Saturday afternoon at the Emirates Stadium was frustrating for two attacking players of whom much was expected this season. But their managers both insist that better times are on the way.
Alexis Sanchez started the 2017-18 campaign late after representing Chile in the Confederations Cup, and disgruntled because a possible move to Manchester City failed to materialise. And it is probably no coincidence that he has yet to reach his previous heights.
True, he forced an excellent save from Swansea City and former Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, but he was unable to contribute directly as the hosts turned a first-half deficit into victory just when it looked as though they were about to be the victims of the sort of shock result that Crystal Palace have inflicted on Chelsea and Huddersfield Town on Manchester United.
Instead, the praise went to Sead Kolasinac, the Bosnia-Herzegovina wing-back, who scored the equaliser and created the winner for Aaron Ramsey.
Sanchez, though, will inevitably be in the spotlight next weekend when Arsenal visit City. Arsene Wenger’s 801st league match promises to be even more challenging than Saturday’s 800th, but he believes he can count on Sanchez, even though City are expected to move for him again, either in January or when his contract expires in summer. He is not worried Sanchez might have divided loyalties in a match between his present and – in all probability – future clubs.
“No, I am not concerned,” he said. “Because I am not suspicious of the performances or the desire to win of a football player. When you are a football player, you have a social contract with the rest of the team and I never question that. Once you don’t respect that, it’s difficult to say that you play football.”
Of more concern should be the Chilean’s patchy form, especially in front of goal. A year ago he had scored eight goals for Arsenal, compared to two this season. But Wenger said: “He is chasing a goal so he’s a bit frustrated when he doesn’t score, like all goalscorers. But I’m not worried about it. He works hard and it will come back quickly.”
Is he trying too hard and attempting to force situations? “You can never try too hard,” Wenger said. “At the moment he’s marked well, [opponents] double up on him, but he still creates many dangerous situations. And the goal? He just has not to worry too much. I know you always say that to strikers and they still worry, but over a longer period he has always scored and that will come back.”
Tammy Abraham created Swansea’s opener for Sam Clucas with a well-weighted pass, but the opening only arose as the result of a slip by Laurent Koscielny, and the Chelsea loanee otherwise found it hard to make any impression. A season feeding on scraps in a struggling side may form part of a useful all-round football education as a contrast with last season’s 26 goals while on loan at Bristol City.
But Abraham was visibly frustrated, especially when Jordan Ayew shot against Petr Cech rather than setting him up with a tap-in that would have given Swansea a 2-0 lead just before half-time.
“Contain your frustration and move on to the next thing as quickly as possible,” was the advice of manager Paul Clement. “It’s going to be a big challenge for him this season. Not only will he learn things tactically, about the physicality of the Premier League, he’s going to learn a lot about himself mentally because he’s not at a top-six club where you have more of the ball and you don’t have to do so much necessarily defensively. So it’s a big learning experience for him.”