It has almost gone unnoticed that Arsenal have as many points as last season’s champions, despite having yet to to tap into the full extent of their attacking armoury. But on Saturday they can finally unleash their trio of superstars – Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil – and perhaps even begin laying down a title marker. Up until this point, the Three Musketeers have not spent a single minute on the pitch as a unit. But that could now finally change. The real question though, is whether that is such a good thing.

On the surface, Arsene Wenger’s slowness in accommodating all three players might be put down to mere circumstance and bad luck. Sanchez was given an extended period of rest after his Confederations Cup exploits, and then picked up an injury; £50 million man Lacazette has been given time to adapt to the demands of the Premier League; and Ozil has been sidelined with a troublesome knee problem.

Finally playing Lacazette, Sanchez & Ozil together could create fresh problems for Arsenal
£72m duo Sanchez and Ozil have never really combined as effectively as Wenger would have hoped (Picture: Getty)

What other reason could Wenger have for delaying? After all, they appear to complement each other so perfectly: Ozil is the string-puller, opening up defences; Lacazette is the predator, finishing off chances; and Sanchez is a combination of the two, a whirlwind of creativity and a threat anywhere within range of goal. They are a multifaceted attack that tick ever box, primed to delight fans and dumbfound defences.

Having dispatched Brighton last week, they now take on Watford, Everton and Swansea. The superstar trio should have far too much firepower for such mid-table fodder and the coming weeks provide a real opportunity for Arsenal to make up ground and lay down a marker. Nine points is the minimum expectation. Yet there should be legitimate question marks over how well their much-anticipated trio will work in tandem, and it seems as though Wenger shares that fear.

Finally playing Lacazette, Sanchez & Ozil together could create fresh problems for Arsenal
Lacazette adds a new dynamic to the Ozil-Sanchez partnership, and could get the best out of both (Picture: Getty)

His switch to a 3-4-3 formation has created as many problems as it has solved, with no real upturn in performances even if results improved at the tail-end of last season. But the biggest issue for the system may be accommodating all three of the aforementioned players in the same line-up, at least against more competitive sides.

When Tottenham, for example, use the same shape, they have Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to drop back into the midfield, while their forward line lead the team’s pressing from the front. The demands placed on Chelsea’s attackers are slightly less severe, though they do have the all-action N’Golo Kante dominating the midfield and doing the legwork of two men. Arsenal don’t have such luxuries.

Arsenal Chances Created Premier League 2017/18

Mesut Ozil15Granit Xhaka11Alexis Sanchez11Antoine Lacazette7Saed Kolasinac7Hector Bellerin7

It is why Danny Welbeck, now sidelined, has been such a feature of the side at the start of the campaign. You suspect, were he not injured, Wenger might have waited long beyond this weekend before considering ditching the Englishman for one of his loftier trio.

Both Sanchez and Ozil are players who like to drift – albeit in very different ways, the latter too often drifting out of matches entirely. The Chilean has a tendency to go searching for the ball, especially when frustrated and trying to affect a match Arsenal are not winning – and that, in turn, can see him become reckless, losing possession more often than any other Arsenal player last season – while Ozil comes short to find space and pick up possession.

Finally playing Lacazette, Sanchez & Ozil together could create fresh problems for Arsenal
All eyes will be on Sanchez after suffering the heartbreak of missing out on World Cup qualification (Picture: Getty)

Moreover, the tireless displays that were the trademark of Sanchez’s game have become less frequent and Ozil’s performances have always carried a whiff of lethargy – Arsenal’s unbeaten run without the German this season will not have gone unnoticed by Wenger. For Lacazette’s part, he’s yet to show he is much more than a penalty-box poacher.

There are no such issues with Welbeck. He has taken on the role of a sort of nine-and-a-half, supporting Lacazette without ever overcommitting, contributing offensively and defensively. His work rate is arguably the best in the Arsenal squad, giving disciplined displays that hold the team’s shape rather than skewing it.

Take him out and Arsenal lose a certain edge, and Lacazette loses his foil. For all Sanchez’s many admirable traits, he does not make the kind of selfless, sniping runs that create space for the forward ahead of him, the sort that Welbeck makes unseen a dozen times per match. Ozil, likewise, is not a player who will run beyond the frontman. It could leave the summer signing having to work extremely hard to create space for himself, or become even more reliant on balls into the box and spot-kicks from 12 yards. Easier to nullify, essentially.

Finally playing Lacazette, Sanchez & Ozil together could create fresh problems for Arsenal
The coming weeks will show if Arsenal can keep pace with their Premier League title rivals… (Picture: Getty)
Finally playing Lacazette, Sanchez & Ozil together could create fresh problems for Arsenal
… and whether Lacazette’s arrival will take Sanchez and Ozil to a new level or expose their flaws (Picture: Getty)

For their part, Ozil and Sanchez have never truly felt like a match made in heaven. Although they can work well together, there is a sense that they both play a very different style of football at very different tempos – the fact that the German’s best football came before Sanchez arrived, or when he has been injured, speaks volumes too. Now Lacazette has the potential to either enhance or disrupt further that delicate balance.

Saturday could mark the beginning of a new, almost Galactico-esque Arsenal brimming with attacking options, or one that is even more confused than previous. The entire attacking burden will fall on that trio’s shoulders, yet each feels as though they are missing someone to do their dog work. With two of the three, Sanchez and Ozil, out of contract next summer, the coming weeks could determine which player Wenger feels is worth putting the most energy in to convincing to stay – if any at all.

Arsenal FC