona man has all the attributes to become a roaring success in the Premier League. Strong, agile, skilful and fast, Sanchez adds a whole new dimension to the Arsenal attack. Although it will of course take time for the Chilean to settle into life at the Emirates, Sanchez will not be easily bullied. He has great strength and is not overwhelmed when the game turns physical. Renowned for scoring wonder goals from seemingly impossible angles, Sanchez also has the ability to change the course of a match in the blink of an eye.
His searing pace is also a welcome addition to the Arsenal squad as with Walcott out injured for the latter half of last season, the Gunners lacked any pace in their forward line which allowed the opposition to press high up the pitch, a key feature of those humbling defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea. The presence of Sanchez will force defences to sit deeper, providing more space and time for the Arsenal midfield to pick out passes. Ozil will therefore benefit greatly from this new acquisition as Sanchez specialises in finding space and making clever, well-timed runs in behind the opposition defence, which will provide the German assist master with plenty of options.
Sanchez was deployed mainly on the right flank by Barcelona, but he can also play through the middle, offering an alternative to Olivier Giroud, who struggled to maintain his fine form as last season wore on. The Frenchman must also be pleased with the new arrival as Giroud specialises in providing deft little flicks for those willing to run beyond him. The prospect of Wenger fielding a front three of Walcott, Giroud and Sanchez, with Ozil just behind them and Ramsey a little deeper, not only excites the Arsenal faithful but must also strike fear into every Premier League defence.
The Gunners cannot rest on their laurels however. Wenger and Gazidis have done a fantastic job in securing such a quality signing as early as possible, but must now also address other areas of the squad. A backup goalkeeper, right back and holding midfielder should now be top priorities, while another defender and striker could also be required. According to reports Mathieu Debuchy is all set to join, while Athletico Madrid’s young right back Javier Manquillo is also said to be in advanced talks over a loan move. A deal for Loic Reny however, appears to have stalled due to the Frenchman’s wage demands. Rumours have also surfaced linking Sami Khedira with a move, which if true would cause Arsenal fans to pinch themselves continuously to make sure they weren’t just having a beautiful dream.
A week ago today Arsenal were
gearing up for the most important game of their season. In fact as Arsene
Wenger later revealed, it was also the most important game in the manager’s
reign at the club. The Gunners went into the FA Cup final against Hull City
carrying the weight of nine long years without a trophy as well as a league
campaign which had promised so much for so long, but ultimately petered out as
the pressure mounted.
It’s happened again, Tottenham
Hotspur, it’s happened again! This chant rang round the Emirates last night as
the Gunners secured a crucial three points in the race for fourth place against
a poor Newcastle United side last night. It was also a victory that ensured
Arsenal would once again finish the season ahead of their North London rivals,
despite Spurs’ lavish £110 million summer spending spree. A wise man once
proclaimed that change is inevitable, but it would appear that some things just
Having secured an FA Cup final
spot on Saturday, Arsenal turned their attention back to the Premier League
yesterday and the race for a top four finish.
Arsene Wenger had to reshuffle
his starting eleven following 120 minutes of semi-final action which had taken
its toll on several Gunners players. Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs both failed
to overcome injuries and with Koscielny returning to first team action, Thomas
Vermaelen was deployed at left back. Further forward, Kim Kallstrom made his
first start in an Arsenal shirt alongside Thomas Rosicky, who had missed the
semi-final through injury, while up front; Yaya Sanogo made way for Giroud. The
result was that Wenger fielded the second oldest team of his tenure, with an
average age of 29.