Has Copa America drained Arsenal and Liverpool stars’ batteries?
As goalless stalemates go, Arsenal and Liverpool’s Monday night meeting was about as entertaining as any in recent memory, but the frenetic contest was still crying out for one sublime moment to settle it either way.
Having already provided a flash of match-winning inspiration on the opening weekend of the season, that decisive instance very nearly arrived via the magical feet of Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho once again.
The twinkle-toed Brazilian probably should have scored his initial effort, squared back to him well inside the box, but the crossbar had other ideas.
Next up Petr Cech pulled off an early contender for save of the season to deny Coutinho (via the post) after Liverpool’s number 10 had engineered himself some space in typically mesmerising fashion.
Strangely though, other than a header which was spurned early in proceedings, it was a very quiet night for the Gunners’ own attacking-midfield maestro, Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean forward never really lit up the game and on several occasions his attempts to dribble into dangerous shooting positions ended in moans from the Emirates crowds as possession was surrendered.
Even superstars are due an off night, though from Sanchez’s body language there was almost a vibe of exhaustion, possibly as much mental as physical.
It’s not too difficult to imagine the reason either. Coming off a starring run to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2014, the adrenalin levels appeared to carry the former Barcelona man on a wave through the first half of the season at his new club.
Goals arrived with incredible ease (15 by the close of 2014) then in the new year his summer exertions seemed to catch up with him like the debt collector, as he endured a seven-game barren streak between January and March.
Perhaps what Sanchez needed least this summer just gone then, was an energy-zapping run to the final of the Copa America.
More pertinently, he probably needed a darn good rest. The major headache for Arsene Wenger now is that his team need Sanchez to locate his scoring boots sooner rather than later or risk Manchester City disappearing over the horizon.
His faltering team have not found the net in two home matches to start the campaign and have drifted out to 11/2 for the Premier League title.
Wenger cannot be immune to the flak he is now copping from all sides to purchase a striker to supplement his squad, especially with a strung-out Sanchez unable, thus far, to produce the goods.
To a lesser extent perhaps, Liverpool fans may also have been a little underwhelmed by the early glimpses of £29m signing Roberto Firmino, taken off after 63 minutes against Arsenal.
The Brazilian led the line for his country at the Copa America and although he was given a start by Brendan Rodgers at the Emirates, he looked nothing like the livewire player touted to pick up some of the slack left by Luis Suarez.
These are early days indeed, but with the games coming thick and fast it will be difficult to ease any fatigue other than reducing their playing time – something the fans are unlikely to tolerate.
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