Arsenal's marquee summer signing, Alexis Sanchez, was one of many Gunners who struggled to impose themselves on a drab game against Turkish side Besiktas in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round that ended 0-0 in Istanbul.
Manager Arsene Wenger's team lacked confidence and assurance on the ball. That's a very worrying sign even at this early stage of the season.
Whatever failings Wenger's teams may often have, they are usually defined by excellence in possession. But that quality was in short supply Tuesday night.
A lack of incisive passing particularly hindered Sanchez. The ex-FC Barcelona forward is a pacy attacker who needs to be released behind defensive lines.
But without the right service, the Chilean star was confined to the wing. He began brightly, but Besiktas soon doubled up on him, nullifying his movement and trickery.
After the 2-1 home win over Crystal Palace on the opening day of the Premier League season, Wenger had called for Sanchez to develop a keener understanding with his teammates:
Wenger on Alexis: 'Tactically he needs to improve his understanding with the players but overall I'm happy with his attitude.' #AFCvCPFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 16, 2014
At times, the absence of a rapport was obvious. Sanchez didn't always link well in combination play. He also didn't come off the flank enough to dart through the middle.
That's something he's very good at for Chile and even exploited with Barca. It's also a quality the Gunners need to help freshen up their attack this season.
However, whatever his faults, the energy and application Sanchez showed was very pleasing. It won him a few admirers on an otherwise dismal night:
Sanchez never stops running on and off the ball— Culann Davies (@CulannDavies) August 19, 2014
That level of effort is a great habit to have. It's something Arsenal missed for large portions of last season and something that should help the team deal with counters down wide areas a little better.
However, when a player is praised for his running off the ball, it's a sure sign he didn't do much with it. That's just how it was for Sanchez during his second competitive game for Arsenal.
His finer moments came in the first half, yet the fact his statistics were hardly awe-inspiring said it all, as WhoScored.com highlighted:
Not surprisingly, Sanchez didn't last long in the second half. Wenger eventually withdrew him on 73 minutes. For some, including ESPN's James Tyler, the substitution was the only notable incident of Sanchez's night:
"Alexis Sanchez in sub drama"— James Tyler (@JamesTylerESPN) August 19, 2014
It was a move that encouraged some mocking banter, with KickTV's Billy Keenly leading the way:
It will help Sanchez to have similar players around him. Specifically, the return of fleet-footed forward Theo Walcott can only be good news for a generally plodding team:
This squad has a lot of gaps if we're serious about competing. We're so one paced...— Le Grove (@LeGrove) August 19, 2014
Acquiring more pace is certainly a priority, or at least should be. Some believe that the necessary help can come from within the squad:
Everyone waiting for Walcott.. I'm waiting for Wenger to see the light and play Chambo with Alexis.— DC (@DeanLDN22) August 19, 2014
However, it will really help Sanchez if he gets more competent support from central striker Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman is supposed to be a target man whom supporting forwards like Sanchez can play off. But instead, Giroud stumbled and bumbled his way through a diabolical performance.
BBC Sport pundit Gary Lineker offered by far the kindest-sounding indictment of Arsenal's lack of quality at a key position:
Playing in front of Arsenal's midfield should guarantee a minimum of 25 goals a season, for a striker of note. Alas....— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 19, 2014
Sanchez, and the rest of Arsenal's attacking midfielders for that matter, need more from Giroud. But the club's fans will also soon want more than just hard running from the player who cost around £35 million this summer.
The new prospective star has had two games to tease what he might do in the future. With this Champions League qualifier poised at 0-0, Wenger had better hope it'll be the near future when Sanchez shows his quality.