The pressure and the results did their thing; Arsene Wenger decided to start Theo Walcott, who rewarded his manager with a goal and looking dangerous in the moment Arsenal managed to shake off the pressure they were under, later avoiding any questions about his future and contract situation with the club.
On a night when Olivier Giroud actually scored, it’s hard to feel disappointed. Maybe after leading 2-0 and then losing that lead for yet another pair of individual mistakes is frustrating, but Arsenal have stopped the slide by actually playing some good football for some stretches of their 2-2 draw vs Schalke.
Walcott brought speed and a touch of creativity to the right-centre, where he spent most of his time. The goal he scored came Giroud not really making the most of a great opportunity given to him, biding his time while a German defender dispatched him of the ball; Walcott was always lurking, taking advantage of the tackle.
Giroud’s second was what Wenger was thinking about when he purchased the French striker. Great off the ball movement and an aerial game that’s hard to contend with. Sadly for the gunners, this hardly happens and comes to fruit during matches as Giroud often looks slow with and without the ball.
There’s still some imbalance in the Arsenal side, with Lukas Podolski on the left finding it hard to play as a winger with defensive duties. His laziness didn’t really help anyone when Farfan was making his way towards scoring Schalke’s equalizer, turning out to be a Thomas Vermaelen own goal, not by his own fault. Arsenal have problems at left back until Kieran Gibbs returns, and after seeing that Andre Santos isn’t the answer, using Vermaelen as a left back is Wenger’s next experiment. It worked well, most of the time.
And then there’s the midfield, with the clogging in the middle. Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere. Wilshere probably had his best match since returning from the injury, but that’s far from enough. Santi Cazorla is still the only man who gets things moving, while Arteta seems to disappear completely, never venturing too far from hsi assigned role – a defensive midfielder, despite not being really suitable for the job.
The asymmetric 4-3-3 couldn’t really keep up with Schalke, and Arsenal were forced to have Vito Mannone concede two goals and still save them from another defeat that would have made life very difficult for them in the next two matches, including a very tough away match in Greece, which they lost 1-3 last season.
Arsene Wenger needed three consecutive losses and tons of media pressure to come to his senses. Arsenal are a better team with Theo Walcott on the pitch, no matter in what position. Olivier Giroud? He scored, so there’s no real complaining about that, but the question is can he score and bring some sort of upgrade to the position; do things any other player, probably far less expensive, wouldn’t have done anyway? The jury is still out, but tending to vote against the Frenchman.