In their second game without Alexis Sanchez in the team, Arsenal swept aside crosstown rival Chelsea 2-1 on Wednesday to advance to the Carabao Cup final next month. While the match started off extremely shaky for the north London club, as Eden Hazard netted a goal inside the first eight minutes, the Gunners were able to mount the comeback and easily be the better side for the remainder of the semi final fixture.
The big cup victory comes four days after the Gunners demolished Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend. Arsenal were flat-out ruthless, particularly in the first half of the match. All four of the team’s goals came during a 16-minute stretch, which was capped off by a sublime backheel assist by Mesut Özil to goalscorer Alexandre Lacazette.
While back-to-back victories are not necessarily always newsworthy, the way in which the Gunners have taken care of business following the swap deal involving one of their most talented players is significant. There appears to be a different mood on the pitch. It is almost as if a collective weight has been lifted off of the squad’s shoulders. Instead of giving the ball to Sanchez and watching what he can do, which has happened quite frequently during the first half of the season, there is a much more free-flowing attack in this Arsenal team.
Manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged this difference following the club’s victory against Chelsea. ”We lost a great player,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “But when a team doesn’t know what’s going on there is less clarity and less focus on what’s important – the performance. Now we know we have to deal with that and get on by everybody giving a little bit more.”
Not only have the Gunners seemed more loose and relaxed on the pitch since Sanchez’s departure, but they have also adopted a new theme as well: togetherness. Multiple players have taken to social media to claim they are fighting together on the pitch. Just a few weeks ago there were signs of a divided dressing room when certain players did not celebrate with Sanchez following a goal during Arsenal’s first match with Crystal Palace. Now smiles are seen on the pitch, and everyone is getting in on the celebrations at the Emirates.
One of the players to post on Twitter on the topic of togetherness was Mohamed Elneny. Along with a picture of his teammates celebrating the eventual match-winner on Wednesday, the Egypt international wrote, “now there are players fighting every minute for the logo and the fans.” The dig at the uninterested Sanchez was not the first for Elneny. The midfielder posted a taunt directed at Sanchez for not making the upcoming World Cup with Chile a few weeks ago.
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the player Arsenal received for Sanchez, appearing extremely happy to join his new teammates in his first training session on Tuesday, it certainly seems as if Arsenal have done well to alleviate the tension in the dressing room. The Gunners would do well to build on the togetherness rally call and finish the season on a strong note.
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