Leicester City 1 – 1 Arsenal
0 – 1 Sanchez (20)
1 – 1 Ulloa (22)
As the match unravelled, it is hard to argue with the final scoreline. On the balance of play, a draw was a fair result. Which makes it all the more disappointing; Arsenal lacked the guile to create the opportunities for the right players to score the goals to make the difference. Instead they fell to Yaya Sanogo who, seventeen games into his Arsenal career, is still seeking his first goal for the club. His manager, probably exasperated with the media questioning, offered the least robust defence of the player he has ever uttered,
You have been 21 and you have certainly played football. If you play up front and you don’t score it’s very quickly a problem. I don’t think that problem will last very long and at the moment when you have a chance to play for Arsenal Football Club as a centre forward and you don’t score, it’s a problem for you.
No, Arsène, it’s a problem for you, for Sanogo, for the team, for the supporters. It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the striker, his first goals for the club would lead to a regular supply. Four came in The Emirates Cup but nothing in the three subsequent matches in which he has appeared. Plenty of chances wasted through a lack of composure and wayward shooting.
On the bench, both Podolski and Campbell must have wondered what they have to do to be given such a high level of trust. Wenger repeatedly cites the pair amongst his list of strikers, to highlight his perception of depth in the squad. The reality is that giving the German thirteen minutes and the Costa Rican none, proves he doesn’t trust either or view them as better than Sanogo. Depth is becoming a trick involving smoke and mirrors.
And in that scenario, where a striker is misfiring, the rest of the team has to stand up and contribute. Alexis Sanchez is but the remaining midfielders and attacking players? Ramsey has three goals, joint leading scorer with the Chilean in the major competitions, Cazorla and Koscielny a goal apiece. Giroud has a couple – the Charity Shield counts in official records – but no-one else. It’s not enough and the dropped point yesterday is as fine an example of that as you will find.
Leicester held no surprises, they had set themselves exactly the same way at Stamford Bridge the previous week. Credit certainly to their players for being disciplined enough to keep their shape and follow instructions but this is nothing new for Arsenal to face. Indeed, it is fast becoming a time-honoured tactical display from opponents. There will always be days when the players lack the guile to undo such defences, yesterday was one of them.
It shouldn’t have been. Sanogo made himself available, got into good positions but there was a weary predictability in the failure to beat Schmeichel. Sanchez profited with his second goal in consecutive games, his first in the Premier League and the final one to lift a weight off his shoulders. A high price tag in this era requires immediate return and Alexis is producing that. Arsenal remain unbeaten although quite how virtuous that is remains debatable; Arsenal are seventh with three teams above them who have lost already this season.
The home side will feel they could have profited more, Ulloa certainly should have claimed all three points when he fired into the side netting rather than claiming the glory. Missing chances is not the sole preserve of Arsenal. But the Argentine had already made his mark on the game by then, capitalising on Laurent Koscielny’s misjudgement to head home a quick equaliser. Should the French defender even have been on the pitch at that point? Hindsight suggests not but Arsène acted on the advice given which surprisingly did not seem to notice the blood continuing to escape from the wound. I guess the question is whether Calum Chambers or Mertesacker would have been any closer to Ulloa? The answer is supposition.
It was a strange performance overall, some players were evidently fatigued with Mathieu Flamini I felt noticeable by his absence. Others disagreed with his combative style deemed crucial. It’s not enough though it was a match where Jack Wilshere’s willingness to get involved was sorely missed. Ramsey despite a week off seemed subdued, perhaps drawn more into the water carrying role than he would have wanted, muting his attacking threat. The real plus points were the full backs and the support they were able to give the attack, the prime example being Monreal’s thrust that created another spurned opportunity for Sanogo.
There is a different perspective to be taken on the result though, one which needs a certain belief about how the season will pan out. Last season we drew at West Bromwich Albion early in the campaign, a result which did not overly damage the final placings although you could argue that wins at The Hawthorns and St Mary’s – the other away draw – would have put Arsenal into third place.
That the squad won eleven of the nineteen games is a tremendous record and one that they need to replicate, improve on, by taking more points at the homes of the top eight. A point at Goodison Park was a small step in that direction. Whether yesterday is a bad point – if there is such a thing – can only be known at the end of the season and I am not writing off an entire season yet. It’s madness to do so, you just know Arsenal can do more to give themselves a better chance to succeed.
We compare results between teams at various grounds as if this is some measure of how well Arsenal are performing. Chelsea won at Everton, where Arsenal only drew. There will be occasions when Arsenal win at grounds on which Chelsea suffer defeat or draw. It’s as vacuous a measure of success as Arsène’s comparison of Manchester City’s striking problems.
Indeed that rhetoric may yet bite Wenger. Chelsea signed Loic Remy to solve a perceived lack of depth in their squad, City are reportedly trying to sign Radamel Falcao. If they do so, their problem has been addressed. Time will tell if either or both is a success but each club will have given themselves the opportunity. Arsenal have to put themselves in the same situation.
Transfer Deadline Day will give us immediate answers and plenty of food for thought. My overriding concern is that the problems we faced twelve months ago still exist, will still exist tomorrow. Despite the perception to the contrary, signing players is not easy, I do believe that especially when the talent pool at this level is limited. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that it takes hard work to make it happen. When it continues to happen late in the window, on the last day, half-a-dozen games into the season, is it that virtuous? When you get it right, yes. The time for getting it right Arsène, Ivan, is now.