SPORTS: WALCOTT AND ALEXIS ENSURE ARSENAL AVOID A NIGHTMARE NOVEMBER

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The Gunners remained unbeaten
throughout a month during which they
usually fall apart, with their win over
Bournemouth keeping their title hopes on
track

COMMENTS

This wasn’t Arsenal at their best.
Nineteen games unbeaten in all
competition looks fantastic on paper, but
the performances in November have been
far from praiseworthy. But after rallying to
beat Bournemouth on Sunday, Arsene
Wenger can look back on a month during
which his side have consolidated their title
bid without putting in the same thrilling
displays that characterised their opening
weeks of the campaign.
Though they started brightly against the
Cherries, Callum Wilson’s equaliser from
the penalty spot after being fouled by
Nacho Monreal threatened to leave the
Gunners even further behind leaders
Chelsea in the title race. In previous
seasons November is where the north
London outfit have come unstuck, and in
years gone by they may have struggled to
lift themselves and go onto take all three
points.
REPORT: Alexis shines to see off
Bournemouth
But this Arsenal is different from those of
the last decade. Against both Manchester
United and Paris Saint-Germain they were
second best but managed to escape with
valuable draws, and though failing to
record victories may yet come back to bite
them in both the Premier League and
Champions League as the season wears
on, for now they can look back with
positivity on a period during which they
previously would have slipped to defeats.
The first half against Bournemouth was
certainly an improvement on the
performances against United and PSG, but
going in level was certainly a set-back.
Step up Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez,
who yet again came up trumps in front of
goal to ensure the gap to Chelsea remains
at just three points.
First Walcott found himself in space to
nod in Monreal’s bouncing cross at the
back post before Alexis finished off a
sweeping passing move in stoppage time
to add his somewhat fortunate opener
after Steven Cook mishit a back pass in
the early stages. Eddie Howe’s side
certainly offered much more of a test than
many expected they might do without the
ineligible Jack Wilshere, but Arsenal were
able to pass their latest test with far more
aplomb than they have shown since
returning from the last international break.
It was during that fortnight off from
domestic action that most Arsenal
supporters felt their season might be
starting to fall apart with Alexis picking up
a hamstring injury while away with Chile.
But having recovered in double-quick time,
the former Barcelona forward continues to
defy even the highest of expectations.
Again preferred to Olivier Giroud in a free
role up front, Alexis was his usual busy
self in and around the final third, with his
two goals a just reward. His ability to stay
fit despite not having a pre-season break
in three years is remarkable, and him being
available and at the top of his game has
played a huge part in his side going
unbeaten in the month of November for
the first time since 2011.
Wenger reserved special praise for his
matchwinner, claiming: “Even when he
looks dead, he’s still alive and has the
resources to do something special!” It’s
difficult to argue with that ascertion, and
it is such ability which means Arsenal are
very much still one of four sides who can
realistically harbour title hopes.
Walcott, meanwhile, celebrated the birth of
baby boy, Arlo, on Friday by netting his
sixth goal of the campaign already, and
with him finally finding some consistency,
Mesut Ozil at his brilliant best and Alexis
in inspired form there is a lot to like about
this Arsenal side. Their November form
may not have been perfect, but it was far
from terminal either.
Between now and February they only have
just one match against a side currently in
the top six. Their traditional sticky patch
is out of the way – the Premier League can
now fear what this Arsenal team still have
to offer.

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Posted in Sports

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