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December 2020
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Why Mbappe is in, and why it don’t matter if Alexis is out

By Tony Attwood

“Kylian Mbappe sends out clear sign he’s Arsenal-bound with brand new Aaron Ramsey-inspired hair”

Yes apparently he has died his hair blonde and it looks like Ramsey, even though the two players come from an utterly different heritage.  And that is a genuine quote from a bloggetta.

Compared to that, “Arsenal are on the brink of completing a deal to sign CSKA Moscow star   according to reports in the Russian media” looks completely rational.  £10m for a midfielder who is 21 and who you maybe have never heard of.  Fair enough.

But I began to wonder just how good this Alexis fella actually has been.  I mean I know 2016/17 was his best season personally with 30 goals, his previous best also being with us, with 25 goals in his first season at the club.  But at Barcelona he only scored one goal in three instead of one goal in two that he is doing for us.  Has he perhaps flattered to deceive?

And that got me pondering.

We had this amazing goalscorer but where was he when we needed him the most during that dreadful run that destroyed our season?

Date Match Res Score Scorers
31 Jan 2017 Arsenal v Watford L 1-2 Iwobi
04 Feb Chelsea v Arsenal L 3-1 Giroud
11 Feb Arsenal v Hull City W 2-0 Alexis 2
15 Feb Bayern München v Arsenal L 5-1 Alexis
20 Feb Sutton United v Arsenal W 0-2 Lucas, Theo (S)
04 Mar Liverpool v Arsenal L 3-1 Welbeck (S)
07 Mar 2017 Arsenal v Bayern München L 1-5 Theo
11 Mar Arsenal v Lincoln City W 5-0 Theo, Giroud, Alexis Ramsey
18 Mar West Bromwich v Arsenal L 3-1 Alexis
02 Apr Arsenal v Manchester City D 2-2 Theo, Mustafi
05 Apr Arsenal v West Ham United W 3-0 Ozil, Theo, Giroud
10 Apr Crystal Palace v Arsenal L 3-0

In those 12 games, Alexis played 10 and came on as a sub in two, once at half time once on 75 minutes.  He scored four goals – one in every three games, back to the old Barcelona levels.  And I began to wonder if he was really doing the business in those games, or whether he was having an off-time.

Of course it could be that he wasn’t getting the ball in the right place, but Alexis is a player who, when on form, is given the ball anywhere, and then beats the opponent either to score or put in the perfect cross.   But he didn’t, and as a result in that run of games Arsenal scored 20 and conceded 26.

What we needed to get us out of that rut was a player who could pick up a game by the scruff of the neck and turn it around.   That can be a player who is utterly determined no matter what or a player who is so overwhelmingly good he can do it all by himself.

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Now if you take the view that Alexis is that good, and that it is the rest of the team that was letting him down in those games, fair enough, we keep Alexis and change the team.  But if you think it is the other way around we sell Alexis, and find ourselves someone else who can change the game around when everything but everything is going against us.

I’m actually not sure which of the two it is: but I did worry to see Alexis in his petulant moods as he complains about passes, blames others, walks off the pitch when substituted, sitting down in a sulk.

It is wonderful to see him turn on the pressure, as he did at the laughingly called “London Stadium” where he just ran all over West Ham.    But for Arsenal to have won the league last season we didn’t actually need that many more goals.  What we needed was a sensational leader who from somewhere on the pitch could turn the game upside down when everything was going against us.  Not someone who would blame the other players on the park.

Maybe there is no such player.  Maybe it always has to be a collective job.  Maybe it can’t be done by one but rather needs two.

And yet, and yet, I seem to recall Henry taking hold of the game, doing it all by himself, and inspiring the whole team to raise their game.  Does Alexis do that?

To answer properly I’d have to watch all the games of last season again, and I am not going to do that.  But I just wonder if we are seeing holding on to him as being the be all and end all of everything when in fact maybe it isn’t.

And besides if the kid from Monaco has died his hair, well, that just about wraps it up.

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18 comments to Why Mbappe is in, and why it don’t matter if Alexis is out

  • Jan Hansen

    But Alexis is exactly the player that can turn a game around. Problem is, when his form dips a bit, no-one else turns up. The problem is not that he did not turn up during that spell. This will happen to any player. The problem is that due to his form dropping a bit in that period, we lost the chance of challenging.

  • GB66

    I think the petulance shown by Sanchez was likely an accumulation of the last few seasons and his realisation that we were once again out of league contention early. He probably arrived at Arsenal with promises from Arsene of this being a club on the up, at the start of an exciting project (Post austerity), that was serious about developing a side capable of challenging for the EPL and in the further stages of the ECL. The club have failed in that quite clearly, and when he saw again this season exactly how little progress we had made it probably prompted his visible reaction of dissatisfaction. I don’t condone those reactions but can understand them.

    We seem to have an imploding period every season recently, Sanchez (and likely even Henry in his prime) or not. Sanchez’ return is excellent for a player that is not the main striker. He actually likely kept us from imploding further. Top teams often have one key player but the rest of the team still have to be up to scratch else even that player cannot carry the team entirely. Henry had a great supporting cast even when we were not playing well, a team that was hard to beat even in bad games.

    To suggest that this is the reason that we have had a poor EPL season I feel is clutching at straws. One could almost feel its aim is to deflect any blame away from the manager and the club, where in reality I feel the true reasons for our distinct lack of league progress in recent seasons lie. A team can’t play well in every game and top goal-scorers will go through less purple patches. What you then need is an overall resolute team and other players to be sharing the goal-scoring burden.

    We have needed a world class striker for a few seasons and certainly this was the key addition required to build on Ozil and Sanchez arriving, but it seems too much procrastinating and a lack of decisiveness by the manager and board prevented this. A top striker would have gone a long way to see us challenging for the EPL and share the goal-scoring burden.

    Perhaps even more than this has been the tactics and system that we have adopted in recent seasons not really suiting us, so that when the chips are down we have little to fall back on and then proceed into an implosion period. We have looked absolutely chaotic defensively on an all too frequent basis over recent seasons as well as this one. We have looked poorly trained and drilled with the players seemingly having little direction or understanding. The new system has seen a massive improvement in our solidity but why was it changed so late?

    I am afraid I have to disagree with the premise of this article that Sanchez didn’t step up when required and feel the 2 points I made above are far more relevant, but that then points the finger at the manager and board. I wonder, with all due respect, if you find it difficult to accept blame in those aspects of our club so are looking for an easier more palatable scapegoat.

  • GB66

    p.s, would love Mbappe though, but in addition to not instead of Alexis.

  • OlegYch

    pretty sure that mbappe headline is banter, similar to Sir Hardlys

  • OlegYch

    what i find disturbing is the constant stream of slagging Alexis gets from you, Tony

  • para

    Alexis is good, no doubt. But is he willing to stay at Arsenal if his wage does not substitute for the loss of CL next season? Probably not.

    Mbappe seems to be an answer to the quick forwards(other teams have and looking for more) that are emerging again in football.

    One thing is though, if all the “top clubs” are interested in him (unlike sanogo) then he must be good.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Alexis that scored 30 goals in all competitions for Arsenal last season when he was mostly injury free unlike the previous season when he was sidelined for months. And he scored 25 goals in his first season at Arsenal which has made him become a player of high productivity for Le Prof and the Arsenal hierarchy to hold on to and should not be jettisoned even if they sign Mbappe who they should sign by all means within their powers. For, three marquee players of Sanchez, Ozil and Mbappe will make Arsenal a bigger forest than they were last season with thei two marquee players in Sanchez and Ozil.

    Le Prof and the Arsenal board MUST keep Sanchez in the rank and file of the Gunners first team and not ever allowed him to go elsewhere this summer and even in the next summers that will follow. I implore Le Prof to keep negotiating with Sanchez until he agrees to extend his current deal to remain at Arsenal by another 4 years which will see him clock 32 years in age at Arsenal by the time his renewed deal expired.

    For the sake of Arsenal winning the quadruple or the fifthruple that’s will include the Charity Shield next season, and possibly break their 13 PL games winning run record in a single season, and also break the 30 PL games wins record set by Chelsea last season, Arsenal should please and please not turn the Sanchez renewing of contract deal to another van Persie and Bacary Sagna failed deals renwing because Arsenal didn’t give them the new pay they wanted to be earning before they will renew and subsequently left Arsenal to other clubs that gave them what they asked for..

    Let me appeal to Sanchez and Ozil not to be too insistence of getting the higher pay they want before they renew. Both of them and Arsenal should strike a balance whereby Arsenal will move forward a bit to increase their offer to them and both Sanchez and Ozil will back down from their positions a bit to lower their demands so that an equilibrium can be reach and a new deal between the three parties will be struck.

  • geoff trigg

    maybe we need him and another like him

  • OlegYch,
    Really? I am not sure you did follow The Arsenal, to not know how this Alexis superstar disrupted this team. All the pundits who talked real football were disillusioned by example Alexis set in Arsenal.
    Rebels like Rvp,Anelka did not distract,disrupt the team.
    Did you see Messi,Ronaldo behave like Alexis.
    Sanchez, so good they paud more than twicee to repkace him at Barca

  • No I don’t find it difficult to accept the blame in the areas you mention GB66, but that notion is posited everywhere although of course without direct evidence. But this is Untold, and the mission of Untold is in part within its name – to explore notions that are not put forward elsewhere. I can’t prove my point any more than you can; but it is, I think, one worthy of examination. And it gets done here because I have not seen any of the 100s of blogs on article or mainstream reports on Arsenal which have examined this.

    In terms of goals we were not very far short of Chelsea – I think I worked it out that one goal extra in every five games would have tkaken us to their level, which suggests the problem was not there, but somewhere else – such as the run I postulated.

  • ron

    you might say the dip in results coincided with sanchez dip in form –bound to be periods where a player is not at his best – -seems to me there is still improvement left in sanchez can improve his distribution release the ball earlier but his absence would certainly leave a hole particularly in games /periods in games where the team are struggling you can play the ball up to him and he will hold on to it release the pressure etc

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    Tony i disagree that Arsenal.will not suffer if Sanchez leave

    I think we should keep Sanchez even if he does not extend his contract.
    Sanchez is a proven effective player and already bedded in the system despite his short coming of losing the ball cheaply.

    Mbappe will take time to fit in.

    We must take hold of Sanchez and comvince him to extemd his contrsct.

  • OlegYch

    RichSAAlao i’ve seen every game this season
    and i think Tony is really unfair in his judgement of Alexis, which is based on nothing but interpretation of ‘body language’ and whatever is written in main stream media (aka plundits) on this subject
    it is incorrect to just him as rebel unless he really leaves and creates a constant stream of negativity which might actually convince him to leave, and other players too

  • Andy Mack

    para, FYI, when Sanogo was lighting up youth football, loads of big clubs were interested in him. The fact he never made the step up to senior level due to injury (and never recovered fully) or lack of talent, doesn’t change that.

  • Scuba

    We didn’t just need a few more goals to win the league last season, we needed significantly better defending. Leadership and goals are great, but we let far, far too many easy goals in last season. Between the Premier League and the Champions League, we gave up 60 goals in 46 matches. That’s not anywhere near good enough.

  • Let me disagree with you for once Tony.

    Our defence, with the help of terrible officiating, cost us this season and NEVER anything attributable to Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean even created more clear scoring chances than he attempted to score directly. If there were any great finishers in our team, Shanchez would have broken Thierry Henry’s assist record by a good margin.

    But most times his team mates let the workaholic down. Take the match against Crystal Palace. Palace scored against the run of play. Sanchez battled and equalised…only for poor officiating, terrible defending and poor poor outing from David Ospina to ship in two goals, making all Sanchez’s efforts come to naughts.

    I must agree with GB66. Arsene Wenger waited for too long to take risks. Le Prof changed to three at the back, not necessary to score more goals but basically to stop leaking them like basket. And Sanchez wasn’t playing in that department.

    A workaholic like Sanchez who gives more than 100% in every game, scores even while limping, has every right to feel occasionally let down by team mates, who either fluff his tailor-laid chances or fail to locate him when appropriately placed.

    If Arsenal are looking for a game changer or one that could single-handedly win games they don’t need to look further. We already have Sanchez. As far as I’m concerned only the signing of Lionel Messi will make me see Sanchez go without tears. I’ve visualised where we could have been without him this ended season and my mind’s eye tells me somewhere around 10th.

    Arsenal will be guaranteed another disappointing season if we ever lose Sanchez. Nobody is indispensable but Sanchez presently is in this Arsenal team.

  • Jack

    I lean towards the points put forth by GB66.

  • Josif

    Tony

    I can think of five-six first-team players that should have been blamed for our dip in form last season and Alexis gets nowhere near them.

    For instance, Arsene went to the game v Liverpool with Alexis on the bench. They had a 2:0 lead before the break and judging by the referee review, we were lucky with that scoreline as we should have had a man down (Coquelin) and a penalty conceded (Bellerin).

    After Alexis was introduced, he created a goal for Welbeck and it was Liverpool that got away with an important referee decision (Can’s second yellow card not given). Liverpool got their 3rd goal once we threw all our cards on scoring the equalizer. With Alexis on the pitch we had a result that would have got us a point and taken two off Liverpool’s tally which would have made all the difference on the final standing.

    In rare games we won during the dreadful streak, Alexis was our best player (Hull). In games we lost he was our best player in at least three games (Bayern A, West Brom A, Liverpool A).

    Which leads me to the question: what lies behind anti-Alexis Arsenal agenda that some positive Arsenal fans have developed?

    Unfortunately, last season was so weird that the best Arsenal player was crucified by otherwise reasonable people for…I don’t know, not winning the league on his own, 1 against 11, week in and out.

    I haven’t heard people making similar accusations towards Ozil which is bizarre given that he had been pretty poor after Cazorla’s injury and until the formation change. And he missed a huge chance to give us a 2:1 lead in Munich that would have changed things completely. Or, maybe even worse, he missed a huge chance to give us a 2:1 lead at Everton in a game that set our season on a bad path.

    Or about Giroud for, say, a miss against Bayern a few minutes before Koscielny’s red card.

    Why Alexis doesn’t have protection from boo-boys?

    As for comparison with Henry, Thierry never scored a goal in a final in his career. In fact, three out of four biggest victories during Thierry’s career at Arsenal were battled without Thierry on the pitch (two out of three FA Cup finals and a victory at Old Trafford). Alexis has scored in both FA Cup semfinals he played for Arsenal (in fact, he scored winners in both matches) and in both FA Cup finals as well. His impact was there and remember it whenever you mention 13 FA Cup victories for Arsenal and 7 for Arsene because Alexis has played a vital role in two of them.

    For some reason, Ozil never gets criticized in a way Alexis does even if Ozil was much worse than Alexis during the awful period. Never mind defenders and goalkeepers who couldn’t keep a clean sheet in a laundry room.

    My guess is, if Alexis leaves, usually positive bloggers who became boo-boys (or more precisely, blog boo-booys or BBB) when it comes to Alexis, should accept their part of the blame for his departure.

    My question is: why?