Following my blog yesterday about how Arsenal haven’t really adopted the counter attack properly in years, I thought I’d offer a somewhat controversial opinion as a solution, which I’ve been thinking about following the stories emerging about Alexis wanting to head back to Spain. Firstly, why he’d want to go back to a country who feels like prosecuting him is beyond me and why he’d want to inflict such heat on his heavily haired companions is beyond me, but I’m thinking about the football side. And the conclusion I am starting to come around to is:
Don’t get me wrong, the guy is brilliant, I love what he brings to the team and he’s the first talisman we’ve had since van Persie left. But I just can’t help but wonder if at times he as a player holds back some of the others. Think about it; Alexis dropping deep to demand the ball, then receiving it and wriggling past three or four players turning this way and that, before releasing it. It’s great when he beats a man or two, but often because he’s not running at players with pace but skipping sideways past them, he’s slowing down momentum and allowing opposition defenders not near themselves to set their positions.
We love his pressing. We love that he scores goals. We love that when the others seem to not be able to find their form he is there chipping in with goals and assists. But we loved That Dutch Skunk. We all feared what would happen without his goals but as usual, other players stepped up to the mark, which allowed us to spread the burden.
It feels all very RvP about this scenario too, for me, and we’re just a ‘out of respect to you, the fans’ patronising letter away from Alexis repeating what He did those years back.
Perhaps that’s also why I’m advocating we move Alexis on, because this all feels familiar and mentally I’m ready to accept deja vu again. After all, we get that from Arsène Wenger teams every season, so why not with Arsenal transfer sagas?
But this time my desire for us to cash in is based on a tactical set up that I think we can adopt if we remove Alexis from the side. If we adopt a quick back-to-front approach to our play, we need players who are accurate in their passing, but release the ball quickly. Alexis doesn’t do that. I think Özil could be a player that can do that. Coquelin couldn’t do that. Xhaka? Not sure. The Ox? Again, not sure, but it’s a possibility. Pass and move is what successful Arsenal teams of the last 20 years have been able to master. We don’t do that. Players like Alexis don’t allow us to do that.
As I mention above, he wouldn’t be the only possible casualty, but I’m singling him out because he would be the most high profile. And we could probably get decent wedge for him too. At a guess I’d say – what – £40 to £45million? I know he’s worth more than that, but with only a year on his contract there’s no way we’re getting £70million+, not unless China come calling. And Alexis doesn’t strike me as the kind of player who would jump ship to gobble up a mountain of Renminbi.
The club has plenty of reserves and with some players sure to go out of the door in the summer – including £80k-per-week saved on Debuchy – I think we could go all out for a pacey, top-class forward who could replace Alexis. Because let’s face it, we would need to replace him. It’s clear Giroud is a superb ‘plan b’ but we’re not in a position where we can have Giroud at the apex of the team regularly, not if we want to adopt the true counter attack that we had success with in the early reign of Arsène.
There’s probably a whole blog about how we’d need a more disciplined and well-drilled defence if we’re going to adopt a counter-punch approach to our blog, but I’ll stick to the attacking side of the approach for now.
I have no idea who would be the best option to replace Alexis by the way. All I know is that we need to find somebody who can finish and can move across the pitch with lightning speed. I think we have the bulk of fast players to compliment a top-notch pacey forward – Welbeck, Walcott, Lucas Perez – but who that main man through the middle would be I have no idea. Whether that leaves enough room for Iwobi I’m not sure. I’ve said before and I’ll say again for consistency: I really rate Iwobi. But he is a dribbler and best attacking defenders with the ball at his feet. Can he deliver in a ‘pass and move’ team?
Tell me what you think. Feel free to disagree, but the longer we go without Alexis signing a new deal, the more we have to start looking at other options.
Catch you tomorrow.