There were two things we learned from the Stoke defeat last weekend. When everything goes to plan, Arsenal can play exceptional football. But when something very slightly alters that plan, everything falls apart.
A starting XI of Petr Cech in goal, Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin as wing-backs, three centre-backs, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in centre-midfield, then Alex Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil as a front three is a theoretical team that has far more threats than faults.
Is it perfect? No. But we have a manager that will always try to win a match 3-1 instead of 1-0, and as much as we want to think that football is purely a result-based industry, a club should always try to entertain the people paying to watch the game as well as trying to win it.
But the problem at the moment doesn’t lie with Arsenal trying to win ‘the right way’, it lies with the manager not being able to adapt that plan for occasions when one of the aforementioned players isn’t available, or when he feels the need to shoehorn a player into the side.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a terrific prospect who, if given a significant run of games, could become a real asset for Arsenal. But that sentence could’ve been written in each of the last six years since his arrival from Southampton. If you think the Ox is a valuable asset who Arsenal should try to retain, that’s fair. But consider the following:
He has made it very clear, both publicly and recently, that he sees himself as a centre midfielder in the future. Considering how much we rave about how good he was in that role against AC Milan five and a half years ago, it should be no surprise to hear him echo those thoughts.
So how, if you believe him to be as valuable as Wenger believes him to be, is playing him at wing-back a good way of showing him how his future lies at Arsenal?