Walcott fired Arsenal to a 2-0 win over Basel on Wednesday as the Gunners stayed level on points with Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Group A in the Champions League. In their fourth straight victory in all competitions, the Gunners could have won 5-0 with better finishing.
- Sanchez is on fire
The Chile striker has scored 4 goals and made 4 assists in all competitions this season. It took a bit of time for Arsenal to adjust to a centerforward different from Giroud. Obviously, Sanchez is no aerial threat and is not powerful enough to hold the ball up like Giroud. On the other hand, Sanchez has more pace and better dribbling skills than the Frenchman.
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In the role of a false nine, Sanchez was the catalyst for most of his team’s chances. He finished the match with 4 key passes, more than Cazorla (3), Ozil (2) and Walcott (2). He also had 3 of 4 shots on target. However, the most unbelievable stat was his passing accuracy: 91.5% according to whoscored.com. That’s the kind of percentage you usually get for defenders, not forwards. Barcelona striker Suarez had a passing accuracy of 66.7% against Monchengladbach, and it was as low as 62.5% for Atletico Madrid forward Torres and 38.9% for Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski on Wednesday.
It’s nice to see Sanchez carry the team. But at some stage, the manager will have to rest Sanchez otherwise he could pick up injuries like last season.
- Walcott and Sanchez have struck a good understanding
It’s not as legendary as the complicity between Ozil and Sanchez but it still yielded two goals against Basel. Walcott was in the right place at the right time to head in a cross from Sanchez in the seventh minute. The England international did most of the hard work for the second goal in the 26th. He played a one-two with Sanchez before burying an angled strike inside the far post.
Walcott seems less wasteful on the right wing than when he played as a lone striker. He has already racked up 5 goals and 1 assist in all competitions since August. Last season, Walcott and Sanchez combined for 4 goals in all competitions. Their partnership was more fruitful in the Champions League (3 goals) than in the Premier League (1 goal). This pattern is repeating itself this season as they have only combined for 1 goal in the Premier League against Watford while Sanchez set up Walcott twice against Basel.
- Life gets much easier when you get off to a good start
The Gunners won their last four games by reaching halftime with the lead. On paper, beating Basel looked like an easy task. But then you remember how Arsenal badly screwed up against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos a year ago.
Arsenal showed no sign of complacency in the opening minutes against Basel. They were focused and displayed the quick one-touch passing that helped carve open the Chelsea defense last weekend. It also helped that the manager refrained from rotating like he did in Zagreb.
- Will goal difference play a role?
The Gunners drew 1-1 in Paris two weeks ago. If they draw again with the French club at the Emirates stadium in November, the top spot in Group A could be determined by goal difference. Hopefully, the missed chances won’t come back to haunt Arsenal.
Basel goalkeeper Vaclik made some good saves, denying Bellerin in the 36th and Sanchez in the 33rd, 38th and 90th. But some of the missed chances were also the result of poor efforts. Sanchez in the 68th and Ozil in the 36th and 41st missed the target from good positions.
- Ospina must improve his command of the area
The Colombia goalkeeper made two decent saves, tipping over the bar a curling shot from Bjarnason in the 63rd and denying Sporar, played onside by Mustafi in the 88th. But he gifted Basel a scoring chance in the 64th by missing his punch from a corner. The ball was redirected toward the far post, where Bjarnason slid his effort over the bar. Coming off his line was the right decision since the ball was just four yards out. But Ospina clearly lacked authority in the air. He will definitely need more practice on the training ground.