Arsenal: Wenger on Chamberlain; Akpom stress fracture; Henry talks Ozil's form
Arsenal sailed through to the EFL Cup quarterfinals with a routine 2-0 home win over Reading last night. It was not the most memorable of cup ties, but despite a few flat spells, Arsenal always looked as if they had one foot in the next round. An Alex Oxlade Chamberlain brace won the match for the Gunners, and he has five in all competitions which is already his best goalscoring season at Arsenal.
As usual in this competition, Arsene Wenger rung the changes and fielded a patchwork side filled with youngsters and experienced pros in need of games. Ainsley Maitland Niles, Jeff Reine Adelaide and Rob Holding were in the former category, while Lucas Perez, Gabriel, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Chamberlain also got minutes. Liverpool eliminated Spurs last night, and with West Ham hosting Chelsea and a Manchester derby to come tonight, the draw could well open up for Arsenal. After the game, Wenger talked about the difference with Chamberlain this season:
“Now, I think he has added some belief to his finishing. Now we have hope that whenever he has the ball, something can happen. He’s powerful but he also finishes well and he’s added that to his game. That’s certainly linked with confidence, hard work in training, and he looks to be following Theo Walcott in that way.”
There has never been any doubt that Chamberlain has all the attributes to be a devastating attacking force, but sometimes he has struggled to fit into Arsenal’s system. He is a direct, bombastic player, who wants to get the ball and drive past opponents. The former Southampton man isn’t especially comfortably when involved with Arsenal’s more textured and nuanced combination play, whereas Alex Iwobi has fitted into this seamlessly. If he is to justify his place in the team as a ‘difference maker’ in the front three, he must add goals and assists which he looks to be doing on a more regular basis.
Elsewhere, one player who wasn’t involved last night was Chuba Akpom and he has been ruled out until 2017 with a stress fracture in his back. Akpom played on the left flank in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup third round, and would probably have got another first team start last night were it not for injury. Akpom was well regarded as he came through the ranks at Arsenal and had a very good goalscoring record at youth level. However, he has failed to set the world alight in any of his loan spells at Hull, Forest, Coventry or Brentford. That said, in his few brief appearances in an Arsenal shirt he has always looked very comfortable and promising.
Finally, club legend Thierry Henry has been speaking about Mesut Ozil’s run of goalscoring, and believes it is down to Alexis Sanchez’s deployment as a striker. Henry has been a public advocate of using Sanchez as a striker in the past, and said he is pleased with Wenger’s selections so far this term:
“He’s finally playing as a centre forward. He does it for Chile, so it’s not something that he doesn’t know how to do.
“He did it for Udinese also in Italy and does it ever so well.
“When you have a guy who as a No.9, the way he puts pressure, the way he moves, his vision for the ball, that creates a lot of holes for Ozil.
“That’s why Ozil is scoring a lot of goals – off the movement of Alexis Sanchez.”
Olivier Giroud returned to first team action last night from the bench and showed a few moments of real class, notably to set up Chamberlain’s second game. However, Arsenal have looked a better side so far this term with a mobile front line so expect Sanchez to continue up top. Nevertheless, Giroud could prove to be a very effective weapon from the bench.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal
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