Another game, another day when Arsene Wenger attempted to play Alexis Sanchez as a lone striker in the first half and it simply didn’t work.
We’ve been saying since the first day of the season that Alexis just isn’t an out and out striker. He’s too strong at linking up with other target men, dribbling the ball and cutting in. When he’s isolated up front, he’s completely pushed out of the game and his energy, as well as quality, can’t have any influence.
As you can see from the Chilean’s heatmap, he spent very little time in the position he’d been given and instead kept drifting to his usual one on the left. The problem with that is, not only do we have no one in the centre but Alex Iwobi, who was playing on the left wing, was being encroached on couldn’t really have the space he needed.
Even before Giroud was brought on and Alexis moved out wide, the heatmap still looked very much the same as the one below, taken after the final whistle.
The fact that Alexis, who is known for his confidence and work rate, isn’t comfortable enough alone up front to stay put is very telling.
A key moment that highlighted why playing one best winger up front came in the first half when Arsenal had a chance to equalise.
Alexis had the ball in the area and had a shot right at the goalkeeper. While you could argue that this would happen if he was playing on the wing, since this is where he was positioned at the time, it was his hesitance and uncertainty over what his role was that probably led him to take such a poorly judged shot rather than pass into the centre.
When Olivier Giroud came on in the 63rd minute, allowing Alexis to move out left, he instantly looked more comfortable and the Chilean became a huge part of our attack once again.
Sure enough, the confidence and freedom allowed him to come back into the game and score a stunner of an equalising goal for Arsenal.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 13, 2016
Overall, Alexis was one of Arsenal’s top players with two shots (the Gunners had 11 in total, four of which were on target), one on target – that one being the goal.