Okay, here comes a long winded rant about a number of things. Expect to disagree with plenty of what you might be about to read, and marvel at the massive contradictions I make with my own opinions throughout this piece.
The opening day win over Leicester should have done nothing to paper over some serious cracks. Lacazette got us, and himself, off to the most perfect start with his early goal. What followed almost immediately was everything that might have been expected by the close observer of Arsenal in recent years. The defending was non-existent and Leicester ripped through us time and again. Rob Holding looked all at sea without Mertesacker alongside him but the presence of two left-backs in the central defence was a joke. We got out of jail thanks to Giroud and Ramsey (who has been outstanding in the first two games) so to see Wenger do exactly the same thing again at Stoke was bizarre. He questioned the centre of the defence after the game, completely overlooking the fact that HE was the one who took the decision to play a winger at right-back, a right-back at left-back (Bellerin actually had a very decent game at Stoke to be fair to him), two left-backs at centre-half and Mustafi - I'm really not sure what Mustafi is apart from woefully out of his depth. Meanwhile Per Mertesacker was sat on the bench, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers were left out completely, and Gabriel was sold the day before to Valencia. What does it say to the central defenders at the club that Wenger would rather play Monreal and Kolasinac in their position instead of their own? Kieran Gibbs is still an Arsenal player yet he is frozen out to the point that Wenger would rather start Bellerin on the wrong side of the pitch than allow Gibbs to earn the wages he's still being paid. This is crazy management even by Wenger's standards of the last 10 years.
I have to say that, in hindsight, we were unlucky to lose at Stoke. The decisions of the officials were worse than bizarre, but maybe it could be argued we were lucky to get the win the week before when Mike Dean missed Ozil's handball. Whatever hindsight might show us it doesn't erase the fact that Xhaka has been awful so far, Welbeck is great until he actually sees the goal in front of him, and Mesut Ozil might as well go and sit in the stand.
I've seen people defending Ozil this week and, perhaps, it was unfair for him to be singled out against Stoke. The counter to that is that Arsenal paid £40m+ for Ozil and he fails to ever dominate a game of football. To see him consistently picking the ball up in deep areas on Saturday, only to lay a five yard pass off to Mustafi, and then wave his international colleague past him with the ball, is stupefying to say the very least. Genuinely World Class players would take a game like Saturday and dominate it, take players on, make things happen, create space and opportunities for the forwards ahead of them. Ozil does none of this. I don't care what anyone has to say that is positive about Ozil as the fact of the matter is that he is scared of being tackled, refuses to take responsibility, and his end product is not that of a superstar signing. I would shed no tears if he was sold but nobody wants to buy him! There is a reason for that and the Ozil fan-boys refuse to acknowledge it.
If Alexis Sanchez had played Saturday then I am sure we would have won the game or, at least, not been beaten. He would have created similar chances to those missed by Welbeck (and Lacazette) and would have stuck away at least one of them. But what do we do with Alexis given his contract situation? Arsene has made a bit of a rod for his own back by insisting he won't sell him. I understand precisely why Wenger is going down that road. At the same time I can't help thinking we'd be better off selling him, even to Man City, if the money involved was over £50m - this is a change in my opinion from a few weeks back.. You have to weigh it against bringing in a new player who does want to play for Arsenal against losing Sanchez for nothing next year. The only way to get close to making that situation have little impact is to win the Premier League and, let's be honest, that isn't going to happen all the time we can't defend or are relying on a geriatric goalkeeper whose best days are long behind him. If the only way Wenger can get Thomas Lemar is by selling Alexis then maybe it needs to be done. And get Jack Butland as well while you're at it.
I managed to watch a good bit of the under-23 game on Monday night and three things struck me. Firstly Reiss Nelson should be a proper part of the first-team squad now. Theo Walcott was very good up to Christmas last season and benefited greatly from the space created by Cazorla for those in front of him. After Christmas he regressed and seems to have no obvious role in the new formation - maybe he is another who should be cashed in so that Nelson can take his place on the bench. Secondly Eddie Nketiah could easily be making first-team appearances this season in the League Cup and UEFA Cup - he is a stunning goalscorer at youth levels so maybe he needs his chance. Thirdly, and most importantly, Jack Wilshere must NOT be sold or loaned out, and should immediately be restored to the match-day squad at Anfield this weekend. His red card apparently doesn't mean a first-team suspension. I loved his reaction to getting kicked (for a third or fourth time in ten minutes) by taking no more s**t from some talentless Man City oiks who should have been doing their summer holidays homework. I keep reading that he will have his work cut out to displace Xhaka and Ramsey, while Elneny and Coquelin are also ahead of him. One word for that - b******s. Have these people ever actually seen Xhaka? Can they not see that Ramsey ought to actually play in Ozil's position where he can be most influential at the top end of the pitch? Our central midfield, from current resources, should be Jack playing alongside Coquelin every time. People keep telling me Xhaka has "potential" while completely overlooking the fact he has been here a year and cost over £30m! Potential? You don't pay that for potential. He isn't a top player, simple as that. Jack Wilshere most certainly is a top player and should be back in the Arsenal team at the earliest opportunity. Put Coquelin alongside him and you have a pair of terriers who will make tackles and, in Jack, a player who will beat a man to get us on the front foot and bringing the next opposition defender towards the play, creating space as Cazorla does.
Some final thoughts on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. There is a new narrative being played out on social media, influenced by a prominent Arsenal blog and those who write for it, that Arsene Wenger is upsetting the balance of the team by finding a place for Ox. In the system we are playing Ox is better than Bellerin. It's the Spaniard who is being accommodated in the side by finding a place for him. I touched on this above with the fact that we have three international left-backs in the squad but Ox and Bellerin have played in that position in the first two games. The sticking point with Chamberlain is his contract situation. My view on him, in contrast to Sanchez, is that we should keep him for the season as we don't stand to make huge money on his transfer. Chamberlain has to understand he won't play centrally, at any top club, and should carve out a niche for himself at wing-back - his abilities are so suited to the role.