Not many took Wenger for his word when he said he was very optimistic of Gibbs chances of featuring in the game. So we were all gearing up to see Monreal at left back, while Bellerin would nudge Chambers into the thick of things with Mertesacker. Even if Gibbs was okay, the challenge to come on Tuesday – the Champions League rematch at home to Anderlecht which could all but seal our passage into the next round – it could have been a real problem if Gibbs were to jerk off 8 minutes into the game. The balance of the play could have been interrupted, while at the same time aggravating what may have needed a rest to fully heal.
Alexis through the Middle.
It was the tricky and slightly uncertain piece in the Alexis puzzle during his first few games this season, where he best fits in the team. At Barcelona, he was often joggled across the forward line without any particular position but was more effective drifting in from the wings. Having seen him affect the game very significantly from a more central alignment, especially the drive through the Hull defence to create Welbeck’s equalizer as well as pressing the Sunderland defence into activating self-destruct, Wenger made the move to start him in a central role against Burnley, more as a supporting striker in a 4-4-2 than as a Number 10. The manager’s words after the game is a strong indication that it panned out just as he had hoped:
“Since he’s played through the middle, he looks more goal dangerous. Now it looks to me that he’s really dangerous through the center of the pitch because he’s in full confidence… through the center of the pitch, maybe he’s more dangerous”.
It is useless to begin considering whether that means Ozil will keep playing out wide when he returns, enjoy the moment.
Wilshere’s knock before the game in training, coupled with Ramsey still struggling to return to full fitness kind of made this an easy for Wenger. Plus the deployment of 4-4-2 requires two central midfielders who would be ready to work, in defence as well as attack. Flamini was the more advanced of the pair but the inability of either to do much going forward is a real weakness of their partnership. That said, you can afford to have one less attacking midfielder in your team when you’ve got Alexis in the hole. Wenger logic.
Where was Campbell?
So it’s official then, Sanogo comes before Campbell in Wenger’s white book. The Frenchman returned to the squad this weekend after over 5 weeks on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury and upon his return, Joel Campbell gets no place in the Matchday 18. Worst case scenario: if we sell him in January, it must be for a real handsome fee.
10 minutes to Walcott
Alexis’ 70th minute header was a huge sigh of relief in a game that seemed to be headed for the knife-edged finish and while it duly got its share of cheers, the big ovation of the day came when the Ox came off for Theo Walcott. The last sight of him on the pitch was in the FA Cup game against the Spurs, making the two-nil sign while being stretchered off. We’d heard enough of him not being ready for contact, and with the game safe at 2 – 0, it would have been quite an offence for Wenger not to give him a run.
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